Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the Clutch.

Forgive me for stating the blatantly obvious, but this semester has been a learning experience for me. I have learned more than I thought I would about the subject matter covered in my classes, and I have discovered a few things here and there about myself and my faith as well. Even with all this learning, it seems like there is still one more lesson for me to take to heart.

My grades this semester have been decent except for one class. I have loved learning about the course content, but for one reason or another what I learned has failed to show up when I need it to, namely the test and projects thus far. Without going into specifics, I need to do much better on the final exam than on the midterm to get a grade sufficient for the class to count towards my degree. Perfectly doable, but it will take a lot of hard studying before next week Monday to make it happen.

If you know me at all you probably know that this is a situation I have never found myself in. In all my previous classes I have been able to game the system (not cheating, but just squeaking by on understanding very general concepts and putting things together when I need to) on tests and projects to the point that I could avoid doing any serious amount of studying and still come out alright. I do not particularly enjoy this feeling.

The strange thing though, is that I am finally starting to realize that this is a good thing. This is a large part of why I came to grad school in the first place. I may have been prepared to jump into a job from a skills standpoint, although probably not exactly the kind of job I would really want, but mentally I was nowhere close.

People always talk about the great sports figures and how they always seem to step up in big games. He or she could have had four or five dismal performances, but when the season or the championship is on the line he or she takes a deep breath, intensifies focus, and does what is necessary to win.

I, like so many others, have seen that happen. I, from the comfort of my couch, usually with a sleeve of Chips Ahoy! and a glass of milk, have asked myself whether I could step up like that. Obviously I am completely incapable of leading a football team to victory, pitching a shutout in the World Series, or hitting two clutch freethrows to win an NCAA basketball tournament, but why is my situation now so much different?

If I plan to be a valuable employee, manager, or executive one day, this is something I need to learn to do. I can see the challenge, I know the consequences of failure and the rewards of success, and there is nothing to do now but come through in the clutch.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Focus.

Sometimes (though not very often) I wish I had decided to go to to med school. There is no way I would have survived, and I know for a fact that I would be a horrible doctor, but I do wish I understood the human body a little bit better.

One thing that I find fascinating is the link between our body and our mind, and how overpowering that connection can be. Stress leads to muscle tension, nervousness leads to nausea, excitement leads to jitters. It can be hard to wrap my head around the fact that those relationships are based completely on chemical reactions.

As we get older, it gets more and more important to know and understand how we are affected by these types of things and how to deal with them, along with being able to recognize the physical symptoms and determine that maybe some of it is just in our heads.

The reason I was thinking about this in the first place is my inability to sleep when I have a lot on my plate. Granted, I am nowhere near the busiest person around, but I am busier than usual with a few high-priority projects that need to be finished up in the next week and a half or so. The physical manifestation of this, for me anyway, is a bit of head pressure and an inability to focus on just one task. Unfortunately, this compounds the problem as I am unable to do anything well without a complete focus on it.

My usual solution, and one that I would highly recommend, is to take a few moments to acknowledge that I am getting overwhelmed. A two minute pity party to calm myself down, and another few minutes to decide exactly what it is that I need to laser-focus on first is almost always all it takes to get myself back on track.

The great part (or a little sad I suppose) about grad school is that I have very little outside homework to worry about. Hopefully my strategy works just as well when I have real, grown-up responsibilities as well.

How do you cope with being overwhelmed? I am always on the lookout for new ways to deal with my insanity, so let me know