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Reasons not to give up #1: you’re in control

by Amanda Collins

So you’re thinking of giving up. It’s all too hard, you’re frustrated, you’ve lost motivation and quite frankly there is paint drying that you would much prefer to be watching.

We’ve all been there! Which is why we have designed our new series Reasons Not to Give Up.

Each week for the next 11 weeks we will be giving you tools to overcome your barriers, to reignite your desire to study, and to help motivate you through your course to graduation.

The secret to success!

What is it that pushes us onwards when the going gets tough and when the walls seem too high to climb?

The answer to this lies in the way you view the wall.  You may not believe me, but I have good news about struggle, very good news.

Within every struggle exists the opportunity to become a better version of yourself. The opportunity to build resilience, perseverance, confidence, to become courageous, and to learn about what you are really capable of.

In essence, trials can make us better, or they can make us bitter.

Take for example, Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail before becoming the first democratically elected President of South Africa, or J.K Rowling who started as a single unemployed mother struggling to support her daughter on state benefits before penning Harry Potter and becoming a billionaire. At points their lives would have looked so bleak, their circumstances so overwhelming, that they would have wanted to pack it all in and give up, but they didn’t.

There will always be adversity in life, everyone will face it in one way or another, the difference between whether it stops you and whether you move through it lies in how you deal with it.

Internal and external obstacles

Roughly speaking, obstacles to study will fit into a number of internal and external categories, these can include:

  • Delayed benefits. When we study we don’t immediately graduate and get the job of our dreams. First we have to do the work. And for some of us, during the work we lose motivation because the end seems so far off.
  • Unrealistic goals. Do you work full time, have children and an active social life, and yet planned to study four hours a night to complete your course in six months? If this, or something similar sounds like you, you may be suffering a case of ‘unrealistic goals’.
  • No motivation and chronic procrastination. You know you should study, you think about study, you write lists about what you’ll do when you study, and you feel guilty about not studying. But you just can’t muster the will to actually go into OpenSpace, access your classes and do the work.

  • Mental, physical or personal problems. You’re struggling in your life. It may be relationship issues, dealing with a difficult child, you may be suffering mental or physical health issues, or you may have lost someone close to you.
  • Financial stresses. Money is tight – you’ve had to take on more work just to get by or you’re desperately trying to work out a way to make ends meet and the thought of having to study alongside the mounting pressure of financial burdens is just all too much.
  • Work/study/life imbalance. You’re busy. You have a million things to fit into a single day and you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over four years. The prospect of adding study to the equation amps your stress levels up into overdrive.
  • Struggling with the course material. You’re coursework is harder than you thought it would be. You are struggling to understand it. Your lessons may as well be written in Latin. You feel overwhelmed, confused and frustrated.

It’s time to take back control!

Whether you are sick, stressed or struggling, it’s important to be aware that you can get around your roadblocks. You are in control and you make the choices that will ultimately direct the course of your life.

So no matter what your roadblock is at the moment the following two steps will help you to gain control of the situation and get back on the path to success.

1. Become aware of the roadblock you are facing

“The first step towards change is awareness,” said prominent psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden.

Just hoping issues will go away has never solved anything, in fact in most cases it makes things worse. So in order to move through your obstacles you need to first become aware of what they are. The above list should help you narrow it down.

If you want further clarification ask yourself the five ‘Whys’. To do this, start with a problem, then ask why five times. An example of this exercise can be found below.

Problem: I haven’t done my assignment.

  1. Why? Because I can’t find the time.
  2. Why? Because I work all day and when I come home I have to run the house.
  3. Why? Because nobody helps me at home.
  4. Why? Because I don’t ask for help.
  5. Why? Because I feel guilty asking for help.

Solution: If I ask my family for an hour of help around the house each evening, I can spend that time doing my course work.

Asking ‘why’ five times will help you drill down to the root cause of your roadblock, if it isn’t already immediately apparent.

So now that you’ve identified what your roadblock is, it’s time to move forward!

It’s easy to get stuck in self-criticism over the problem, but beating yourself up will not fix or change the situation. Have some compassion for yourself, and then you can start moving towards a solution.

2. Reframe your thinking

Thoughts create your reality. If you think a situation is hopeless, then it will be.

Helen Keller, famous author, political activist and lecturer was left blind and deaf after an illness as a toddler. After years spent learning to communicate, she went on to become the first blind and deaf person to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts. After graduation she became a celebrated author, a famed public speaker, a champion for humanitarian causes and the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. She knew everybody from Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) to Linden B Johnson (36th President of the USA) and celebrated author Mark Twain, and used her influence to change the way the world viewed people with disabilities.

Keller believed she could, so she did. You have this ability as well. What you need to do is to shift your thinking from seeing the situation as wholly negative. Instead try to frame it as a challenge – a chance to grow and to learn, think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t. This will help you to redirect your energy and ultimately to take active and positive steps.

Rewrite your self-talk track

You will also need to re-write the negative loop that plays in your mind, you know the one: it tells you that “you can’t”, “you’ll never do this”, “you’re not good enough”, “it’s all too much” and “you don’t have the discipline”.

This is not the easiest thing to do, in most cases you’ve had this soundtrack playing in your mind for a long time. But the good news is that it can be done!

Recognise when these thoughts start cropping up. When they happen, stop yourself and override them with positive thoughts like “I can do this”, “I am good enough”, “I am strong”, “I deserve to be happy”. Remind yourself of a few of the good things you have done, these could be little things or big things.

At first, out of habit, you may not believe yourself. But as with most things, if you do it enough you will create a new mental habit. You will be surprised at the power of this one simple tool.

Another tool you can use is a Growth Chart. Put a blank piece of paper up on your wall or door and on it write every obstacle you overcome and every achievement you accomplish. They can be small obstacles you overcame, like “I got out of bed 15 minutes earlier and did some reading”, to bigger ones like “I completed my fourth assignment”. It is vital that you celebrate your successes.

Final thoughts

As you begin to overcome your obstacles you will find yourself becoming more confident, and you will realise that you are really capable of much more than you ever thought possible.

Once the obstacles start falling like dominoes you will notice that your attitude to them will change. You will know that you have already overcome obstacles, and you will be able to do so again, and again. Instead of crumbling under their weight, you will learn, grow and flourish from them.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks for more tips, hints and motivation on how you can get on track and stay on track.

It’s time to take control!

Are you feeling inspired to get back to study? Don’t plan to do it, take action and log into Open Space today! Ignite your dreams and make them come true, it is possible, and today’s the day you make it happen.

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