Thursday, April 2, 2015

Toughen Up

Recently my friends and I went on an awesome adventure to canyon lands! But more about that another time. Today I have bigger things to talk about.

I've decided that April is for getting TOUGH.

I've been grappling with some big-deal issues lately and like any physical injury, emotional injuries can leave you limping around. 2015 started on a bittersweet note. A new year is exciting, but I realized that I had been limping around, feeling sorry for myself, ignoring that I had a problem that needed to be addressed by professionals. I tried to be positive and pretend it would just go away on its own, but it didn't. It makes sense, right? If you keep running around on a sprained ankle, eventually it's going to give out and that is exactly what happened.

When you're having an emotional crisis, even little things like brushing your teeth can turn into huge frightening, difficult tasks. I was struggling to get to school on time and get my assignments in on time. I became discouraged and I felt guilty because I wasn't making any progress in overcoming my problem and now it was interfering with making progress towards my degree!

In the past I've been a very private person. Most people see me as happy, giggly, energetic, and positive and I am that person, at heart. Even in the darkest days at MIT I tried to find something daily to smile about, tried to cheer someone else up. I don't like to be a complainer. I don't like to seem weak. I definitely don't like to ask for help. Problems seem like excuses and I thought being tough was never making excuses.

Today, I've decided to be more open about my issues. The first step to promoting a positive culture is to dispel the myths that only weak people have problems and that crazy people need professional help to solve them. That requires honesty. It requires me to be honest with the people around me and with myself.

So I went to the doctor and got that emotional ankle sprain in a brace. I asked for help from my boss, from my friends, and from my professors. I gave myself permission to limp. Being injured is not the same as being lazy, right? I went to Canyonlands to try and distill some of the magic there to help me finally move forward.

So now the brace is off and I'm feeling a lot better. But I can't keep limping around, I've got to start building flexibility and strength. I need to be honest with myself and start working harder than ever because recovery is hard work. April is for getting TOUGH! It's for setting goals, self reflection, and self discipline.

An example of April TOUGHness.

Yesterday I gave a group meeting presentation and I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. My boss called me into his office and gave me some advice on how I could make my presentation more effective. Before, this might have sent me into the depths of a paralyzing anxiety spiral. But I'm not limping anymore. Being tough means taking criticism and making it constructive by first reflecting and then adjusting your actions. To make sure I was taking his advice to heart, I wrote a presentation check list to use in the future to make sure that I don't make the same mistake twice. I made a plan to make presentations at least 3 days in advance. I'm going to try to stick to this plan! That's where discipline enters in.

My boss is really a gem because he understands that you can be tough without being cruel. He understands how his words and actions and body language affect me, especially now that I've asked for his help in overcoming my problems. Asking for help was tough, but accepting help is even tougher. When you accept help, you have to take responsibility for your feelings and for your actions. Don't let the help go to waste! You have to get TOUGH and use the tools the help provides to propel you past the obstacle.

Overcoming this particular obstacle is not going to happen in a single day, but I'm going to use this mindset all month and see where it gets me.

What are you most longing to do? What is standing in your way? How could you ask for help overcoming that obstacle? How could you get TOUGH with yourself to help propel you forward towards your goals? Let's do this together why don't we?