When You Want to Opt Out of Optimism

I get it. You studied your butt off and didn’t get the grade, worked all weekend but didn’t get the promotion, or some life stuff has just got you down.

I’m even there now. Health problems leading to dietary changes, grades that are not what I had hoped for, and just generally wearing a bit thin. When things don’t turn out like we want, it’s easy to just say “forget it” and walk away, act like we never wanted bigger or better anyway. 

In the modern world, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of I can’ts, it won’t matter, it’s too hard. Although it’s easier at first, that’s not a mindset for victory — only failure.

Instead of falling into that mind set of can’ts and couldn’ts, we need to remind ourselves that there are things we can control: our mindsets, our reactions, and our actions in the future.

The most important of these is our mindset, because that is what causes the other two to be either really helpful, or very damaging. 

If your studies didn’t pay off, start with taking a perspective. Instead of “I’m a failure, I hate all of school, I should just drop out” thoughts, refocus with “Okay, I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I will try something new to do better next time.” Take a look at the equation, and see what isn’t adding up. Visit office hours if you need guidance, start at study group if you need help or accountability, and set aside time for it if you needed a little more time with your nose in a book. Instead of brewing over a missed promotion or opportunity at work, focus on what you can do to make yourself a valuable asset to your workplace where you’re at. 

When life falls apart? Well, that’s a little more complicated. Sometimes you need a day off, or a day of productivity; maybe you need more time with people, or time alone. At the end of the day, no one except you can really know what you need, but the people closest to you can help when you’re confused. For me, Nick is incredible at predicting when I need to go hide from the world for a while. My mom is good at being able to tell when I need comfort food. My sister is great at breaking the tension with jokes, and my best friend is the perfect dose of sarcasm on a satirical kind of day. If you aren’t sure what you need, if you’re feeling low or tired or just… drained, and don’t know what to do? Call your close friend(s), significant other, or parent — sometimes that alone is a great pick-me-up.

Life is full of changes, full of ups and downs, and other things that can throw off your groove, but a positive mindset can mean the difference between getting back on track and living your whole life with a defeated mentality.

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