Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Romans 12:2 (NIV)
It’s a new year, and the first week of the year is already gone. We have made new year resolutions and crafted goals. However, sadly a lot of us tend to give up at the very beginning of the journey toward our goals. Why is this so? Why do we give up so easily? Our mindset plays a huge role in this debacle.
Stuck In Time
Many of us dive into our new plans and goals, with good intentions. Yet we carry around with us like a heavy load, the same old attitude and behavior that we have held onto for years. Failing to realize that there needs to be a shift mentally and emotionally to be able to focus our energies in the new direction we are taking.
In fact, some of us behave like Lot’s wife, our legs are taking us forward, but our faces are turned back to what we have just left behind. It is no wonder then that we fail to move forward and that find ourself stuck. Being stuck or stranded is not a fun position to be in as an individual, a family or a community. It is a symptom of deeper issues and is one of the first signs of stagnation.
For a long time, I was in such a state. I wanted to achieve the goal of graduating from grad school in Nairobi. But over the years, negative thoughts had festered. Now they were fully matured and invading every area of my life. I would take one step forward and five steps backwards. Getting a master’s degree in communication wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. I had spent so many years of my life on this journey, and I was beginning to think that maybe I wasn’t smart or intelligent enough.
Soon I stopped caring, what was the use of caring anyway when I would submit my work, and it would get returned back with still more corrections. Or I would get my hopes up that I would get a defence date, only to be disappointed time and time again.
I walked around, with a sullen face and a sad disposition. I began to think that all my dreams in life would come to nothing. In a nutshell, I was stuck and did not know how to move forward.
There will always be detours ahead on the road to success. Having the right mindset will help you navigate. Often times, we are ill-prepared for the detours we encounter. Sometimes we act so confidently that we brashly walk where we are to tread carefully. Looking back now, I can see where I went wrong in my journey in Nairobi. I was young and overconfident when I began grad school. I thought it would be a walk in the park.
Life taught me a few lessons. The first lesson, don’t get too confident, you have no idea what is around the corner. The second lesson, perseverance, sometimes things don’t occur at the first try, you have to keep trying till you get the result you are looking for.
Often people want to skip over the detours, so they find shortcuts. While that may work in the interim, you just might be missing out on the hidden gems that can only be found on the detours. However, having the right attitude is what makes a difference as you go through the detours on your path. Are you going to be negative and grumble throughout the experience? Or are you going to be positive and lookout for opportunities to grow and learn even in those tough situations?
Many of us make the mistake of seeing only the negative when we pass through the detours. I sure did, I grumbled and complained about life being unfair and how life was passing me by. I failed to see the opportunities I had in the fellowship of friends, to learn new skills and languages. Looking back now, I can see the blessings, but back then all I could see was my failure to complete my goals on time.
So how then can we develop a new mindset or renew our minds?
Renewing Of The Minds
I had to get to the bottom before I could finally accept the truth, that the way I was living my life was not working. I needed help and fast. It was July 2016, I had just turned 33, and I had been denied a US Visa, three days to my birthday.
I had begun 2016 with 2 goals on my mind. The first was to finally defend my thesis, the second was to travel to the United States and go back to school. I know it sounds crazy, here I was trying to finish my studies in Nairobi, studies that had taken longer than expected. Yet here was I trying to get back into school.
The truth was that I wanted a change. I was tired of living in Nigeria, I had returned home in 2013 to participate in the National Youth Service Scheme. Since then, I had been looking for a job and was working parttime as a freelance writer. But I wanted so much more for my life, and I knew that I needed to get new skills to be able to achieve my dreams.
However, by July 2016, Although I had gotten admission to a school in Arizona. I was denied a visa and my plans to defend my thesis in Nairobi seemed to hit a dead end. I had reached my breaking point. I had reached rock-bottom finally.
Then something happened, my mindset shifted, and my mind was renewed. It was August 2016, and I was still wallowing in self-pity. I had gone to visit a family friend, as I needed a change of environment. Alaba International Market was not the place to regain my sanity. It was this lady that would end up setting me straight. She was forthright in her assessment of my situation, and she got me to see my role in my case.
“Bethany, you have to go back to the drawing board.” What is stopping you from finishing in Nairobi?”I went on mumbling on and on, and then she stopped me. “Bethany you need to own where you are at fault, you allowed things to get to you.”
By the beginning of September, I was on my way back to Nairobi. A few weeks later, I finally got to stand up before the panel and defend the work I had spent so many years researching. What had changed in the space of one month? My mindset had begun to change, I was spurred and suddenly motivated by someone who believed in me, and could boldly tell me the truth.
Changing your mindset is not an easy task, especially when you have held on to certain beliefs for so long. Now I see why the Apostle Paul tells the Romans to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Without the renewing of your thoughts, it’s easy to stay stuck and not move forward. This is especially so when you go through adverse events, right after the other. It is so easy to think that things will always be this way, so why should I put any effort.
Never Give Up
The truth is that life has phases, but having a great disposition and a positive mindset will help you to stay the course. You will find that when you get to your destination, you will be wiser and more fruitful for the experience you lived than when you first began.
When I look back now, yes, I still see the pain, but I also see the fruit that was borne from the long journey that was my thesis escapades. My pain prepared me for the success that came after in Arizona. Yes, I finally made it to Arizona in December 2016. I was given the visa after I applied the second time.
Reflecting back now, I am glad I was denied the visa the first time. Because if I had gotten it, I probably would have carried with me the negative attitude that had slowly become part of my life. And I would not have been able to enjoy and seize the opportunities that have since come my way.
2017 turned out to be a year of extreme growth for me and having the right mindset was what enabled me to thrive in the sometimes harsh environment that is Business school. I had to let go of the past success and failures and believe that I could succeed. Yes, there were days, I felt like I was in the wrong place and then I would look around me and see how blessed I was and that only motivated me to do better and be better. I graduated in December 2017, 11 months after I started school. Shattering that negative belief that I had held for so long that I was too stupid to graduate.
Part of developing your mindset requires that you admit where you have gone wrong; it requires humility, and the willingness to ask for help. So before you give up on your goals, it may be an excellent idea to look inwards, you may be the one who needs to change your mindset and perspective. Remember this is a new year, new things to achieve, so let go of past success and failures and develop a mindset that will allow you to flourish in this new dispensation no matter what detours life throws across your path.
Wishing you a fulfilling week.