Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a student at Pratt Institute, my alma mater. She was "shadowing" me for the day. I recounted that I used to work at a law firm and made the switch to a public library. I told her that I came here because when I worked at the firm, the online searcher left to return to San Diego, where she was from. I asked my supervisor to promote me, and Lotta hired someone else. The young library science student wondered: "You stayed in the field after that? Some people would've quit."
The classic expression is: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." What makes some people continue in the face of failure, rejection, insurmountable odds? The alternative is no option. I healed through education; going back to school enabled me to recover, and the idea that I wouldn't succeed wasn't something I entertained. Miraculously, I didn't have a back-up plan. Not being able to fall back on something else motivated me to make my new career work.
Always, I've maintained that it's not the enormity or severity of an obstacle that determines our fate, but how we respond to it. The greater the challenge, the harder I work to overcome it. If everything (or even most things) came easy to me, I'd take no pride in having achieved something, because it would've involved no effort, only luck. Recovery involves making hard choices instead of opting for the easy way out.
Here now I want to give some suggestions about how to play the cards you're dealt and win at the game of life:
1. Tell yourself you have what it takes to succeed, even if you don't believe this. It can be as simple as saying out loud "I can do this" three times before you walk out the door in the morning. Repeat this mantra throughout the day.
2. Network with successful people. Wherever you go, you're bound to find someone - at church, work, a clubhouse, wherever - who you admire and want to get to know. Volunteer for a committee that person is on, offer to buy him coffee, feel out whether he'd be receptive to mentoring you. If you share a genuine enthusiasm for a mutual interest, that person will respond favorably.
3. Shy about picking someone else's brain? Read biographies and memoirs of famous people to see how they got to where they are now. A good schizophrenia book is Elyn Saks' The Center Cannot Hold. A classic is Lori Schiller's The Quiet Room, which was originally published in 1993.
4. "Try every key on the chain until you find the one that unlocks the door," as the expression goes. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is futile. If a road you traveled down numerous times always leads to a dead-end, back up and brainstorm non-traditional opportunities to achieve what you set out to.
5. Nourish these qualities in yourself: patience, resourcefulness and an open mind. I'm convinced there's a job, lover or friend out there for us, or whatever we desire, if we approach the search with these talents.
6. Face the emotional pain head-on. Be honest with yourself about what's going on. The hardship is here to teach you something. Trust what your gut's telling you about what you need to do. Use your pain to make things better for yourself and others.
7. Remember the Martin Luther King quote: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." Find inspiring quotes in magazines or quotable quote magnets and stick them on your refrigerator to create an inspiration gallery. Every time you open the door, you'll read something that motivates you to take action towards a goal.
That's my seven-point plan for conquering any internal roadblock, the kind that often besets people with mental illnesses and is more disabling than any external hurdle we have to clear. True champions strive to do a little better each day than the day before. They keep their eye on the prize: recovery. They have a self-preservation ethic. When the going gets tough, times of turmoil bring out their best.
In my humble opinion, winners never quit and everyone who's in the game is a winner.
Published On: July 31, 2008