Celebrate Your Success

Today was my boxing club’s one year anniversary. We had an extra long boxing session followed by cake and other snacks, and awards. Much to my surprise, and to my incredible delight, I won an award! I received the “Best Transformation” award and could not have been prouder.

I rarely win awards. Sometimes I feel like I’m the kind of person who works really hard but rarely gets recognized by others. Being recognized at Title in a domain (working out) that I usually think I’m terrible at meant a lot. In high school, I was on the swim team for all four years. I was the worst member on the team for that entire time, spending all my days swimming in “Lane One.” I was also on the track team for four years, but my letter jacket never had “Track & Field” emblazoned on it, because you needed to win in a meet to get a letter.

I’ve been working hard at boxing. I went from doing no physical activity at all, to boxing twice a week, then three times a week, and now every other day. Personally, I do feel transformed. In the 6 months that I’ve been a member, I have lost 15 pounds, acquired real muscles (even abs!), and feel so much better about my body and myself.

But like in so many other areas of my life, I rarely dwell on my success. Instead of focusing on what I’ve accomplished, I instead focus on how far I still have to go. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but I want to lose 15 more. I’m boxing every other day, but I want to be going every day. I have two very developed abs and two half developed ones, but I want a six pack.

If you are a very goal-oriented person, like I am, it is easy to focus on the next goal and forget to be proud of what you’ve already accomplished. Awards like the one I won tonight make it easy to remember that I’ve done a lot!

But you don’t need an award to celebrate what you’ve done. You just need to change the way you think. Since I was a child, my dad has sworn by what he calls the “Disney World Line Theory of Life.” He tells me not to focus on how far you yet have to go, but instead to look back and see how far you’ve come. Everyone could benefit from looking back every so often.

Take the time to look behind you in line. Think about what you’ve accomplished and celebrate it! Be proud of who you are and what you’ve done.

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(Me after the workout with three of my favorite boxing coaches!)

Best Friends are the Best

I never believed in the concept of love at first sight, until it happened to me. For me, it didn’t happen in a romantic context, but I immediately connected with my best friend, Toni.

We met almost 10 years ago, when we were both studying abroad in Japan. We had come from two different undergraduate universities on the same study abroad program. We connected instantly.

I kept a travel journal every day while I was in Japan. It not only helps me remember Japan, but I have documentation of the beginning of my friendship with Toni. The first six weeks of our friendship, I wrote about her almost every day. For example, the very first time she appears in my journal: “Right away, me and Toni hit it off… and planned to sit near each other on the bus tomorrow! :)” From our conversation on the bus the next day, “We had really bonded the night before, and we did it again today too… I enjoyed talking to her SO much. I just feel like we really clicked and just got along great!”

We continued to get close throughout our time in Japan. One of our favorite parts of the beginning of our friendship was the transition from Kamogawa to Waseda- the first to second part of the program. The first part was two weeks in the middle of nowhere (Kamogawa), 2 hours away from Tokyo in the mountains. The second part was four weeks in Tokyo. For the first part, we were placed with random roommates. For the part in Tokyo, we had filled out a roommate questionnaire ahead of time and they had matched us up at that time based on compatibility.

Toni and I sat with each other on the bus again when we rode from the seminar house to Tokyo and found out our roommate assignments. We promised we would continue spending a lot of time together, no matter who our roommates were. To our complete delight, we had been assigned each other as roommates! Even our pre-program questionnaire thought that we would be compatible. We were so happy with this and felt like our friendship was “meant to be!”

Though we’ve always been long distance friends, that has never stopped us. We visit each other a few times a year and even took a graduation trip together when I got my PhD and she got her MD. We’ve experienced a lot of similar life milestones at the same time, like getting our graduate degrees, switching programs (her for residency, me for my job), and its been amazing to have her support. I can talk to her about anything. When something goes wrong, she’s often the first person I call to ask for advice and support.

Recently, she moved to Ann Arbor, which is the closest (2.5 hours) we’ve ever lived to each other. It’s been awesome to see each other more often! The life of a medical Resident (aka Toni’s life) is incredibly stressful and her schedule packed, but we make time.

Like this weekend. She had only Saturday off and started a night shift on Sunday. Nevertheless, we decided to meet up halfway between where we both live for a staycation. We looked up the city (Toledo) and found that the number 1 most romantic hotel in the U.S, a spa hotel, was located there. So of course, we had to go. Since we made the plans only about 3-4 weeks out, there was limited availability. The only room available was the most expensive one. Oh, darn.

I was a little hesitant, but Toni talked me into it and I was SO glad she did. We decided to make it our 10 year friendship anniversary celebration! We brought wine, champagne, flowers, fondue, and snacks. The room itself had a gigantic bed with a fireplace, an unnecessarily large shower, a jacuzzi, a heated pool, and a sauna.

It was one of the best trips I’ve taken! We spent the first few hours pruning up in the pool as we dipped our rotisserie chicken in cheese fondue and drank wine. We pulled all the flowers off their stems and put them in the pool for extra “romance.” We lit dozens of tea light candles and put bubble bath in the jacuzzi. We ate fruit dipped in chocolate fondue on the bed. We played Code Names and painted our toenails. We talked about our lives until past 3 am. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up even close to that late, but I was barely tired at all because I was having such an amazing time.

It was hard to leave in the morning. Even though I’m on winter break, it was hard to come back to reality. My life without my best friend and a heated pool in my room. But I feel refreshed and rejuvenated after that wonderful break. I also feel amazingly grateful to have a person like Toni in my life.

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Self-Handicapping, Learned Helplessness, and Accomplishment

How many of you haven’t tried to do something because you were “sure” you wouldn’t succeed? How many of you waited until the last minute and threw something together so you could say you tried but not feel bad when you didn’t succeed? These, in psychology, are called learned helplessness and self-handicapping respectively.

These are amazingly and disturbingly common ways that we ensure we will fail. Not on purpose, of course. We are trying to protect ourselves. But in doing so, we often act as our own worst enemy.

I’ve done this a lot throughout my life. Most recently I was able to overcome the initial learned helplessness. In boxing last week, we had a plank competition- whoever could hold the longest plank (a low plank) after the workout would get a cool prize. I spent a lot of November thinking about if I wanted to enter this competition, because it would be pretty embarrassing to try and only get a really short time. They had a schedule of planks throughout the month that you could do every day to prepare. I thought a lot about taking one of the paper schedules to work on it at home, but didn’t.

When it came to November 30th, after my workout, everyone left. I wanted to leave too and skip the competition, but I had no excuses. I entered the plank competition. I asked what the longest time had been so far, and was surprised to hear that I was the first person to participate (it was the 9:30 am class, so maybe not that surprising, but there are two classes before it). Nevertheless, I had a goal in mind (3:30) and got to work.

It should come as no surprise that after a 60 minute intense workout, including planks, holding a plank was immensely difficult. Personally, I also find low planks harder than high ones. I could feel my muscles start shaking after 1 minute in. My goal seemed way too far off.

I asked the coach to tell me after each 30 second milestone for a morale boost. Time had never ticked slower. 1:30 and she could see me visibly shaking and asked how I was doing.

“Not good. But I want to get to at least 2 minutes.”

The two minute mark couldn’t come fast enough. I held my plank for a total of two minutes and two seconds. Not terribly impressive, but I had no benchmark to compare it to. Still, I was proud I had tried.

I went home, posted on Facebook, and forgot about it.

Yesterday night, I got an email saying that I won the longest plank at my club’s location and got a $25 gift certificate to the Title store.

Wait, what? I won?

My first thought was that no one else from my club participated, which is obviously the reason I won. Let me be clear and say that totally could be the case. But the fact that it’s what my mind first jumped to made me a little sad (and reflective).

It’s hard enough for us to get over our fears and try something, especially something difficult, especially when we might fail. But when we succeed and we still don’t think it’s enough, that is the worst offense we are committing against ourselves.

Even if I was the only one who competed, that shouldn’t lessen my victory any. I still had the courage to try and to keep going, even when it was difficult. I felt proud after I finished my plank. Winning shouldn’t take that away from me.

Take time to appreciate your accomplishments. Don’t lessen them. Be proud of the work that you put in- whether you succeed or not!

Anxiety in Everyday Life

I’ve written on this blog before about my anxiety. It’s something that I have a hard time talking about, because I really want to believe that I don’t or that it’s gotten better or I’ve gotten over it. But I don’t think it works that way. And sometimes I’m reminded of the role it plays in my everyday life.

When you have anxiety, you often get hung up on an incident that most people would be able to get over fairly quickly. For example, I always notice that my mom can get really worked up about things that happen to her and don’t seem like a big deal to me. Sometimes her boss will take off Fridays from work or call off because he doesn’t feel like coming in. She will get very upset about this. I can understand how frustrating it is when you’re really busy and someone doesn’t seem like they’re taking their job seriously. But my mom will rant about this on the phone for awhile, to several people, and will constantly bring it up later.

It sounds so ridiculous when it isn’t you in the situation. But I can empathize with her a lot more now that I see myself doing some of the same things. Recently, I didn’t get my proposal accepted for a class that pays me to do research with students. I felt really upset about this, because the head of the committee was a person who had insulted me and my research previously. I felt that this person rejected my proposal because he didn’t take me seriously. I talked to all my colleagues about it. In about 20 minutes, I have a lunch with this committee and I’ve been freaking out about this a little.

I talked to one of my colleagues about it, who also happens to be a counselor. I knew I was overly anxious, but it didn’t really register to me how irrational I was being until she pointed it out. I questioned whether or not I should prepare a Power Point for my students to use last minute. I made assumptions about when and how the committee would judge me in possibly re-considering my proposal. I worried about the brown boots I had accidentally worn this morning instead of the black ones I meant to wear with this outfit. I was seeing the worst in everything. I was catastrophizing. But all of these things seemed perfectly rational to me at the time. Of course I should worry about these things! Of course they were reasonable!

When you’re anxious, your thoughts and feelings seem normal to you. It seems only natural that you are worried about those particular things. Sometimes it takes an objective opinion to point out to you that you aren’t making sense.

I feel proud of myself that I was able to take that advice and take a step back from the situation. I knew she was right. So I stopped worrying about it and got back to my grading. Sometimes it isn’t that easy, but I’ve been making a lot of progress in this area.

Off to this lunch meeting. Hopefully I can retain this feeling of calm during it.