Reinventing Ourselves

by Jasper Salinana

Two years ago, I attended a JCI (Junior Chamber International) regional conference here in Edmonton where our discussions revolved around leadership and engaging in the community. One of the ‘big’ issues we discussed was mental heath which, at the time, I did not know very much about. After the conference, I  thought of ways we could potentially address mental health issues in Edmonton. I started the project by myself late last year (2016) and developed a localized perspective on the issue by consulting with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I want to attack the issue from it’s core by establishing a wellness initiative that focuses on preventing the escalation of mental health issues. While our city already has numerous initiatives in place, many do not elaborate on the positive impact of participating in these initiatives. Our project will incorporate an educational component to create a complete picture of the problem, the solution, and the means needed to achieve it.

We live in a city filled with possibility, but we need to have the courage to spot these opportunities and transform them into reality. Despite the unstable economic conditions, Edmonton is a growing city with notable infrastructure developments such as the LRT line expansion that will facilitate collaboration between educational institutions. Similarly, the new downtown arena has helped revitalize Edmonton’s core and will continue to improve once the development is complete. According to a 2014 study conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Edmonton ranks among the top 10 entrepreneurial cities in Canada. We should be proud of this, but we need to be careful that we don’t get caught up in the numbers and slow our potential accidentally.

In order to progress, we must ask ourselves: how can we take advantage of what our city has to offer? How can we take steps to achieve our own goals, whether it be establishing our first business, graduating from university, addressing social issues, or starting or advancing in our careers? Well, we need to invest in ourselves; we must realize the importance of doing so, take that first step forward, and be relentless in our pursuit. In doing so, we reward ourselves by becoming indispensable assets to ourselves and the people and organizations we support.

This can be achieved by acquiring skills or knowledge, and perhaps the best thing about that is that it cannot be taken away from us. As we acquire more, we become better equipped to handle situations and to find and pursue opportunities. When used wisely, new skills brings us closer to accomplishing our goals and enables us to realize a great sense of fulfillment. In pursuing the mental health initiative with JCI, I worked with stakeholders in our community to gather feedback and calibrate our objectives. This has been helpful in my career because my job requires collaboration with various stakeholders to execute and deliver solutions efficiently and accurately. It is because of these opportunities I decided to engage myself by applying my skills both ways, to help further the mental health initiative and my career at the same time. Despite our success, we must never settle; we must continue to evolve our abilities to adapt to new challenges that our rapidly changing world presents us. This year, I would like to develop my creativity, to create unique solutions for community problems.

Living in the information age has many advantages, like having access to a plethora of information that fits in our pockets. We can learn anything by searching the web: from trading securities, to biological anthropology, to replacing a toilet seat. We can also learn through gained experiences such as getting involved with various organizations within our city. The work done by many charities and not-for-profit groups, including preparing meals, addressing mental health issues, and leading others, provides great opportunities for us to expand our skill sets while giving back to our communities. I have been serving as an executive board member for a not-for-profit organization, a role in which I have gained valuable experiences, like working in vague circumstances, and building programs and projects from scratch. These are some things I would not normally get from my full-time job. Investing in ourselves allows us to continue the learning process as we adapt to our ever-changing environment.

Getting into the mindset of investing in ourselves might be the easiest part, but there are challenges preventing us from moving forward. This article was inspired by Rachel Fox’s TED Talk, How to Make Your Greatest Investment. In her talk, she mentions three factors preventing us from moving forward: fear, haters, and boredom. Sure, taking the first step is often scary; an illusion that stops us from progressing. As Michael Jordan put it, “…limits, like fear, are often just an illusion.” It is only after we take the first step that we realize that it was not as bad as we initially thought it would be. There will always be critics out there and the best way to deal with those people is to validate and gather constructive criticism as an opportunity for self-improvement while discarding the rest of the garbage and drama they may impose on us. Do not be bogged down by their negativity. It is worth neither our time nor our energy to internalize their pessimism. It is for them to deal with – and not us! As you go through the learning process, it can be unexciting at times. Recalling a particularly aggravating experience, I took a financial accounting class where I was studying the basics of creating financial statements wherein I had to go through the same scenario over and over again. It felt boring and definitely time consuming. Little did I know that taking the time to work on those repetitive exercises helped me on my exams and my career. Though we may not see the benefits or rewards our efforts at first, we must have faith that everything will eventually come together. Journeying through achieving our goals is not an easy process: it takes solid commitment, grit, and determination to pursue our goals and grow to be better. There is no silver bullet: effort is all it takes, and in the end, the benefits are rewarding.

Time and energy are some of the most vital resources each of us possesses, and it is our responsibility to choose either to maintain the status quo or to move forward in life by being better versions of ourselves by investing those resources in the right places. Doing so is not easy because of our fear of uncertainty, haters criticizing our actions, or boredom making our pursuits feel unfruitful. Despite all that, we must be resilient and have the courage to move forward – it is part of the learning process. When we accomplish our goals, we get better at taking on new challenges, breaking through glass ceilings, and creating a ripple effect that positively impacts ourselves, the people around us, our lovely city of Edmonton, and beyond.

Banner photography courtesy of Zosia Czarnecka.

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