The other day I sat down to get coffee with a good friend of mine. As you all know grabbing coffee is my favorite past time and a necessary part of my weekly schedule. Taking the time to sit and enjoy something so bitter beautifully contrasts the sweet conversation and companionship that results from time spent with friends. I had been having a difficult time that day coming to terms with a less than stellar grade that I received on a writing assignment for my non-profit management class. I ended up writing the 10 page paper in a total of 12 hours, and knew that I hadn’t put forth my best work. Needless to say, this venting session with a friend was well past due.
The more I complained about the assignment, and school in general, the more intrigued she became. As she actively listened I could tell that she was waiting for me to finish so she could offer a few suggestions and eventually a solution. Instead she proposed a question, one that I’ve been contemplating for days: “What is actually upsetting you? Why should this grade effect the way you see yourself and the way you see the world?”. She caught me. The paper wasn’t the problem–I was the problem. When asked why should this grade effect the way “you see yourself”, I stopped and took the time to reflect. The answer was right in front of my face; it shouldn’t effect my self image or how I see the world.
This conversation brought light to an interesting topic: individual perspective. How do we see ourselves, how do we see others, and how do we see the world? Do we assume negative intent of others and perpetuate the cynicism that seems to flood society, or do see a silver lining in every situation? This brought me back to a retreat I was fortunate enough to participate in a few months ago. The focus of the retreat was culture shaping–essentially learning how to create a culture of mutual respect, integrity, and positivity among highly motivated and diverse people.
Leaving the retreat I came away with a greater appreciation for the power of positivity. By assuming positive intent in our interactions with other people, listening to understand, putting our phones away and being present and living in the moment, we spread positivity and it radiates outward. Having my friend listen to what I was saying and challenge me to find solutions to life’s current problems, she acted as a positive influence. Instead of focusing on what I was doing wrong, she turned the conversation into what could be done to make room for improvement. This helped me separate my self-worth from the labels society tends to attach to us at times. In that moment, I realized that my capacity as an individual is not the result of categories and societal fragmentation, and that the impact of my life and activity are not determined by how I perform in the classroom. We are our own metric for success. If we think positively, if we believe in ourselves and our world, if we tell ourselves we are <em>capable</em> and that we are destined to achieve great things, our capacity for growth is limitless. If we tell ourselves we were made to create something brilliant, we will create something brilliant.
Grab coffee with a friend soon and tell them they are capable, that they are loved, that they were made to achieve greatness.