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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Anticipation

Anticipation is an unfortunate part of our daily lives. We anticipate practcially everything, from responses to questions to job offers to promotions to college acceptances, and the nervous feelings can really take their toll over time.

This past year has had its fair share of anticipation for me. As a result, I have developed a mindset to help cope with anticipation. It involves several steps, but it is fairly simple and has helped me tremendously lately.

The first step is to expect the worst. Now this sounds paradoxical, hypocritical, and probably some other words with -al endings. Of course, this isn't meant to be taken completely literally. It doesn't mean go out and build a bomb shelter stacked with decades worth of canned food in the event of a nuclear war. No. It means that you need to recognize what the worst possible outcomes are. For example, in regards to college, if you recognize the fact that you can in fact be rejected, it will not be as painful as it would be if you were gung-ho about getting in (This ties back to not living in a false reality and recognizing all possibilities - don't convince yourslef that you will get whatever you want). You should not, however, dwell on the worst. Of course it's best to be positive and hopeful, and that should be in your head 95% of the time. Every once in a while, however, you just need to remind yourself that the situation is not in your control and anything could happen. Look for the best, but know other things can happen. It lessons shock and pain.

The second step is to find distraction - a healthy distraction that is. Instead of sitting around thinking about what could happen, go out and be active. Physical activity is a great stress relief, but there are many outlets, whether they are athletic, artistic, or musical. If you focus on these activities, the anticipated "thing," whatever it may be, will not be so prominent. For the college example, focusing on other activities and not the letter in the mail will make the time go by faster and be more enjoyable.

Third, when the anticipated event does occur, you are allowed to be sad/frustrated/upset if things go wrong, but you also must recognize that everything has its purpose. You can be angry or sad for as long as it takes to heal, but if you keep having the negative thoughts stuck in your head they are affecting no one and hurting no one except for you. In a lighter example, say you asked a girl out. If she rejects, you have a right to be sad. Nevertheless, if you keep thinking negative thoughts about her, it has zero effect on her. She can't hear your rants in your head; only you can hear them. Focus on the positives, and recognize that negative thoughts only hurt you. Life goes on, and everything happens for a reason. In another example, if you are rejected from a college, simply say, "It wasn't meant to be," and move on.

Fourth and finally, you must learn from the experience. You must look back and ask, "What could I do differently next time?" if the outcome was unfavorable or "What brought about that success?" if things went well. You will be able to learn from the experience, regardless of the outcome. The next time you are confronted with the situation, or a similar one, you will be prepared, increasing your chances of success.

So, anticipation is almost unavoidable, but following these steps can makes experiences better and less stressful.

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