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What’s Your Territory?

What’s Your Territory?

What's Your Territory?

    I’m pretty shy. You wouldn’t know it to watch me – I’ve learned how to handle most of the superficial stuff that makes up day-to-day interactions –  but deep inside I’m pretty scared of talking to strangers or making a spectacle of myself.

    But when I walk into my classroom, I’m completely at ease. I’ve never experienced more than a second’s hesitation in front of my students. At the beginning of every semester I walk into my classroom, look at the 33 strangers looking back at me – none of whom have any particular desire to be there, and wouldn’t if my class didn’t fulfill a requirement – walk straight to my lectern, and start talking. “Hi, my name is Dustin, this is Women’s Studies 113, and I’ll be your professor. Let’s get started."

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    Easy as pie. I don’t stutter, I don’t "um" and "uhh”. I don’t fumble around for words. I don’t have any of the nervous tics that I have whenever I approach strangers outside of the classroom.

    Why is that?

    The reason is simple: I own my classroom. It’s my territory. Not literally, of course, but figuratively – these students are coming to me in my space, and within that space I am totally confident.

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    What makes it mine is not the space itself – the classrooms I’m assigned change from semester to semester anyway. No, it’s what I bring with me into those spaces, the claim I’ve staked out with my years of education and hard work, the expertise I’ve demonstrated in my academic work and my publications, and the dues I’ve paid in my previous classrooms. Standing in front of a class full of students, I’m home.

    We all have a territory.

    Everyone has at least one place where they are totally in charge, where by dint of their competence, their familiarity, or their hard work they can assert themselves more strongly than anywhere else. Most of us have more than one. It might be a physical space – the store you work in, your office, your workshop. Or it might be a field of endeavor – a hobby, a business specialty, an academic discipline.

    My territories are my classroom, writing, my own websites, and anthropology. Within the folds of any of those “places”, I’m at home – I can make a mark.

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    That’s not to say these spaces don’t pose any challenges. They do; in fact, it may be by dint of those challenges that we earn our sense of belonging in them. Every class, I have to work out how to present the material at hand, adjusting my approach to suit the attitudes of the students in my class. Students ask difficult questions, and I have to come up with answers – or at least reasonable ways of addressing the questions.

    In writing, too, I am constantly looking for an adequate way to express what I’m thinking, and reviewing the shortcomings of earlier works hoping to improve my future ones. My more journalistic writing is always a challenge, as I usually have no knowledge of a topic beyond what everyone knows, and have to work out how to become an expert in the short time before my deadline.

    Each of my websites presents a range of challenges, from producing enough content to promoting them adequately. Likewise, my academic specialty presents challenges ranging from thinking up interesting new research angles to keeping up with the latest literature.

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    In a sense, then, the territory is not defined by having overcome its challenges but by the challenges themselves, and our willingness to face those challenges, to wrestle them into submission and make them reveal their mysteries, so we can move on to the next challenge better-prepared than we were before.

    Defining your territories.

    Where are you strongest? Where do you feel most comfortable facing whatever challenges are thrown at you? It’s worth thinking about, because staking out these spaces is an important step towards building up our commitment to do battle.

    Just as important, though: where don’t you feel strong? Where do you feel out of sorts, fraudulent, constantly on the verge of being exposed for the wretch you secretly know you are? I’ve got news for you – feeling that way doesn’t mean you’re out of place, and it doesn’t mean you really are a fraud. What it means is that you’ve staked out the boundaries of your territory but you haven’t made it your own, you haven’t thrown yourself into the fray with everything you’ve got.

    What’s keeping you from truly owning your territory? What barriers stand between you and the throne? Answer these questions and you’ll be well on your way to taking your rightful place at the heart of your territory – or in front of the class.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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