Interesting fact: there’s a cut directly in the middle of my forehead. When I was much younger, I was playing a game of hide-n-seek with my cousins and crashed my head onto a doorknob… Well, that’s the story I’d tell most people.
The true story? I tried to fly. Guys, I kid you not. I went on some steps that were really high up and jumped. By the time I realized gravity was really real, no amount of arm-flapping I did could’ve stopped my descent to certain embarrassment, a really bad concussion and a narrow escape from a few broken limbs. Never again will I attempt something like that… without wearing a cape.
I honestly felt at that moment that I could defy gravity and that I would have a good shot at succeeding at it. You may call it being stupid, but then 14-year-old me (Yes, I was 14. Don’t judge me), got his first taste of what Jane McGonial refers to as Urgent Optimism. McGonial spared me the trouble of putting that whole concept into words, when she aptly described it as: “… the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.” And dammit, I was ever the optimist, and now, I’m even more so. Sure, I’ve made this about me so far, but if you look closely, you’d realize that I’m actually talking about us. Yes, you sitting there rolling your eyes. And yes you, sitting there wondering why I don’t just say what I have to already. Yes, this is for all of us. For all of you.
MILLENNIALS ARE STRESSED
Did you know that for the last four years, the American Psychological Association’s research on stress has found that millennials, followed by Generation X, are the most stressed in the world? The research indicated that millennials reported nearly twice the level of stress that’s considered safe from serious health risk. What this means is that almost daily, we suffer from anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression. Of course, that’s no surprise to any of us reading this. Millennials have long been held, perhaps unofficially, as the poster children for depression and all its many variants.
We’ve been made to work more hours, for less; we were brought up on the ideals that consistent hard work guarantees success, yet we live in a reality that seems fundamentally opposed to those concepts. It’s all a mess really. But, at the end of the day, amidst being written off crybabies for the most part, we have had to make do with the hand we’ve been dealt. Now, remember when I told you I jumped and tried to fly and ended up busting my head (by the way, I was unconscious for a couple of minutes)? Yeah, that was not because I didn’t know better. I was always told: “Mikey, flying for humans is impossible”, “Mikey, Power Rangers aren’t real”, and “Mikey, don’t be stupid. Use your head.” I took only one of those wise teachings to heart – I used my head. Now, separate and apart from the fact that I almost damaged it, I actually used it.
At the time, I reasoned that perhaps, maybe if I dared the impossible, maybe if I generated an almost ridiculous sense of optimism, the universe – God, would reward my willingness to break free from my ‘groundedness’. Yes, I was clearly wrong. But after I woke up from that brief period of dizziness, I laughed for a bit. Though people around me were running with me and panicking, I remember thinking to myself, had the ground not been there, I would have flown!
Bear with me for a bit. Yes, that was OBVIOUSLY crazy talk. And kids, DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME… or anywhere else, but I think I learnt so much from that experience. So much that I’ve now put into practice in my day to day operations. And so much that perhaps my fellow depressed and anxiety-ridden millennials could perhaps adopt too.
From that experience, here’s how I built up to doing it, even while I was very much aware of the consequences if I had failed. I eliminated the negative, restrictive thinking. In essence, for a brief moment, I became aware of other possibilities outside of the ones my failure reinforced. I shifted my thoughts from fear to peace with the outcomes, and in my fearlessness, I became free to explore new terrain. So I jumped.
The next moment happened: I was airborne. This happened quickly, but in my descent, I accentuated the positives I could derive from the experience. This is all urgent optimism. I thought of how it felt for a brief moment to be floating, despite such being downwards. (Yeah, laugh it all up).
I later learnt that my decision in that moment to defy the laws of physics came from what is referred to as Positive Neuroplasticity. “Positive neuroplasticity is the shift in mindset that rewires the brain to change the stress-provoking auto pilot that is the brain working against you to an auto pilot that enables the brain to work for you, accessing the IQ, creativity, calm, and optimism that solve problems and achieve goals. It’s a higher state of mind stimulating the higher order brain function that generates a higher quality of life.”
Now, isn’t that something? In my moment of clear stupidity, I was actually thinking in a heightened state… at least that’s what I’d like to believe. The point is, we are all capable of doing it. As millennials, being that we are characterized as a depressed generation with almost all of the evidence pointing to this, we certainly need to learn this skill.
Our depression, failures, and anxieties do not and cannot define us. It’s hard, but we can decide to try something completely out of the box with the hand that we’re dealt. If something doesn’t work, the next thing will, and if that doesn’t work, the next thing will, and so on and so forth.
I learned to fly… technically. So can you.