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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 September 17, 2018

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Are you one of those people who are always suffering setbacks? Does little ever seem to go right for you? Do you sometimes feel that the universe is out to get you? Do you wonder:

    Why do I have bad luck?

    Let me let you into a secret:

    Your luck is no worse—and no better—than anyone else’s. It just feels that way. Better still, there are two simple things you can do which will reverse your feelings of being unlucky.

    1. Stop believing that what happens in your life is down to the vagaries of luck, destiny, supernatural forces, malevolent other people, or anything else outside your self.

    Psychologists call this “external locus of control.” It’s a kind of fatalism, where people believe that they can do little or nothing personally to change their lives.

    Because of this, they either merely hope for the best, focus on trying to change their luck by various kinds of superstition, or submit passively to whatever comes—while complaining that it doesn’t match their hopes.

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    Most successful people take the opposite view. They have “internal locus of control.” They believe that what happens in their life is nearly all down to them; and that even when chance events occur, what is important is not the event itself, but how you respond to it.

    This makes them pro-active, engaged, ready to try new things, and keen to find the means to change whatever in their lives they don’t like.

    They aren’t fatalistic and they don’t blame bad luck for what isn’t right in their world. They look for a way to make things better.

    Are they luckier than the others? Of course not.

    Luck is random—that’s what chance means—so they are just as likely to suffer setbacks as anyone else.

    What’s different is their response. When things go wrong, they quickly look for ways to put them right. They don’t whine, pity themselves, or complain about “bad luck.” They try to learn from what happened to avoid or correct it next time and get on with living their life as best they can.

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    No one is habitually luckier or unluckier than anyone else. It may seem so, over the short term (Random events often come in groups, just as random numbers often lie close together for several instances—which is why gamblers tend to see patterns where none exist).

    When you take a longer perspective, random chance is just . . . random. Yet those who feel that they are less lucky, typically pay far more attention to short-term instances of bad luck, convincing themselves of the correctness of their belief.

    Your locus of control isn’t genetic. You learned it somehow. If it isn’t working for you, change it.

    2. Remember that whatever you pay attention to grows in your mind.

    If you focus on what’s going wrong in your life—especially if you see it as “bad luck” you can do nothing about—it will seem blacker and more malevolent.

    In a short time, you’ll become so convinced that everything is against you that you’ll notice more and more instances where this appears to be true. As a result, you will almost certainly stop trying, convinced that nothing you can do will improve your prospects.

    Fatalism feeds on itself until people become passive “victims” of life’s blows. The “losers” in life are those who are convinced they will fail before they start anything; sure that their “bad luck” will ruin any prospects of success.

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    They rarely notice that the true reasons for their failure are ignorance, laziness, lack of skill, lack of forethought, or just plain foolishness—all of which they could do something to correct, if only they would stop blaming other people or “bad luck” for their personal deficiencies.

    Your attention is under your control. Send it where you want it to go. Starve the negative thoughts until they die.

    To improve your fortune, first decide that what happens is nearly always down to you; then try focusing on what works and what turns out well, not the bad stuff.

    Your “fate” really does depend on the choices that you make. When random events happen, as they always will, do you choose to try to turn them to your advantage or just complain about them?

    Thomas Jefferson is said to have used these words:

    “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

    “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

    Your luck, in the end, is pretty much what you choose it to be.

    Featured photo credit: LoboStudio Hamburg via unsplash.com

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