The Gustavian Weekly

The choice is yours

By Colin Rieke Opinion Columnist | October 11, 2013 | Opinion

Colin_RiekeHooray – it’s Friday! You just finished up your last class of the week, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. That test you studied for all week wasn’t so bad after all. You’re excited to see your grade, and you check Moodle for the results: it’s a D.

We all deal with adversity in our lives, especially as college students. For some, it seems  they never catch a break; while for others, life seems to always go according to plan. Misfortune finds us one way or another. More often than not, we let what  happens bring us down. We allow ourselves to become deeply and personally affected when hit with adversity.

One of the most influential aspects in the construction of your life story is how you deal with adversity. For those of you interested in learning how to deal with hardship, your golden ticket is a positive attitude.

Look at Gustavus’ most recent unfortunate event: the hate crime. Although the crime itself is getting a lot of the attention, the most powerful aspect throughout this ordeal has been how the victim has handled it.

The victim anonymously posted a statement on the Gustavus Love Confessions Facebook page that is amazing and a true testament to the importance of a positive attitude.

“I want you to know that I love you for all of your faults. Even for all of the pain that you have caused me I still recognize that you are a human being as well.”

This person expressed nothing short of love for all Gusties, even for those who committed the crime. Gratefulness was shown for the campus and for the support that has been given. The individual also showed how important forgiveness is in a process such as this. A positive outlook has been expressed after, to say the least, a not so positive event.

Sick flow, man! Colin Rieke

Sick flow, man! Colin Rieke

Now you may be thinking “Duh, of course you have to have a positive attitude.” However, remaining positive when times get tough is much easier said than done. In the heat of the moment, we are more likely to let our feelings get the best of us. We have a tendency to  freak out instead of staying cool, calm, and collected. Our goal of attaining a positive attitude begins with learning how to overcome anger or displeasure. There are several things that must be done in order  to do this.

First, learn to recognize failure. Making a mistake is an opportunity for learning and personal growth. If you bomb a test, now you know to change your study habits. If you get dumped, you will inevitably learn more about yourself through the process. You must experience lows during your life in order for you to  enjoy the highs.

Second, realize that continued excellence is not only a rarity, it’s impossible. We strive for perfection. I am guilty of this, and there’s no denying that many Gusties are as well. There are many reasons, but the main area of concern here is that perfection is not feasible. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to be the best and getting one-hundred percent we forget we are only human.

For example, during my  first year  at Gustavus, I focused on achieving perfection. Everyday during tennis practice, I would constantly critique my performance. In classes, I would judge how well I did based on my test grades, without taking into consideration that I was a first-year, and still had yet to grasp the idea of studying. I kept comparing myself to what I should be, until I was no longer having fun at tennis practice. Something that had always been my  passion  became the most stressful time of my day. Instead of focusing on the results, focus on what you are able to do. As long as you give it your all, then what is there to stress about?

Finally, the most crucial component of a positive attitude is focusing on  what you have control over, and ignoring the rest. We tend to get into the habit of believing we can regulate every facet of our life. When something goes awry, we think it’s our fault and pin it on ourselves. There are  only three things you can control: your attitude, how you interact with others, and your effort. The great thing about these is that they are deeply interconnected. A positive attitude directly affects how you interact with your friends, and vice versa. You are also more likely to try your hardest when you are in an upbeat, positive mood.

During my sophomore year, I made a conscious effort to have fun playing tennis . Focusing on what I could control enabled me to do that. I stopped worrying about what others thought of me, and stopped comparing myself to perfection. I kept a smile on my face while I talked to my teammates. I slowly began shedding the stress that came with every practice and started to genuinely enjoy myself.

Today, tennis practice is the best part of my day, all thanks to the choice I made to stay positive and focus on what I could control.

1 Comment

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  1. Jen Werness says:

    It’s true! If only everyone could face trials with a positive attitude and let the things go and most importantly forgive yourself ad realize it’s ok and you’re human. These are so refreshing to read. Thanks Colin!