It's a great feeling when you surround yourself with go-getters who do not back down when the going gets tough. Even if the odds are stacked against them, they'd still give it their all, and not accept defeat until they've tried every trick in the book. The reason this idea amazes me a lot is because I think I may have grown up with a victim mentality.
I grew up feeling entitled - I expected the society to give me what I wanted (or thought I deserved). For as long as I was ensconced in the cocoon of my family, I naively believed that the society was going to treat me the way my parents used to. As you can imagine, after a point, even my family couldn't cope with such a high level of expectation (and a lot of mind-reading on their part). However, to me, this often translated into not even my family understands me. Soon, it escalated to a point where I wouldn't tell people want I wanted, while expecting them to figure it out and give it to me. On a moody day, I would resent my sister for being so vocal about what she wanted and wondered how she always managed to get it (because she asked for it, you dumbo!) At home, if something didn't happen the way I'd wanted it to, I'd get angry or burst into tears. In school, if I didn't get selected in the choir, I'd cry. People used to give in, at times, sometimes out of pity, sometimes out of sheer exhaustion from trying to handle my tantrums!
Fortunately, this delusion wore off very soon. My constant, mostly self-induced disappointments taught me that the world didn't owe me anything, that I was on my own. But there was another problem: because I had to learn it the hard way, I almost automatically went into an overdrive. I quickly transitioned myself from being overtly dependent on others for my happiness to being completely independent. These were my late teens and early college days. Having bitten in the butt by the 'being independent' bug, I decided to no longer depend on anyone for anything. I tried to do everything on my own, and stopped expecting anything from others. When I felt trapped or stressed due to this increased self-reliance, I would burst out crying, but this time, in secret (because independent women don't cry, dammit!). Despite this, I was pretty happy with how I'd turned myself around - at least, no more disappointments because of others' actions/inactions, and I thought that was a good thing until I knew better.
It was either zero or one with me; I just couldn't handle anything in between. I still didn't know how to trust people and be independent at the same time. After I moved to the Corporate world, I struggled to find this balance for a long time. I was trying to do everything on my own, and getting stressed out unnecessarily. Being independent was a virtue, but I should have realised sooner that getting things done is more important than trying to do everything on your own. But as I got accustomed to newer environments, I got exposed to the kind of people who knew how to get things done. As I surrounded myself with people who hustle, I think I started getting the hang of it.
For any problem in today's world, there are multiple variables at play. The solution may not just be dependent on your actions, but on collaboration. In today's world, you may not even have the luxury of time to be able to do everything on your own, you may have to delegate Trying to do everything on your own can only help you if you are the only variable in the equation. But when the emotions, the likes, the dislikes, and possibly, the prejudices of other people are invariably linked to your end goal, you'll realise that you're no longer playing Chess but CounterStrike. When I looked around, I was soon able to I find a lot of people who understood the variables as well as the factors that influenced them, and were able to utilize that knowledge to their advantage. The interesting thing is, once you get the hang of this idea, it slowly becomes instinctual and much easier to work with.
Persevering in the face of failure is an attitude that some people have, and I've been lucky enough to see it in action quite a lot of times these past few years. Recently, when I was on vacation in Canberra, Australia, my husband, our friend and I stumbled upon a cute little stationery shop while we were on our way to something important. At the time, we didn't have the time to stop by, so we decided to come back later. The next day was my last day in Canberra and I badly wanted to visit the shop before leaving. The whole morning I spent packing and was waiting for the afternoon to come so we could visit the place. Unfortunately, my husband got caught up in some immigration work that had to be completed urgently, and couldn't make it home till late in the evening.
By the time we loaded our luggage in the car, it was 8:30 pm, and we knew the shop would be shut by 9 pm. My usual reaction would have been either to be disappointed (may be, crying my eyes out about the misfortune) or flipping out at my husband and the situation, feeling helpless, telling him that it was my fault that I was dependent on him, and that I should've gone there on my own. Or, the moment I realized that he was getting tied up with work, I would've stormed out of the house into the shop, trying to be the independent go-getter. By the way, being independent is okay in this case, as long as you don't feel resentful or angry at others, but that's not how most people operate in the real world, and I was no different.
Only this time, I did none of those things.
With just thirty minutes to go before the shop shuts down, my husband, our friend and I were all our calm regular selves, but charged up enough to give it our best shot. Yes, there were variables that we could not control (my husband's unexpected work, the shop's timing, the twenty minute drive to the place, etc.) , but we refused to go down without a fight. We quickly got into the car, trying to cover those twenty minute drive in as short a time as possible. In the meantime, my husband found their number online and called them to request if they could be open for another 5-10 minutes while assuring them that we would be there as soon as we could. Now, this is Australia, so the woman on the other side politely told us that she wouldn't be able to extend by more than five minutes. But since we had called her, she knew we were on our way and wouldn't shut it before time. Finally, we reached there in the nick of time, our friend dropped us outside the Shopping Cente and went to park the car. I got out and ran as fast as I could to the shop with my husband trailing. We reached there and got enough time to catch our breaths before they lowered the shutter. Once we were inside, we didn't have to worry much. Our friend joined us soon after, and we had enough time to browse a bit and ended up shopping to our hearts' content.
This time, I felt the elation of achieving something, rather than the disappointment or the helplessness or the resentment I'd have felt otherwise. And I didn't have to do it alone - it was a team effort which made this an even more epic win!
What if the story had not ended that way, you ask? What if it wasn't a happy ending?
For starters, we had a back up plan - to visit the Sydney branch as we were traveling to Sydney that night. But that didn't stop us from giving it our all to get this plan to work. The lesson is simple: there will always be some factors that are outside your control, but you can still control how to respond to those unforeseen circumstances. Instead of feeling helpless or stressed out, you need to think about how to get to your goal within those constraints. The game is constantly changing, new variables are getting added, what you'd thought would be a piece of cake may longer appear to be so, but that doesn't mean that you have no control over it. Don't be a victim to the circumstances, be ready to take what life throws at you and make the most of it.
I know this is a simple story, not a life-or-death situation or even a high-stake game (although, depending on how you handle it, any situation can turn into a high-stake scenario). All I wanted to showcase here was how some people look at tough situations differently. In our case, we could have just resigned to the possibility that we'd not be able to make it in time and that we'd have to visit the store in Sydney. But we were not ready to give up that easily even in a relatively low-stake scenario like visiting a stationery store. These small actions act as the building blocks to develop habits that can help you tide through much bigger and more stressful situations boldly. It's like building a muscle, and the more you practice such skills, the stronger the wiring in your brain gets, and it slowly spills over into other areas of your life including your social and professional lives.