Friday, May 7, 2021

"Post-Traumatic Growth" and "The Rule of Thirds"

The phrase caught me eye; it's something I've never heard before.  To be frank, I'm not sure I believe in it or even know what it means.  But, according to writer Elizabeth Bernstein, research suggests that "[p]eople who endure adversity or trauma - such as an illness or accident, a death of a loved one or a natural disaster - often feel more confident, resilient and brave afterward. Psychologists call this 'post traumatic growth.'"  Bernstein, E., "Hard-Earned Lessons in Endurance," Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2021, A11.

In the article, Bernstein shares lessons learned by endurance athletes as to how they overcome adversity in their punishing training regiments to achieve great successes.  Id. One story features open-water swimmer Naji Ali, who trains alone in the frigid waters of the Bay Area.  Id. During a storm, unable to breathe and concerned about being washed out to sea, Ali shares that "he stopped to tread water and get his bearings.  Then he made a plan.  He mapped a way back to land, telling himself to swim boat to boat anchored in the cover.  He focused on taking just one stroke at a time." Id.

One stroke at a time.  That seems like good advice to me.  Whether taking a final exam, or preparing for an interview, or trying to make sense as academic support professionals about why some people pass their bar exams and others don't, take one step at a time.  But, prior to that, as Ali states, stop, tread, get our bearings, and make a plan.  Then initiate that plan, one moment at a time.  

For us in the world of academic support, it's easy to be overcome by the many challenges and the waves and currents that seem to so often to be pushing us out to sea, so to speak.  But, we don't have to go it alone.  Like Ali, who mapped a way back, swimming from boat to boat, we can learn from each other, we can swim with each other, we can even tread with each other.  You see, even for Ali, he wasn't quite alone.  Did you catch it?  There were boats in the harbor.  

The lesson that I learn is that I try, so often, to be strong in myself.  But strength is not my strong suit.  And that's okay.  Rather than swimming alone, we can swim together.  

That's one of the things that I so appreciate about our profession as academic support educators.  We learn and share and swim together.  So, as I end this little post, I wanted to say a big thank you to each of you, for your encouragement, inspiration, your lessons that you've freely shared, and your compassion and kindness.  For our strength, I think, lies not in overcoming the storms of life alone but in our community swimming together, one stroke at a time, in movement together.  (Scott Johns). 

P.S. In the same Bernstein article, we also learn from endurance athlete Alexi Pappas about the "Rule of Thirds."  I had never heard of that term either.  

But, as Pappas relates in learning from one of her Olympic coaches, "When you are chasing a big goal,'re supposed to feel good about a third of the time, OK a third of the time and crummy a third of a time.  If you are feeling bad all the time you're fatiguing....If you are feeling good all the time, you're not working hard enough." Id.  Pappas relates that this advice made a world of difference in her training because it changed her perspective about how to train.  Id.  

I'm not yet sure how to weave the "Rule of Thirds" into my work as an academic support professional but perhaps it might just encourage our students to find the right balance as they struggle in their learning to be learners.  And maybe the right balance for us too.

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