There are few words to truly describe my final season of indoor track and field as a member and co-captain of the Purdue University Women’s Track & Field Team in 1999. If I had to assign a label to the physical and mental rigors of being a student-athlete while balancing personal issues, my description would be a culmination of inconsistency, exacerbation, being humbled, pain and stress. Literally, my emotions were all over the place. I recall a period of over three months when I oftentimes found myself sad, angry, and disgusted. A number of other seemingly gloomy adjectives could easily describe the myriad of emotions that I felt at any given moment. As a young woman, I held on to a firm belief that I should not physically wear my emotions, so I chose to conceal them. By my senior year in college, I had become an expert in concealment and a specialist in functioning through my mental dysfunction. There were days that I wanted to “check out” of the reality. I wanted to drink that pain away, isolate myself, and not be responsible for being responsible. But, because I am a woman of faith, I know that God continues to cause my tenacity to increase; and my ability to tactically and tactfully handle, negotiate and commit to the process of obtaining my latter to intensify.
That year I learned, there is always a process that God requires us to experience to get closer to him for dependency and most often than not, that’s the growth and expansion process required for us to transform into the fulfilled people he has destined us to be. In March of 1999, my latter became greater than my former, I won a national title in the event that just three months earlier was burdensome. It wasn’t easy, however, I know that the journey required me to seek assistance, manage my emotions, and practice a growth mindset.
Take into account the following three strategies to help you actualize the notion of “the latter being greater than the former.” Keep in mind, in order for this to work, you must make a decision to apply and activate the methods.
First, you have to admit that you are experiencing challenges, then, seek and ask for help. Don’t go it alone. Assistance can come from a number of sources. One source to cogitate is God. If you are a person of faith, you know that there are passages that speak about asking, seeking and knocking. I encourage you to take the time to connect with God on a more intimate level, similar to how you would build a relationship with someone in the natural. In addition, couple your spiritual focus with clinical therapy. Clinical therapy can dismantle the negative chatter that takes over and misrepresent your reality.
Consider family, close friends, and trusted advisors as sources of help as well. I know just reading the previous sentence causes your stomach to turn, but contrary to popular belief, people are willing to help. Researchers, Flynn and Lake (2008) found that people underestimate how likely the people we ask for help, will comply with the request. M. Nora Klaver, author of “MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need ” says, learning to ask for help is not just good for unselfish reasons; it yields business wisdom. There are many reasons why we don’t ask for help. In fact, Klaver suggests that one reason we don’t ask for help is that we fear to seem weak, destitute or inept. Conversely, Flynn (2008) said, “people are more willing to help than you think, and that can be important to know when you’re trying to get the resources you need to get a job done when you are trying to solicit funds, or what have you.”
The second strategy to consider is developing your emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, manage and assess emotions. This skill ultimately leads to the capacity to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Psychologist, Daniel Goleman suggest that emotional intelligence is learned and can be cultivated. Goleman, in his article, What Makes a Leader, provides five categories of emotional intelligence: empathy, social skills, motivation, self-awareness, and self-regulation. The two elements I suggest you immediately enrich are self-awareness and self-regulation.
When you are self-aware, you are familiar with your own frame of mind, strengths, limitations, drives and feelings as well as their consequences on others. This area can be cultivated by completing talent and personality assessments such as StrengthsFinder, or a simple intuitive system like Real Colors. Understanding who you are and what triggers extraordinary results are crucial to successfully performing individually, in business and as part of a team. Additionally, become familiar with your values and goals by sitting down and writing them out, revisiting them, reflecting on them and adjusting them as necessary.
Likewise, individuals who master self-regulation are gifted at being able to take command of and redirect emotions which allow you to think before moving forward with a decision. Cultivating self-regulation can seem difficult at first thought because your adrenaline pumps, your heart rate may increase – biological factors are involved. Nevertheless, this can be controlled through practicing breathing techniques, prayer, and if possible, physically removing yourself from environments that cause undesirable emotions. Another focus for fostering self-regulation is practicing owning up to your own involvement in situations that may cause negative emotions in you.
The third and final strategy is practicing shifting your belief system from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I first learned of these belief systems at the John Maxwell Team’s 2015 Live2Lead Greater Lafayette Leadership Simulcast that my company hosted. Valorie Burton, author & Founder of the CaPP Institute was a featured speaker. She shared the research of Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck who found that “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
Dweck’s research showed that a fixed mindset assumes that our character and creative ability are stagnant fundamentals which we can’t transform in any meaningful way and success as well as avoiding failure, becomes a way of preserving the sense of being capable. In contrast, she corroborates, a growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are possessions that can be refined through experiences and use. Valorie Burton summarized Dweck’s research by stating, “when you have a growth mindset you understand that where you are today is just a starting point and that you can learn and grow from there.”
Sixteen years ago, as a student-athlete, I obtained the latter through the application of three main strategies: seeking assistance, managing emotions, and practicing a growth mindset. Being able to garner a Division I, national track and field title after experiencing an inconsistent and emotional indoor season has reminded me, whether performing individually, in business or as part of a team, that at every challenging juncture, there is a growth and expansion process that must take place in order to obtain the latter.