The Fit Student – Tools to Tough it Out

Tough out your dreams. Gail Wagnild, author of True Resilience, says, “Even if the road to your dreams is difficult, keep going because it will get easier and the knowledge that you can do it will grow” (p. 62).

Some people get knocked down, spat upon, and kicked around, yet keep busting their hump. How do they tough it out? Well, two things help: a sense of purpose and a sense of perseverance. Lacking perseverance, some people come across brilliant discoveries, but get beaten down by society and may even end their lives through suicide. They lack the perseverance to pull through harsh times. Others, like the Wright Brothers, become laughing stocks but their passions drive them toward breakthroughs. These people thrive on purpose. Which person describes you? Whether you have perseverance or not, Gail Wagnild can help you build true resilience.

A Sense of Purpose Toughens You
A sense of purpose not only toughens you, but also buffers you against stress.

Your childhood dreams give you insight into your life’s purpose, according to Wagnild. As a child, I loved playing the role of teacher, often lining up my teddy bears and giving them math lectures, scolding them for poor performance. I also cherished playing the role of student, fondly recalling the time I stared at blood cells through a microscope in one of my older brother’s home lectures.

Needless to say, my dream today involves getting a PhD: teaching, reading, writing, and researching?my childhood passions. So, look to your childhood playtime to discover your true callings. According to Wagnild, your talents and abilities, those things you feel passionate about, were hardwired into you before your first breath.

You could do as Wagnild suggests and craft a statement of your life’s purpose. I long to be a beloved partner, a media personality, an academic, an athlete, a spiritualist, a knowledge-seeker, and a professor. This statement covers my biggest hopes and dreams, and guides me on my life’s journey. Would I enter a cycling marathon? Possibly. Would I become a nun? I’ve considered it. Would I write for the media? Yes. Would I dye my hair blue? Well, I’d pass on that one: a beauty pageant contestant for cartoons came just short of making the list. But, I love blue hair.

Also bear in mind that the little things we do can lead to big opportunities. Deflated and jobless after a work contract ended, I started writing Amazon book reviews. These reviews gave me the courage to write for The Voice, which gave me the courage to write for print publications, which gave me the courage to start learning photojournalism, which gave me the courage to pull out my dusty documentary film camera, which, I hope, will eventually give me the courage to make a documentary film. The more you do those little things that please you, the more you open doors for your dreams. Building dreams is kind of like making glass out of molten sand: each grain matters.

Kicked When You are Down? Persevere.
If you want to achieve your dreams, you need to keep learning, growing, and improving. Previously, I tried to gain a Ph. D, but fell short at the master’s level. My writing needed work. So, now I write frequently and read dictionaries, grammar books, writing how-to books, and journalistic writing books. I also read books on methodologies, theories, and academic writing. I’ll get that Ph. D one day. Grrr!

Persevering with your goals takes daily effort. Although “no pain, no gain” doesn’t always hold true, if you choose a goal you feel passionate about, not even a prison sentence or a public stoning will stop you.

Also, don’t blame others when things don’t work out. When I came short of getting the GPA needed to get into the Ph. D program, I blamed my first supervisor. I would toss and turn at night, fretting about the hardships she caused me. I spent so much energy reliving all the hurtful things she said that I failed to realize my own shortcomings. My writing needed work. I needed better reading habits. Now, every time I begin blaming, I stop myself short. Instead of fretting and complaining, I chip away at building my dreams?one Michelangelo at a time.

So, find your big dreams and chase them relentlessly. Don’t be the ostracized academic who commits suicide for a brilliant idea that gets celebrated fifty years after his passing. Instead, be the suitor who never gives up on her fanciful first love. Be purposeful. Be resilient.