Do you ever notice how now and then, a series of annoyances seem to happen one after another? I’ve had a month where it feels like every day has provided something new to test my patience.
- When I was working on jobs outside there have been biblical proportions of rain.
- There have been travel disruptions on the way to work leaving me stranded.
- Crucial equipment has spontaneously decided it’s grown tired of living and that I need to learn its inner workings spending days fixing it.
- A couple of creative projects have not panned out.
- I’ve encountered incompetence from those who really should have done better.
When we have weeks like these, it’s so easy for feelings of fatalism to set in – the philosophical belief that life is predetermined no matter what our actions may be. Stuck in a mental slump borne out of frustration and annoyance, I needed to pick myself back up again.
I remember that sometimes it would be better that some things don’t happen the way you want them to. Although this one is hard because it’s human nature to let ourselves get carried away in our imagination, picturing the things we think we want only to be disappointed when they don’t work out. Often we never get to see how that untraveled alternate path would have panned out, but once in a while, life will give us a glimpse of why this wasn’t the best thing for us.
Last year I was turned down for a gig that I was sure would be fulfilling for me both creatively and financially, and I felt like I’d missed out at the time. Not long after, I was shocked to see in the press that there had been an incident that turned into a politically charged legal and PR nightmare and a very real safety issue for those involved in the gig. It was a disaster. I certainly would have been caught in the middle of the crossfire with potentially long-lasting ties to it if I’d landed the job. It’s been useful to have this rejection in the back of my mind to draw upon when times of frustration come around as they inevitably do, and remember that sometimes things not happening can be a good thing.
The second phase of my fatalistic detox was thinking about perseverance and what it means. The alternative to going after what we truly want in life is accepting defeat and ceasing to try anymore. Surely this feels worse than any setback? Kim Liao’s viral article from 2016 Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year beautifully outlines her outlook on perseverance in the creative world of work. But it really can be applied in any area of life where we are losing our cool. Liao theorises that the more times we fail, the fear of failure itself shrinks and holds infinitely less power over us because the act of persevering has become routine. Additionally, Liao reasons that the more we practice at anything, the better we get, including building our resilience.
Most people tend to feel they need something to aim for to grow. I first became aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs during my teacher training, as it is heavily referenced in the British education system. Maslow’s expanded model is a motivational theory of human behaviour, though these needs are interchangeable, and some may even supersede others entirely.
- Biological and physiological needs– air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.
- Safety needs– protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc.
- Love and belongingness needs– friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
- Esteem needs– which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).
- Cognitive needs– knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning, and predictability.
- Aesthetic needs– appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
- Self-actualisation needs– realising personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth, and peak experiences.
- Transcendence needs– A person is motivated by values that transcend beyond the personal self (e.g., mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, religious faith, etc.).
The final part of my troubleshooting process is to mentally file which goals and needs can be met by reassessing my plans and actions accordingly. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” and I feel like this mantra is so useful when thinking about what we can proactively do to help ourselves.
Over the years, some of our goals and needs will remain the same, while others require tuning into in order to keep their relevance and propel us forward. Even when we are happily travelling down the same road as before, our surroundings or circumstances can change, making our old goals seem outdated. By being rigid, we can close ourselves off to change when it might be helpful to us, and they say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing while expecting a different outcome. If we can embrace change, whether in ourselves when it is needed and chosen, or when it feels like it is happening “to” us, we are also building resilience, and whether it feels like just what we need to hear or a philosophical reminder, the only real constant in life is change.
Michelle Sciarrotta is a singer/songwriter, composer, and musician. She holds a BA in Music Performance and a music teaching degree. Michelle has worked all over the UK and Europe as a guitarist and co-writer with Blaze Bayley, and she self-produces her solo projects. She is passionate about women’s rights and education for girls.