10 April 2014

My Competitive Strategies

Strength. What is strength? What does it mean? To me being strong is not hiding your weaknesses, or ignoring them. Rather it is acknowledging that those things are there, accepting and embracing them as part of what makes you who you are and then overcoming that to become all you want to be. To quote Nelson Mandela "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear". To be afraid but to do it anyway, to succeed anyway, that is strength. 

We all have these situations where we fear something, we fear being different, fear failure, fear being great - there is always something. I fear not reaching my potential, wasting my life and time, not being understood. In fact I also fear the things I do most of the day, feeling anxiety that does not match the importance of the situation. I live in a constant state of fear and anxiety because I feel inadequate when I have to ask why or what you mean. I fear getting it wrong because this has happened so much to me and no matter how much it doesn't get any easier to deal with.

But I am alive. I am here alongside you, living a life, my life. It is probably not like your life, but who has the exact same life anyway? I am guilty of forgetting that being alive is a wonderful thing no matter how anxious you are, how much you fear or how difficult things seem to be - living is good. I have succeeded at something just because I am here.

I can only live my life in the way that makes sense to me. And through that I am free and it is ok. Things are going to be tough, problems will surface and obstacles will be there but I will find a way to stay free, to achieve my goals and be all that I was meant to be. All my life without realising it I have been creating and adapting strategies in order to cope and get the most out of my time here.

A lot of my blog posts recently have talked about how I have been struggling with my concentration on simple day to day things and in how I have struggled to cope with the feelings this brought on in me. But this struggle has always been the same albeit sometimes to less of an extreme. I think a lot, some might say obsessively, I prefer intensely and I have been racking my brain about what I was like years ago, did I have these challenges and how did I cope? And the answers are interesting, or at least they were to me. 

I am exceptionally good at repetitive tasks but they bore me, I need to approach them in a certain way to be able to do them. In my second job I was working on a project and did the same work all day long, everyday. I struggled greatly with this, my mind would wander and I'd daydream about fighting and all kinds of things. I could put together a work process in no time at all but I couldn't sit and read the 10 page guidance notes and updates and meeting minutes that were provided about what the work was for and how it should be conducted. It got to the stage where my manager would just highlight the things I needed to consider that might not be obvious to me. I could just 
see the logical processes and how it needed to work so to me reading all this repetitive documentation was pointless. 

But the data work I had to do was so monotonous - it amounted to a lot of proof reading, data checking and cleansing. As it was I couldn't approach this at all, I tried to do the work but would drift off staring into space. This was pre-diagnosis and I had nobody really giving me any strategies to cope or any understanding of why I couldn't maintain my attention on my work. I realised I was struggling to start and I was losing track of what I had done because there was no order or structure to the work. So I made a few rules and a logical approach to follow and I set about doing the task like this which worked great for a while until the novelty of following the new process wore off and I was stuck again. 

Now I am a fighter, I am very competitive and I was very aware of my drive to win and succeed, kickboxing seemed to be the only thing I could really do long term with any success. It seems like I work at my best with a little pressure and competition. So I thought why not see if I can apply how I am in kickboxing to other areas and made it a competition. Every hour I was determined to improve my record of how many data records I had successfully got through. In the second hour the improvement was slight but after this it would be 50 records more and more and more as I got used to the process and the work just became automatic. I became so in tune with what I needed to look for, correct and match that my brain only saw what it needed to and cut the rest out. I reached phenomenal work rates in the amount I was getting through each time beating the previous hour and throughout this time you couldn't reach me, I was so focused on my activity, on my competition. 

And thinking back further everything has always been a competition. Working in a warehouse I'd "compete" against all the other workers, wanting to pick more items than anyone else, I'd get so frustrated when I couldn't find an item because it slowed me down... In my first job every piece of work given to me I had to do as quickly as I could to surprise whoever gave me the work and similar to my second job, when entering orders I conditioned myself to see only the necessary fields. There was competition with myself in that I was always striving to add more tasks, more responsibilities to my workload, to handle more and more.

All this competition produced great work but I could not give myself time out, I had to maintain that level of activity all day everyday and naturally this just wasn't possible. I'd get burnout and again be unable to concentrate but overall it all balanced itself out as when I was so focused on my work I was doing vast amounts in such a short space of time.

My mind has to be occupied with something constantly or I just drift off. So now the challenge is how can I keep it occupied, how can I create that sense of competition again in my daily activities and how do I start? I know that I will find a way to do this because the alternative is to do nothing and I can't do that. And right now this is tough, it is frustrating and I get really angry with myself. I am even more anxious because I feel I am getting nowhere but I have encountered this before and I dealt with then just like I will now. My history tells me that although I have those fears, those obstacles I am strong enough and driven enough to overcome them to succeed. And the difference now is that I know. I know what I am dealing with and that has to give me an advantage in producing a new strategy that will enable me to get the most out of my life.

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