Hey! My name is Abhi, and I’m a fairly new associate consultant at the Graphite Group. I pride myself on my focus and ability to handle data and think quantitatively. As you’ll see, I also love using maxims to express my points. But moving on to the topic of the post…
We’ve all been there. The point where you feel as though if you blink for too long you’ll fall behind. The feeling of being overwhelmed, unable to handle many of your responsibilities. The feeling of the world closing in on you, and the unforgiving pressure to work tirelessly at any given moment. Between classes, extracurriculars, jobs, social life, and everything in between, it can be isolating and scary.
It’s easy to get engrossed in the moment and think of all the bad things that could happen. It’s easy to talk down on yourself and think you’re not doing enough. It’s easy to give up when things get rough because you don’t believe you can handle everything going on.
But I’m not writing this to convince you to do what’s easy. The point I want to make is that attitude influences productivity more than anything else. If you want the best results, the first thing you need to adjust is your attitude. For the econ-heads reading this, think of everything you accomplish in a day as a production function, where attitude is the primary parameter in determining how much you get out of your day.
Think of the saying: “You reap what you sow.” If you wanted to grow apples, you would cultivate apple seeds; if you wanted to grow oranges, you would cultivate orange seeds. If you were to plant apple seeds and expect to grow oranges, you almost certainly wouldn’t achieve your expectations. Likewise, if you want to be productive and successful, planting seeds of negativity won’t get you there! You can’t expect to live a positive life with positive results while simultaneously feeding yourself negative content.
I speak as someone who used to heavily struggle with maintaining a positive attitude; for a good majority of my life, I tended towards self-destructive habits and fostered an atmosphere of negativity. Within the last few years, however, I began to change that, and things have only gone up since. Though this isn’t a foolproof formula, and there are many caveats that this doesn’t fully apply to, I’d like to give you all some advice on things that helped me improve my attitude and become an overall more productive and happy person.
1. Cut out the sad music
If you love music as much as I do, there’s a good chance that you listen to what reflects your mood. When you are motivated for an assignment, workout, etc, we tend to listen to upbeat music that keeps us going. When things don’t go right, we tend to listen to music that perpetuates feelings of disappointment, heartbreak, hopelessness, etc. (I’m looking at you, Marvin’s Room).
Music has an immense effect on the way we feel. Just as it can perpetuate our attitudes further in the direction of positivity and negativity, it can also switch it. The next time things don’t go right, or you don’t feel like getting out of bed, or something else is holding you back, try listening to some upbeat, happy music! You would be amazed at the wonders it can do for you.
2. If you win the first hour of the day, you win the whole day.
As crazy as it sounds, this is very true. Starting your day off right creates a momentum that carries you through it. Similarly, starting your day off on the wrong foot puts you off for the entire day.
In a similar fashion to “you reap what you sow,” you want to make sure that you start your day off on the right foot, so you can keep the momentum going. If you’re a morning person, try to do something you love for a little bit at the start of your day. Go work out, read some interesting articles, make some art, watch a funny video: no matter what you do, it is almost always better than the marginal amount of sleep you missed out on, so long as you’re doing something you love!
If you don’t want to give up a chunk of your day in the morning (maybe you had a late night or just have a lot of trouble getting out of bed), then try this out: when your alarm rings, snooze it, but don’t go back to sleep. Play some music that gets you going, and listen to it for the duration of the snooze. By the time your alarm rings again, there’s a good chance that you’ll be fully awake and ready to tackle the day, no matter how little you slept. The extra energy, motivation, and momentum you gain from these 9 minutes of feeding positive content to your mind will go a lot further than the 9 minutes of sleep you missed out on!
3. Speak it into existence
We all have values that we hold dear to ourselves. A lot of us go to school because we hope to be successful and give back to our families, communities, etc. Or maybe we want to change the world. Regardless, we all continue to learn, work, and do what we do for a reason.
When things get rough, we can lose sight of these motivations and values very easily. That’s why it’s important to make it a point for you to remind yourself what you’re working towards. The best advice I can give is to add a short bit to your morning routine: write down your values, some quotes that resonate with you (I love pulling these from motivational speakers on Youtube), and remind you of your short and long-term goals.
Here’s the important part: every morning, read this aloud, and say it with confidence as if you already have it, no matter how ludicrous it sounds. For example, if my personal goals were to get fit, eat healthily, become a better person than I was the day before, give back to my community, and solve climate change (took a drastic step there, I know), I would read aloud every morning:
“I will be fit.
I will eat healthily.
I will be a better person than I was yesterday.
I will give back to my community.
I will do what it takes to solve the climate crisis.”
Notice how much more powerful it is when you both say it as if you mean it (don’t say you want something, say you will achieve it) and when you read it out loud.
4. Don’t be conservative with your goals
Even if your goal sounds completely unrealistic, you shouldn’t refrain from saying it in your morning routine! I included the bit about solving climate change to drive this point: it’s obvious that I, as a single individual, cannot solve a worldwide issue that has constraints of politics, economics, and many other limiting factors. However, that shouldn’t stop me from aiming towards it! A dream doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic. One of my favorite quotations of all time comes from Nipsey Hussle, who said:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.”
We all want to change the world someday, yet we let our boundaries of rationality constrain us in the goals that we set for ourselves. Your dreams should be as extreme as you want them to be; it’s only when actually implementing/achieving them that you might need to step down a little bit. Until then, keep shooting as high as you can.
5. Maintain a Growth Mindset
Life is a learning process. Every day we learn new things and new lessons. No great person ever did what they did overnight. None of your professors, parents, counselors, or mentors learned what they know without taking time. If you aren’t where you want to be yet, it’s best to not compare yourself to others. Doing this can easily lead to feelings of incapability and inferiority.
Understand that the world will move on regardless of what you choose to do. The only thing you can do is try to be the best version of yourself and focus on improving one step at a time. My favorite thing to tell myself is to do my best to be a better person than I was the day before (I have this posted on my desktop, and I encourage you to do something similar).
6. The hardest part is getting started
Whether it’s a workout, a paper, a project, or even getting out of bed: the first step is always the hardest. Remind yourself of this any time you’re feeling unmotivated. Once you get started, the process carries itself out.
7. Understand that not every day will be a good one
Even if you do everything right, there’s a good chance that life will still somehow get the better of you. Curveballs happen all the time: you get a pop quiz, you find out your deadlines\are earlier than you thought, your PERM for a class gets rejected...
As comedic as it sounds, I love the saying “it really be like that sometimes.” Although it’s usually used as a cop-out or a way to deflect a conversation when someone has nothing to say, it really speaks hard truth!
Life will get you down some days, there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes you’ll feel stuck, trapped, incapable, among many other things. Even if you follow every little thing to try and live a more positive lifestyle, some negativity can slip in. This can be discouraging, especially when you feel like you’ve been doing things right. You could be doing everything in your power to live the most productive, happy life possible and you could still have the worst day of your life.
It’s important to realize that bad things happen! Instead of asking the question “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?”, think instead “how can I recover from this?” When life gets you down, you need to remind yourself that the only way is forward. Beyond learning lessons from your past experiences, looking back usually doesn’t do much for you. Keep this in mind, and remind yourself of it. Understanding this is essential to a growth mindset.
I titled this post “Maintaining a Garden Amidst a Fire” because I wanted to highlight the wonders a positive attitude can do for you. When you maintain a growth mindset, remind yourself constantly of your raw, unconstrained dreams, feed yourself positivity, and consciously try to win your day from the very start, miraculous things can happen. Within a matter of minutes, you can shift hopeless feelings of the world being against you to feelings of confidence that give you the strength to go above and beyond.
There are many more habits you can get into to help improve your attitude in general, but for the purpose of brevity, I’ll cut it here. Take in this information and really try to understand it. Simply knowing what it takes to live a positive life isn’t enough, you need to speak it, and act it, into existence.
I hope this helps.