“The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us” – Voltaire
Although this quote is one of those that is heard time and time again in some shape or form, it’s meaning has only really resonated with me quite recently, after coming out of a time where I was overwhelmed with the amount of shortcomings and failures in my life and struggling to see the huge, huge number of things God has blessed me with.
In today’s society, through the use of various social media platforms, it is becoming easier and easier to notice gaps in our achievements, something that is particularly the case within a university environment and even more so at a top-achieving one. Studying at the University of Warwick has meant that I’ve been placed amongst what most of us here choose to call some sort of ‘elite’. Whilst this is somewhat true, as we are constantly reminded of the hard work we’ve put in to be in the positions we find ourselves in, what is also true is that all of us are self-motivating high achievers and constantly striving to maintain our title of being the best of the best.
When placed amongst such an ambitious group of people, it becomes so easy to compare yourself to those you see around you, and as a result, realise that you don’t have as many professional contacts as the guy whose parents are working in their chosen field, you don’t have as many friends as that one guy in the library or not as many internship opportunities as your friends studying finance subjects. Personally, I can really identify with the latter example as studying for a Sociology degree really doesn’t open up a set career path or channel like studying other, more traditional subjects does. Yet I found myself aspiring to be different things just because everyone else was. As a result, I found myself researching around and planning to apply to countless amounts of internships and work experience opportunities just because I felt like I’d be left behind once everyone else had secured their own.
Of course, my heart wasn’t in any of the applications I was sending off and most of the time I just watched the deadline for each application roll by without submitting anything. This obviously meant that the very few companies that I actually did apply to could see that I had no passion for working for them. On the other hand, everyone else was securing their summer internships or their contacts were getting them in with their own contacts in order to get their name out. This left me feeling like I had failed or that Warwick and maybe even further education wasn’t for me. When the time for exams and assessments came round at university, I couldn’t get motivated to put in as much effort as usual and I came to a point very close to giving up.
It was after a conversation with some really great friends of mine during a particularly low point, about focusing on the positives in life and the fact that everything happens for a reason, that I came across Voltaire’s quote for what must have been 50th time, except this time I read it completely differently and it really stuck with me.
With this quote in mind, I began to think again about a lot of the reasons why I wasn’t putting in any effort anymore and why I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. All of them began with things like “I don’t have enough …” or “I’m not … enough”, reasons that were focusing on the things I’m lacking or things that I unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to do. I decided that instead of dwelling on these shortcomings and bringing myself down, it would be much more productive to focus on what I do in fact have, and the many things that I’m fortunate enough to have been blessed with.
Earl Nightingale once said “Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us”, something I have recently seen first hand, since my decision to focus on what I have rather than what I’m lacking has brought on more opportunities and more scope for a successful future than before when I was putting myself down in comparison to everyone else. What’s important is remembering that your story isn’t determined by what has (or hasn’t) already happened but what is yet to come.
If you’re not setting yourself up for a future that you can enjoy, then why are you setting yourself up at all?