Fortunately Unfortunate

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Routine is the enemy of relationships, spontaneous workers, and thrillseekers, gradually lessening excitement and draining the life out of the things we enjoy. However, through my own experiences, I have come to realize that routines, commonly associated with complacency and stagnation, can paradoxically change one’s life.

When I was in grammar school, I devised what I dubbed as “routines for success” for all my classes. Recognizing patterns in my teachers’ instruction and assessment styles, I standardized my studying and learning regimens. Math class was conquered by a simple memorization of rules and a conscientious review of practice questions from distributed worksheets. Social Studies class required close attention during the study games we played, for their questions were guaranteed to appear on the test the next day. Science class needed only a focused reading of the chapter with special attention on vocabulary words, while english class relied on careful analyses of the stories we read as well as knowledge of basic plot elements. By optimizing my performance, while minimizing the amount of work that I had to do, these mini routines ostensibly contributed to an overall positive “routine of winning,” helping me effortlessly attain high grades and increased leisure time. In reality, this routine created the illusion that I could preclude failure and guarantee success by standardizing my actions. As a result, I became rigid and inflexible, relying solely on my system to guide me. Furthermore, I developed the myopic mindset that I could diminish the influence of life’s uncontrollable variables by forcing normalcy. I soon came to realize and accept that rather than avoid these unknown factors, I must embrace them and learn how to adapt to them.

My naive mindset was finally challenged and ultimately destroyed when I experienced a “routine of losing.” In the ninth grade, I assembled an intramural flag football team consisting of my friends. We were dedicated, practicing every week and formulating our own special plays to deceive opposing teams. Our signature trick play was the “What the?!”, designed to assure us a successful run every time. Moreover, we created a code language, yelling a western state to indicate a pass to the left and an eastern state to indicate a pass to the right. Confident in our system, we believed that we set ourselves up for guaranteed victory since the other teams played with neither plan nor preparation. Fortunately and unfortunately, our team lost every single game that season in spite of our standardized and calculated playstyle. To our dismay, our offense was characterized by lost fumbles, thrown interceptions, and botched snaps, rather than positive runs, completed passes, and touchdowns. In the end, the line between victory and defeat was heavily determined by a difference of skill, last-second clutch decisions, and luck. In this way, my ostensibly negative “routine of losing” allowed me to realize that there exist situations for which you cannot prepare, opening my eyes to the errors of my foolish mindset.

Now, rather than attempting to tame the world around me, I relish in its abnormalities and the challenges it offers. Instead of abiding by a regimented routine, I strive to push my limits and exit my comfort zone. Rather than simply reading or merely memorizing, I constantly endeavor to explore unknown topics and expand my skill set. Therefore, I’ve adopted a routine of neither winning nor losing, but of adapting, growing, and improving.

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