Just like it is usual to be excited at the beginning of a fellowship program like the Atlas Corps it is not unusual to get stressed out and lose motivation. It is interesting to note that it is not the difficulty of these factors that challenge us as much as it is our “attitude”. We tend to remain in our comfort zones and want an easy way out.
New fellows (or anyone pursuing something great in life) can face many barriers starting from new transportation systems to adapting into diversified learning styles to team building at work! In order to help you step out of your comfort zone I have thought of the following:
- Look back at the cause you care about: Think why you are doing what you are doing. For Atlas Corps fellows it can be the larger objective of your life (which you are very motivated about reaching after successful completion of the fellowship).
- Realize that this is a lesson: The current situation (which you may call ‘hardship’) is actually preparing you for bigger challenges in life, which can be academic, personal, professional, or even political. It is your task to relate your learning experiences with your contexts. For example, if you are struggling with fundraising for your host organization you may be able to utilize the learning outcomes later on with pitching or even communication skills; or say you are facing challenges regarding coping up with the culture here which can eventually lead you to be culturally more intelligent and cope up with multicultural target groups in the future. Largely, what I have found is that it is the Soft Skills or Interpersonal Skills (such as Stress Management, Communication Skills, Cultural Intelligence, etc.) which you can develop by facing barriers in life and thereby dealing with your own “attitude” to cope more!
- See Examples: Fellows from previous classes or the successful people you know about could have faced the same or even greater challenges and have successfully overcome them. When you meet them and have conversations do not hesitate to ask them for suggestions. Trust me, they are that good! Previously I have found my mentors helping me out with challenges and can now see the same among the fellows from previous classes!
- Set an Example: Imagine what it will be like to be an example for other fellows (now or of upcoming classes) who will be able to follow you as an example. You will feel satisfied that you have inspired others by showing them how you coped up and developed yourself. I know how my well-wishers and mentors feel seeing me getting inspired by their actions. Their expressions say it all!
- Maintain a Journal: Jot down your lessons, ideas and experiences in a journal on a daily basis so that you can refer back to it in the future during or after the fellowship to reflect on your learning curve. Life can be difficult at times and revisiting these real-life experiences can help you fight back frustration. It does not necessarily have to be a note-book; it can be a note-pad on your phone.
- Increase your Ways of Learning: While you might have been very efficient in learning in some particular ways, it is time that you focus on other methods as well. For example, if you have been exposed to learning from books it is time to learn from videos and webinars; or if you have enjoyed learning new things from other people then may be now is the best time to set aside some time for personal reflections and analysis! (The learning styles can be understood by the Theory of Multiple Intelligence developed by the psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner.)
- Exercise and Meditate: The common misconception that I find among people is that they ‘do not have the time’ to exercise or meditate. Okay! It may take about 20 to 40 minutes to jog or meditate this evening, but think how you will feel when you can make more efficient usage of your time tomorrow!