Life is constantly surprising us with obstacles – there’s not much we can do about that. What we can do, however, is optimize how we deal with those challenges when they do come along.
- Keep your energy positive. When things get tough, it’s important to stay as positive and good-humored as possible. Your emotions directly affect your thinking – freaking out will muddle your mind and make it more difficult to look for solutions. Think of it this way: a problem is here and you have to deal with it. Would you rather do it feeling good or stressed out? By staying positive, you can approach obstacles with a clear mind, curiosity, and lack of judgment. You’ll be able to find a solution more quickly and feel good in the process.
- Graciously ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask for help and more importantly, be gracious to everyone regardless of whether they are the cause or solution to your obstacle. Your difficult situation is probably not their fault – and even if it is, you don’t want anyone feeling resistant towards helping you solve it. You are as strong as your support system, so create an environment where people want to help you.
- Become ruthlessly solutions-oriented. Most problems have more than one solution, and the more we train ourselves to actively look for them, the quicker we become at finding them. If you train yourself to look for solutions, that is what you will find.
While you can’t avoid obstacles, you can transform them into opportunities to become more resilient, skilled, and resourceful.
The hero of her own journey, Madlyne Santiago demonstrates the determination and commitment ACE students have to their own success.
Madlyne first went to try college right after high school graduation and was accepted into the Harcum nursing program on main campus, but did not have transportation to get there. Second, she began with a local community college, but life at the time was just too chaotic to continue. Third, she unknowingly enrolled in a non-accredited school and discovered after a year of hard work and tuition payments that the credits would not transfer. The fourth time, with her supervisor’s words echoing in her mind,“if you want to get ahead in life, you’re going to need that piece of paper,” Madlyne enrolled in ACE. This time the program fit her work and life schedule as a single mother of a young daughter. “I couldn’t stop working, I couldn’t stop being a mother and needed to find a program that worked for me.”
Madlyne researched local colleges, found the partnership site program, and recognized that one site was in very familiar territory – down the street from her parents’ house! Eager to learn more and with her mind swirling with questions, Madlyne met with the site coordinator. At this introductory meeting alone, she found support, guidance and patience to answer all her questions from financial aid and projected student debt to an honest description of how her daily life and time needed to change to accommodate school. “She met me where I was, and provided the clarity and assurance I needed to take this step.”
Excited, nervous, and not knowing what to expect on the first day of class, Madlyne walked into the site and found a community of strong support that she credits with her degree completion. “That was why I didn’t give up this time. They made you feel so welcome and important and encouraged me the entire way.” Even when covid hit and classes went virtual, Madlyne found support among a community of peers in the Community Scholars Leadership Program. She recognized a beautiful fact of the ACE program, “As an adult, a parent, and employee, I knew that this was a part of my life that I’m not going to do by myself.”
Madlyne earned her associate degree in December 2020. Reflecting on the impact the associate degree program has had on her life, she says, “It not only prepared me academically for my bachelor’s degree, I feel accomplished and confident. It’s given me motivation to continue to go forward, I know that I can do it. It’s not just a piece of paper. The journey that’s attached to that piece of paper is where the real value stands.”
On the journey alongside Madlyne is her biggest supporter, her daughter, who had to adjust to having a lot less time together since Mom began college. “I’d thank her all the time. When I did receive the physical degree, I told my daughter, ‘I did it for us,’ and that she deserves to hold it too.”
Upon completion of the associate degree program, Madlyne gained a promotion at work and is just one year away from earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership.
It may sound silly at first, but there are insights to be gained from watching and playing football. It’s not just fun and games.
For example, in football, you win and lose as a team; no one person carries or defeats the team by himself. Football helps you understand that win or lose, you do it as a team. You don’t take all the credit when a group project succeeds, nor do you take all the blame if the project fails. You might have the best game you’ve ever played, but the team still loses. In life, you become part of many teams, from family units to groups of co-workers. These people rely on you, and you on them, to meet certain goals which requires collaboration. This team process entails building strong communication skills, so that plans, roles, and expectations are clear to all teammates (or co-workers).
Taking risks, such as a 75 yard pass attempt, can lead to failure, but can also end in an amazing victory. This is true in life as well. Learning to take risks means you open the door to new ideas and interesting ventures, even if they might fail. Taking risks that don’t work out helps you handle mistakes, learning from them and making changes to improve future decisions. This also means learning to deal with other people’s mistakes, whether that person is a referee who makes an incorrect call or a family member who exercised poor judgment.
Even the best football teams lose occasionally, which is an important lesson for life. A loss in football can energize the team, who then band together to improve skills through extra practices. The same is true in life, use the loss to help refocus your energies on how to win next time.
Football helps you build other valuable skills as well. It teaches the importance of attitude, how a good attitude can invigorate others as well as yourself. And that you can always be better, with practice and hard work. And whether you win or lose a game, do so with dignity and respect for the other teams’ players. Roles and teammates continually change, and you may find yourselves in the same huddle in the near future.