Editorial: A Struggle for Control

Vince Magas - Editor-in-Chief
Posted on: July 3, 2017

Hello once again, and welcome to the fourth issue of the Iron Warrior for the 2017 Spring Term. Before jumping into the stream of words that is my editorial, I would very much like to thank the folks at The Iron Warrior who contributed to this article and made it possible. As always, thank you to the people who have copy edited and reviewed the draft, as well as the bulk of people who sent in their articles before the deadline! (Kudos to our EngSoc Execs once again who got their updates in early as well this issue despite it being a long weekend!)

We have lots of great features in this issue! Given the recent Canada 150 celebrations I decided it would be most appropriate to have as much Canadian content as possible in this issue! As such we have a lovely front page feature showcasing the Canada Day celebrations here at the University of Waterloo. The second part of the front page article is the University of Waterloo’s and the Engineering Society’s involvement in the annual Toronto Pride Parade.

This issue also features a very special edition of our collaboration with Awn Duqoum, the Director from Engsoc’s Mental Health Awareness (MHA) team (This collaboration features articles from their online blog that interviews students and shares their stories on mental health on a weekly basis). The Iron Warrior has been very happy to collaborate and help them in trying to reach a wider and broader audience. In this issue, they have brought to us a message from none other than President & Vice Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur. So make sure you read this one! Don’t forget, the MHA can also be found and reached through the following link: https://medium.com/@UWEngSocMHA or through their email at engsocmha@gmail.com.

All this being said, I once again cordially invite and encourage our readers to send us an email if they want to write for The Iron Warrior or want to join our (almost-always) merry group. Similarly, if you have an opinion, argument, or praise for anything you read on our paper feel free to let us know!  You can find us at E2-2345 (usually during meetings on Tuesday 1730h-1830h) or through our email address at iwarrior@uwaterloo.ca.

So, I know there are a lot of students out there who probably got their marks back from Hell Week/midterms, while there are also a bunch of us who are probably frantically calculating marks to figure out just how much we need to pass that next course. In any case, this is also week 10 of the term. As I mentioned last issue, for many of us out there, we’ve either already burned out or we’re very quickly burning out – if not, it certainly feels that way. The term has probably pulled us in all sorts of directions, with courses hammering on us with midterms, others drowning us in assignments, or maybe for some it’s hitting us hard with that term project. I’ve personally found myself drowning on project work, capstone project meetings, and presentations! As such, I think it’s worth talking about or at least mentioning the idea of adapting to changing circumstances.

It’s the idea that even though things are potentially spinning wildly out of our control, we break away from it and adapt or change accordingly. Maybe it’s something that we feel like we’re incapable of doing, or something impossibly difficult, and many of us will be familiar with this. It could be that we try to do well in school and we end up falling flat because we get sick or end up slipping on one exam. As I mentioned last time, this can be very common when we’re struggling not to skip or to do ‘just enough’ in a course that we’re not really all that interested in. In other cases, maybe we find ourselves struggling to stay motivated in school because we’re just trying to pass or we’re just trying to keep a certain average. For some, it becomes even more difficult when they face failure, or a less-than-stellar performance at a project. Motivation can be nonexistent afterwards and often what also comes with this is we end up feeling like many things are out of our control and situations are hopeless.

I’m sure a lot of us can relate, so what can we do in situations such as this? Well, there are a few things we can do. Very similar for the process I mentioned last issue regarding motivation, asking myself the following questions tends to help me set my mind straight or at least help me come back to a more realistic perspective.

  1. What worries me the most?

The first step is to identify which of our problems are causing the most anxiety or worry. What keeps popping up or keeps bothering us. Sometimes it’s even possible to list things in order of their urgency and apparent level of priority in our minds. What I’ve found helpful here is actually using a Ti-Mandi window. Very similar to a Johari window, the Ti-Mandi window is a square divided into 4 quadrants, and is a common managerial tool for time management and tasks. The X-axis represents Urgency level: High & Low, while the Y-Axis represents Importance level: High & Low. It’s up to you how to use the tool, but the easiest way I’ve found to use it in this situations is listing out what feels important to me according to its urgency. It can help you identify which things you need to address first.

After this step, some people might feel less anxious and more in control. For some, simply organizing the tasks at hand can help in feeling that the situation is under control. For others, it may even help them feel like they change their expected outcome of the situation!

Sometimes, however, this first step just does not cut it and we can still feel overwhelmed or ‘not-in-control’ of the situation we’re in. In response to this, the following step tries to break things down further.

  2. What do I have actually have no control over?

Out of your list from the first step, pick the one that bothers you the most, or the one that you feel you have the least control over. What this next step really tries to do is challenge us to find out what things we don’t and do have control over. What this would hopefully start to do is shift our mindset from “we can’t do anything” to “we can do something” and this should hopefully foster a perspective of adaptability and flexibility.

By taking inventory of the items and factors in the situation that we really do have control over, we can focus our attention away from items that we can’t change and towards the things that we can. For example in the case of a failed midterm or a botched assignment, we can try to shift our attention away from feeling guilty over the outcome and focus more on tackling the course’s subject matter. It can be incredibly draining trying to change things that you can’t, and that energy is better spent on things that you can do. We can always change or try to change how we feel, view, react, and act towards the situation, and it’s important to keep inventory of these factors that we do have control over.

At the end of the day, when we’re doing something that we feel we have control over, we tend to approach it with more confidence and less worry.

Anyways, that’s all I have for this issue! Hopefully it helps, and for those of you struggling with staying in control of a situation, hang in there! I urge you to try taking a step back and taking stock of the items that you can change, re-organize & re-prioritize!