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Monday, April 9, 2012

Health Awareness Challenge Day 9: Keep Calm and Carry On

That's a tall order: keep calm and carry on. Yet it is what most of us do instinctively. One foot in front of the other, head down to watch where the steps may lead, don't try to walk and chew gum at the same time ...

It also helps to look back and see what you have already been through; you have probably faced many, varied challenges in life, and each time it may have seemed impossibly complex and dangerously strong, yet you are here today. You made it through that very dark time, over those incredible hurdles, in the face of such powerful self-doubt.

It does also help to look ahead now and then, to ascertain that you are indeed on a path that will lead to something. Setting goals gets a lot of talk-time in schools, and aiming high (even higher than may be conceivable) is encouraged. Applying to ten or twelve colleges seems excessive in some high schools and barely adequate in others, and waiting for the responses can seem excruciatingly silent for a period of weeks or months, but most students do survive the passage from high school on to further academia or technical training.

My take on all of that is to stay focused on where you are right now, and make it the best that it can be. While you are looking back at dark times overcome, and while you are looking ahead to scope out the future passage, don't miss the view of now. Take it all in. What is working for you, or against you, right now? What can realistically be done to alter it, better it, or banish it? How can you move forward? Is forward the right direction? Is up always better? Trains circle and loop to gain altitude on a mountain; others tunnel right through the depths. Can an obstacle in your path be circumvented rather than overcome? Is right always best?

And when does pace come into the equation? Must you go to college right away? Would a year or two of employment enhance your understanding of what your goals may be? Would it add to or deplete savings you set aside for education. Is what you could be doing right now as valuable as education?

My dad told me once, as I was fretting over a conflict in goals between myself and the new administrator appointed above my position who had totally different goals and experiences, that if I am facing a stone wall, impenetrable, and too steep to climb despite my best efforts, I perhaps would do better by turning away from the wall, and moving in a different direction, one which might lead me to some place where my energy would be well spent , where I could do good, and succeed, and help others to succeed. It's good to have a Plan B in your pocket. It's good to notice what else you might be good at, what else the 'now' has been preparing you for, in case your path leads to a goal erased.

Einstein, Edison, and correspondent Peter Jennings reached success and notoriety by taking alternate paths: Einstein was not your standardized student; Edison learned by making mistake after mistake, and Jennings skipped academia for work experience. Surely their paths had challenges, and were frowned upon by the establishment. But they found their path to success. They followed it where it took them, and I believed they paid attention to the now around them, always, while getting from past to future.

Keeping calm is easier if you believe that you are heading in the right direction, acquiring the right skills, finding the right supports and mentors, and an adequate amount of time to practice and observe results before moving on. People need to remember the old Apple IIe computer: while uploading a quantity of graphic data, there was a pause before downloading it to the printer. Apple's screen would flash the words "Thinking, thinking, thinking"... before then flashing "Printing, printing, printing" and then returning to repeat the cycle in order to carry on with the rest of the data. Such a valuable lesson. Such a calm, confident example.
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