1) four modules
2) one thesis
3) three essays
4) three presentations
5) at least two publication projects
6) the Stanford Undergraduate Conference project
7) planning my graduate trip
8) working out my APS presentation in Washington DC
9) Graduate Record Examination
10) running a friend's psychology study
11) teaching assistantship
12) research assistantship
13) and more
all at more or less the same time, and that the one-week mid-term break was a make-or-break point where I either pull through or completely crumble, my dreams turning to dust and my GPA going down the drain.
Yes it was a rant post, but I ended it off basically saying CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Today, I stand relatively unscathed, having completed almost everything and making it through (with the sole exception of the Stanford Undergraduate Conference not garnering a reply yet). Because of this, which I do consider to be quite a success on a personal level, I therefore feel compelled to reiterate some personal mantras I always tell myself, at the risk of sounding pompous.
- Negativity never helped make anything better. It might make you feel better in some small kind of way, but just by rationally thinking about it, panicking, stressing out and complaining never improved things, especially if the odds are against you. Why make your looming mountain of work harder for yourself to complete, and worse still, irritate other people around you? It does not suffice to say that sometimes we can't help it. All it does is satisfy some part of our brain responsible for emotional gratification, or our primal desire to bail out or seek sympathy. You can continue to think that way if you do not want to accomplish anything. Perhaps the only negativity that is permissible is associated with hate, such as a burning desire to destroy or own your work so as to get it out of your way.
- Just do, part one. Many times, the worst part of doing something is the part before we even get down to doing anything, because we contemplate the fear of failure, we experience the anxiety of embarking on a task that is potentially difficult or painful, and we entertain the apprehension of even trying. That is the worst and most unforgivable thing that can stop us - when we don't even give it a shot. If failure doesn't even get a chance, forget about success.
- Just do, part two. You are often more resilient than you give yourself credit for. The moment you're thrown into the deep end, you'll find a way to survive. Of course, there's the odd failure, but going back to point 2, at least you found out. It would be extremely silly to miss the chance of finding out that you can succeed. And in most cases, we make it through somehow. Those times we make it through will give us the confidence we need to take on greater tasks in future.
- Just do, part three. There's a lot of work to be done and you haven't started, so the road ahead looks like an examination paper with twenty questions, or a blank document expecting to be filled with 10,000 words. JUST GET STARTED. Do the more enjoyable parts first, or do the questions that are easier first. Once you gain momentum doing the tasks that are least costly to your time and efforts, you'll usually find that the rest of it isn't as difficult as you thought. The most daunting part of an essay is knowing that your document is completely blank. Start filling it out. The rest gets easier once the content starts to flow and your job list starts to shrink.
- Enjoy the ride. Relish the challenge. Think of life as a journey, and that this is a small bump in the road. Years down the road, you'll laugh ridiculously at how difficult you thought your problems were then. Get real.
- Point 5 requires you to be optimistic. Yes, you have to be, otherwise you would not dare to do anything. Like point 1, pessimism about your own capability is a feeling to be entertained if you don't want to pull through. It is not going to be easy for people who are dispositionally pessimistic, I'll grant that, but whatever it is, find a way to suppress your pessimism. Talk to people, get social support, and most importantly, do that because you WANT to remove your self-doubt, not because you want others to agree how uniquely dire your situation is.
Yes, the truth can sometimes sound like tough love, but truth is not a democracy. Carpe diem.