Think of one of the first times you found yourself in hot water as a kid. If you are like most kids, you probably found yourself feeling embarrassed and panicked. Regardless of the offense, young children are prone to freeze up when they find themselves in such situations.
In all likelihood, the offense was related to some lost hall pass or neglect for raising your hand, but that doesn’t stop children from feeling like bona fide criminals facing hard time.
But as you might also know, age doesn’t necessarily make these feelings go away. The concerns and worries will change shape, but they don’t disappear. In the place of playground problems, you find yourself facing new challenges. Whether these challenges are tests, homework, or new jobs, feeling overwhelmed or panicked is an equal-opportunity disabler.
As children, facing adversity or coping with some fresh embarrassment is a skill to be learned and later perfected. But at 22, I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have missed the boat on perfecting this practice.
But I also see similar failures to adjust or overcome all around me. Where situations call for resilience, people substitute apathy. Where courage might remedy an issue, cowardice stands in.
So what gives? Usually, the skills we intend to learn while we’re young are the simplest and easiest to pick up. What makes accountability and earnest effort so difficult?
When I was in grade school, my mother told me about a scientific concept. As it’s one of the few scientific concepts I’ve been able to both grasp and retain, it’s something I’ve considered when asking these questions.
In situations that arouse some anxiety or nerves, the body’s biological response is “fight or flight.” Adrenaline takes over, and the natural response is to either address the concern or to flee from it. And even though this phenomenon takes place in a few seconds, its concepts have application in every day life.
When facing those pesky deadlines or responsibilities, those familiar feelings of anxiety come knocking. Despite efforts to close them out, they’ll slowly creep in and toy with your thinking. And when they’ve really turned you around and confused you, you’re prone to hide from a problem rather than confront it.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, hiding never works. A dear friend of mine recently introduced me to one of the quirkier expressions I’ve ever encountered. “Small potatoes,” she would exclaim, signaling the issue or topic of the conversation was innocuous or of little import.
At first, the strange phrase threw me for a loop. I didn’t understand what it meant and didn’t appreciate what it meant when it was first explained to me. I felt offended that she waved away my problems as if they were not relevant or important. Only after giving it much more consideration did I realize its meaning.
Where I once dismissed it, I found this phrase to be a great tool for staying grounded. When addressing public, professional or private issues, remind yourself that no matter how great the issue might seem or might actually be, it’s small potatoes to the potential within you and the dreams that your potential actualizes.
The power of resilience, of imagination or unbridled passion outpaces any particular problem that might plague you in the present. Remember that. Problems aren’t walls to be enclosed and trapped by. They’re to be broken through, to be busted down, and, ultimately, they’re little more than slight inconveniences on your path to your dreams.
So, next time you’re facing the bottled up feelings of “fight or flight,” stay and fight. Win or lose – it’s small potatoes.