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How to Be Human, Make Mistakes, and Rebuild

Written by Steven Chaffin, Jr.

In the past 30 days I’ve made innumerable mistakes, during which I learned a lot about myself and received a much-needed reality check.  After 30 tumultuous days, I have been able to reverse the tides and am now riding the welcoming waves of dopamine into collegiate life.

Let’s take a moment to review my poor judgement throughout the months of July and early August:

  •  I moronically decided to get into a relationship with a girl I barely knew and had never taken an interest in before she was readily available.  That ended well.
  •  I became unusually anxious.  Something, probably the imminence of my university’s move-in day, rattled my cage and had me scrambling to find a seemingly non-existent order in my life.  I was over-encumbered, frightened, and most of all, frustrated.
  •  I ate bread, chocolate, and drank soda.  Not only did I backtrack on my pledge to not eat bread for the entirety of August, but I’ve also consumed a couple of Diet Cokes and ate an ice-cream sandwich today.  Where’s my willpower now?

At first, the thought of all of these mistakes had me spiraling downwards into some uncharted pessimistic waters, jeopardizing many of the things I care deeply about.  For a moment, I was inclined to stop writing, exercising, and to surrender my sacrifices and return to gluttony.

:: The Truth About Making Mistakes ::

Truth be told, I think we all take ourselves a little too seriously.  This most definitely applies to my peers and I, who often subscribe to egotistical jerkery as we build the foundations for our futures.  Because of this, we often exaggerate the impact of our mistakes and respond erratically.

We all make mistakes, some small, some large.  We do this because we’re human, because we simply are not wired to perform at our best 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re imperfect. Unless you’re a pillar of willpower, a title no one I know can claim, you’re going to slip-up sometimes, whether it be falling behind on your studies, skipping a workout, neglecting a friendship, or overeating.

The important thing is not that you accept the inevitability of mistakes, but that you don’t let that hinder your prospects for success in the future.  You shouldn’t jump for joy when you throw aside your running shoes and eat a cookie or twelve, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you from running after you’ve digested all that processed sludge.

:: Reacting to Your Mistakes ::

Again, getting back on track after you’ve made a mistake is easier said than done.  Below are a few things I’ve been doing lately that have me feeling less anxious, more positive, and overall happier:

-  Find the silver-lining.  It’s almost always there.  Yes, I ate an ice-cream sandwich today in what is supposed to be no-chocolate month, in what was previously no bread month.  But wait: That was the only hint of chocolate and ice-cream I’ve had in days, which is considerably less than I was eating a month ago.  There’s no justification for it, but frankly, I don’t feel bad about doing it.  I know I’m making progress, and ice-cream sandwiches are delicious.

-  Adjust your expectations.  Physicial appearance is what oft comes to mind, but this applies to every sphere of our lives.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and am discouraged by those horrible love-handles, or by the strangeness of my hairstyle.   Sometimes I think I look downright ugly. To counter those feelings of inadequecy, I remind myself that I am working our six days per week and have sustained a caloric deficit throughout it all.  In other words, I’ve been a fitness rockstar lately.  I’m on my way to a great physique and outstanding health, but I have to be patient and understand that those six-pack abs aren’t going to appear overnight.

-  Determine what’s important to you.  When I found myself knee-deep in unpaid work, I was severely overwhelmed and had no idea how to accompish it all.  All it took was a simple reevaluation of what was important to me.  Is writing for PSU important to me?  Yes, because I love the community and the people I work with.  Is blogging important to me?  Absolutely, because it organizes my thoughts and allows me to help others.  By figuring out what was important to me, I was able to stop viewing it as some horrible obligation that had to be scheduled down to the minute, and as something I was lucky to be doing in the first place.

:: The Not-so Secret to Being Productive ::

My hypothesis:  The less you obsess over an activity and attempt to micromanage it, the happier you’ll be to do it.  As a result, you’ll be more likely to work harder and procrastinate less.  Things will be accomplished because you won’t be disarmed by the very thought of their existence, and a routine will naturally emerge, rather than being forced into your life by an iron fist.

Of course, this is only a hypothesis, but is is one that has held true for me so far.  Since I’ve applied these concepts and changed my perspectives, I’ve found myself less disgruntled, more satisfied, and more productive.  I hope these methods can be just as useful for you.

I value the opinions and stories of others, and so I encourage you to leave comments, which have just been re-enabled.

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