For whatever reason, 25 has been a very introspective year. I’ve discovered more things about myself, my behavior, my actions, and my emotions in the past 7 months than in the past 7 years. Perhaps it stems from months and months of pain and frustration, perhaps it is just part of the natural process of maturing.
I started a new job, and am very excited at the prospect of meeting new people and exploring new challenges. I truly feel like I’m in an environment that values growth; both vocational and personal. It is a perfect time for me to grow; after stagnating for so long at my previous job, I’m brimming with ideas, concepts, and energy that can and should be directed upwards.
Some of that energy, I expend on myself (I wish it was more, admittedly); mainly in deep thought about where I stand or why I stand. Long gone are my days of depressing existential philosophical loops; I am starting to see purpose in things beyond the corporeal, and am slowly warming to the fact that life, despite my preconceptions, is not polar.
Aside from discovering a lot about my developing psychology, realigning my sense of place and being, and generally reevaluating what defines my personal satisfaction, I have discovered the root causes of a lot of my behavior. All those hours of playing Lego, solving puzzles, playing games, and playing un-trained handy-man, were far more impactful than I ever consciously acknowledged.
I love to fix things. An oversimplification, probably, but I get no greater satisfaction than knowing I have repaired, mended, or righted a problem. I approach challenges with a mindset of, “what do I need to do to this” instead of “what might stop me from doing this.” Fixing things – any things – has become a defining aspect of the adult Oliver.
It is why I am an IT guy. It is why I am an editor. It is why I enjoy, rather than loathe, home improvement tasks. It is why I don’t say “no” when someone asks for help. It is why I keep coming to work, and why I tend not to anger easily. It is why I spend hours trying to fix a tiny problem. If I can fix it (however abstract “it” might be) all is right in my world.
I even go as far as to fix problems that aren’t even mine. I’ll submit error tickets for coworkers because I’m not happy that something of theirs is broken. I’ll suggest revisions to language, even in emails, simply because I want their language to be fixed. If a problem is made apparent to me, my mind will not rest until I’ve either solved it, or completely exhausted my current ability to solve it.
I am not satisfied walking away from any problem, as I’ve develop a mindset that I am capable of fixing anything. All a solution requires is tools and knowledge; the prior I can buy or acquire, the latter is readily available for anyone interested enough to do a little research. I stand by the fact that given enough preparation time and an unlimited budget for tools or supplies, I can do anything. Seriously, anything.
As I’ve grown past the initial shock and depression of my injury, I’ve finally begun to view it as a problem that needs to be fixed. It’s a particularly vexing problem, as my typical “Philips or flat-head” approach doesn’t work on bones and ligaments. It does however provide me with a daily challenge, something to constantly work on, that I know I won’t be content with until it is fixed. This arm will straighten eventually, after a lot of hard work and different approaches to fixing it.
The psychology behind my mentality is surprisingly simple, but generally overlooked. From observation, I’ve found that most people set a bar of what they can or cannot achieve based on their most glorious failure; they can function up to that point, but then are apprehensive to even try anything beyond, as it could lead to another crushing failure. Their past dictates their future, and limits their potential.
These are the people that never have the energy to do anything, because they remember that they last time they tried, they were exhausted by the end. These are the people who are not motivated to start a project because in the past they never finished others. These are the people who do not try new things, because one random new thing that they tried didn’t work out perfectly. These are the people who have no personal accountability, and often blame odd, abstract things (like gods, completely unrelated people, cosmic powers) for their own inability to do something, rather than taking responsibility.
Cyclical, fatalistic, defeatist, voluntarily self-restrictive nonsense!
I have a much more optimistic approach. Instead of setting an imaginary bar of where my maximum comfort zone hovers, I instead build confidence based on past experience. My failures aren’t benchmarks for how high I can go before I fall, but conversely my previous achievements are support for everything I can do. I don’t have a ceiling of how high I can go based on unlucky or uncontrollable failures, but instead have the confidence to look at all the good I’ve done as inspiration to undertake any challenge. TL;DR version: Strength from accomplishment, not limitation from failure.
I tend to look back and say, “Well if I can do that, in that period of time, with no training, I can definitely do this.” I put things into perspective, and analyze what I need to do whatever it is I need to do. It is way more effective than saying, “I think I can do this, but last time I tried it I failed at life, so I should probably just not do it.” I never confront a problem with an attitude that allows me to consider not fixing or completing it.
This is why I never stumble when I have a problem to fix. Every new problem I fix fuels my ability to fix things. Every success builds my database of solutions, giving me more and more resources to resolve potential issues. I find the more I achieve, the more I can achieve. I don’t believe in learning from one’s failures, I believe in never letting failure dictate what one can do. Once you can see how capable you are, you’ll find that failure is no longer a dark, scary, lurking monster, but something you look back fondly on, and laugh.