Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

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Creative Commons License photo credit: treehouse1977

Many years ago, I was in Engineering school for my undergraduate degree. I have never been too bad at academics really. There were some areas that were certainly not my strong points and I worked hard, but I enjoyed almost all of my educational (formal) years thoroughly. I was rarely at the top of the class but surely stayed away from being at the bottom :)

It was semester 2 of year 1 of my undergrad degree. Things had been going wonderfully and academics was pretty fun. Exams were a breeze. Joy in the air and all. And then, it happened. The results came out and I had failed to get through one of my courses. It was perhaps the most devastating thing that happened in my life until that point in my life. For one, the failure was totally unexpected. Secondly, Engineering Drawing (perspectives and all) had been my strongest area that semester. I was miserable. I must tell you that a number of other students had unexpectedly failed the course as well (which usually implied an error in grading), which meant I was not alone. For some reason, the blow was so bad that none of the logic made sense. A feeling of worthlessness loomed over me and everyday I measured myself up from the depths of the pit I had just fallen into – and for a long long time, I failed to measure up to basic happiness. And hence, I was miserable. Oh, you should have seen me! My self-worth was close to nothing – nada, zero, zilch! This happened for a few reasons:

1. I had assumed DITCHES don’t exist OR I had assumed I would NEVER fall into one

2. And hence, I failed to carry my “DITCH COMMUNICATION DEVICE”

And then it got worse. I tried my best to rely on people who knew my worth (who had seen me excel in the past) to help me restore some of my self-confidence. For better or worse this happened to be my parents. Well, my parents were wonderfully supportive, but this system was flawed for two reasons:

1. They felt sorry for me. As in, they were too NICE to kick me on my butt and force me to get on my feet.

2. They had BAGGAGE. Funny story – but before I joined my undergrad school, my parents had consulted an astrologer about what would be right for me. The astrologers take was that this school would be a rather bad choice for me. He had warned my parents that if I chose to go to this particular school, I would NEVER really complete my Engineering – as in, I would never really obtain an Engineering degree. Perhaps, at that point, my parents thought he was being ridiculous. So they kept the astrologer incident quiet, very quiet. But when I failed one of my courses, my poor parents could not help but imagine that this was just the start of a very long and never-ending Engineering degree of mine! So you can imagine, this was perhaps worse on them than on me. They knew something I did not!

And then it got super BAD. Someone told me the astrologer secret. Ouch!! Not only was I in the pit, but my parents were there as well!! Times were just not good!

Sadly, I do not remember much else.

But thankfully, I felt better really soon. I applied for my paper to be re-evaluated and I passed my exam – and I did pretty well too.

In hindsight, I was lucky. Life is full of ditches really. And it is not very often that we can apply for a re-evaluation of our situations. In order to believe in ourselves when we fall into these ditches, we have to learn and prepare to believe in ourselves. That is the key to not giving in to a “miserable death in a deep ditch” – so to speak.

The Anatomy/Parts of Ditchiness

  • You : It is all about you, always remember that.
  • Your Baggage: As much as we all like to travel light, we are certainly clinging onto little and big things from our past. If you are not carrying baggage, good for you – One less thing to deal with.
  • The Ditches : The ditches are there and they come in ALL shapes and sizes. Whether you like it or not.
  • The Others : The others are there too. The good ones, bad ones and really ugly ones too.
  • Their Baggage : People love the baggage they carry – especially the stuff in their bags that relates to you :)
  • The Tools: These do not just exist. They have to be created and tested by you before you fall into a ditch πŸ˜‰

Prepare to Believe in Yourself

The secret to getting out of a ditch in life is believing that you can scale it and get out. And the secret to believing in yourself when you are in the dark depths of a ditch is all about preparation (a torch, a cell phone etc).

  • (Locate the ditches) : When you are having the best time of your life, take a few minutes out of your day to think about what could potentially go wrong. But take only a few minutes. This is really important because a happy mind is a healthy mind. And when you think about bad times with a healthy mind, you tend to think constructive thoughts.
  • (Locate your tools) : Now that you are thinking good thoughts about bad times, start to quickly think about what you will do when times get bad. And think about your recovery strategy at two levels:
  • One – Things you can do now: Should you get an insurance? Should you cut costs and run your business lean? Should you apply for a new job now?
  • Two – Things you will do in the ditch: Is there anything you can read to feel better? Do you have a word that will kick you back into gear or should you perhaps wear your read underwear? Should you get out and run? Or will a day dedicated to helping others help you recover some lost self-esteem?
  • (Test your tools ) : Externalize. Talk about it. Briefly. With people who matter and/or people who understand. Help people who are already having the struggles that you are likely to have. Share your strategies and learn from them. And become a better person in the meantime πŸ˜‰
  • (Share your tools) with the others
  • (Take responsibility) : Be aware of THEIR baggage. If you have a person in your life that carries no baggage from his/her past, PLEASE tell me. But your best bet is to take responsibility for what you will encounter in the future and prepare for it. Expectations never left anyone very happy.

Life is not that bad after all.

There is life. And there are ditches. Several of them. And the ditches are dark. All of them. But, guess what – all the ditches have a little staircase leading back up. All you have to do is find it. Carry a little torch to help you and a cell phone to tell the people you love that you are okay. And then take your time to make it back up. You will be a stronger, happier individual for believing in yourself and making your way out.

And all it would have cost you is a little time. A little time for a lot of good.

Fun Stuff in the Virtual World

If you are a newbie blogger or a seasoned one for that matter, be sure to check out what the amazing duo – Eric of MotivateThyself and Sean of WriterDad have started out at BlogopolisBlueprint. These guys are amazing – they already have Leo Babuta of Zenhabits talking there today.

Also check out Leo’s new book – The Power of Less. Do not miss the free e-book he offers

And a couple of the best new year’s posts:

1. And the Word Is…Β  at Jungle of life

2. The Single Secret to making 2009 the best year ever

And if you are a blogger, there is still plenty of time to participate in Davina’s fun quotes project –Β  So head over there!

Oh, nothing would ever be complete without some shameless self-promotion ;). Make sure you check out my company website – Memetales. It is coming along nicely! I am super energized but am watching out for the ditches too :). While you are there, do sign up for my newsletter for all the fun and juicy information!

Happy New Year Everyone!

  • Davina

    Hi Maya. Good for you for climbing out of your ditch. Your parents played a role in digging this ditch. But you obviously believed enough in yourself to see the light and climb towards it.

    Don’t laugh, but I like ditches. :-) I learned at an early age from my mother… that in a storm, such as a tornado, a ditch is a safe place to be. Weird eh? And when I think of ditches they appeal to my senses and I automatically link my awareness to the smell of fresh earth — I love that smell. So in my case I have a lasting impression that ditches are good places.

    Thank you for sharing about The Quote Effect.

    Davinas last blog post..The Quote Effect: Naughty, Nice & Niche Bloggers

  • J.D. Meier

    Hey Maya

    Nothing’s worse than hitting a low where you doubt yourself and worse, it seems lie fate’s against you.

    You paint a great picture of the mind and spirit.

    I’ve definitely been in scenarios where I hit ditches I didn’t think were possible. I had always felt somewhat protected. The reality is I had lucked into success often enough, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

    I love it when the right lens and the right skills change the game.

    Happy New Year!

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Growth Mindset Over Fixed Mindset

  • Marelisa

    Hi Maya: What an ordeal, I’m glad you got out of that ditch OK (and, of course, no story is really complete without an astrologer :-) ). This reminds me of an article I read that explained that in the martial arts they teach you how to fall. Also, when you’re training to be a comedian, they teach you what to do in case a joke flops. That is, they know ahead of time that you’re going to fall or flop at some point, they prepare you for it, and they give you a strategy to get yourself back up. And that’s what you’ve explained here, and you’re absolutely right!

  • Barbara Swafford

    Hi Maya – You did great, pulling yourself out of that ditch. I do agree though that often other peoples baggage can affect us. Too often what we want to do goes against their grain (of what they want us to do), and if we’re not careful others can use their influence to steer us into a direction that may not be the best for us.

    Thanks for the great tips. Falling into ditches is no fun.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Attract Readers – Make Your Blog A Safe Haven

  • Maya


    Indeed, ditches can be safe places sometimes. I like being in the dumps – especially when I know that it won;t last too long. I try to use it as an opportunity to recharge! I will try to remember your perspective of a ditch the next time I am in one – that might make it easier for me to get out :)

    Hi JD,
    Happy New Year !
    So true – life is not about knowing everything but about knowing what we do not know, isn’t it?

    Hi Mare!
    What a wonderful analogy – learning to fall in Martial Arts and teaching how to deal with flop jokes?? Metaphorically, I guess the ditches of life apply to many many places …thank you so much for sharing that!

    Hi Barbara,
    You have been through so much in life, I guess you understand all about being affected by another person’s baggage …. But what really amazes me is how much of that is so unintentional, really. It is always simplest when we take complete responsibility and decide our own actions, isn’t it?

    Mayas last blog post..Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

  • Evelyn Lim

    I used to blame others or external events that put me in my ditches and then one fine day, I realized that I was solely responsible for digging them myself. If I got in there, I had to find a way out.

    Nowadays, I don’t hang around in my ditches for too long. Life is too short! I find it more fun to be outside!

    I like the idea of being prepared for ditches. Having the right tools and equipment will definitely come in handy! Thanks for the tip!

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Past Life Memories In Hokkaido

  • ankur kakkar

    hey maya, this story resonated well here…. i am currently in the final year of my engineering from Panjab University, chandigarh, india… i had failed in the Engineering drawing course in the 2nd semester of my 1st year…. but then i failed again in the 5th semester because of shortage of attendance πŸ˜› … this is not all, i had a pretty bad run of luck after that … finally things are falling in place and i hope to obtain my engineering degree in time…



    ANKUR K.

    ankur kakkars last blog post..HE IS BACK AND HOW !!!

  • Lance

    Hi Maya,
    The ditches…and engineering school – boy, can I relate!! I recall going off to college, all set to earn my engineering degree and take on the world. And then I ended up in an economics class, missed a couple of days early on – and and all of a sudden – our first test – and I failed miserably. Coming from high school, and having done really pretty good there – this was a major blow. First semester. Starting out with a failed test. It WAS a hard ditch to crawl out of…And one I didn’t see the lesson in until many years later. The lesson was persevere, for me…

    Anyway, you really bring up a great point – we will have ditches along the way. Being prepared for them does help them not seem so deep, and getting out is much easier. So, now I need to think about where the potential ditches are for me.

    Congrats on getting memetales up and going – I’ll be over to check it out!

    And, thanks for the link here today, Maya – I really appreciate it very much!

    Here’s to a great year ahead for you and in all your endeavors!!

    Lances last blog post..And The Word Is…

  • Maya

    Hi Evelyn,
    Welcome back! Isn’t it funny how we dig so many of the ditches ourselves??? We should have learnt by now right ?? It got a lot easier for me as well – once I stopped blaming others and myself and just focused on getting out :)

    Hi Ankur!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I wish you the very best – now and always. Just work hard, do your best and take responsibility for everything you do – things will work out just fine :) and you will learn a LOT in the meantime. Take care!! And yess – I LOVE Kipling’s poem -“IF” :) – thank you for bringing that back to me !

    Thank you so so much for sharing your story! I do think a LOT has to do with the changed landscape when we move away from high school and get into a professional school …I had done so very well academically so far that I could not fathom anything like that could ever happen! But things certainly got better – yes, perseverance was a big lesson for me too :)
    And do check out Memetales and help spread the word please πŸ˜‰
    And you write with so much passion on your website – a lot of what I write is inspired by your posts – so it is an honor for me to link back to you …so you keep on inspiring – okee ?? :)

    Mayas last blog post..Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

  • ankur kakkar

    thanx a lot …. i would be really ‘honoured’ if you visit my blog and comment on it occasionally … !!

    ankur kakkars last blog post..HE IS BACK AND HOW !!!

  • Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    Hi Maya,

    I always enjoy reading your posts. You do a wonderful job of sharing your experiences and making your point with them. I especially endorse this wisdom, “all the ditches have a little staircase leading back up.”

    Enthusiastic Blessings for 2009

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..A Guided Meditation for Authentic Expression

  • maya

    You do have a lovely blog. Thank you for the invite …I apologize for not getting there earlier :)

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you!
    I wish you a wonderful 2009 as well!

  • Very Evolved

    Hi Maya,
    I like your concept of ditchiness, certainly something we can all relate to.
    The way the brain process learning and memory is actually very closely tied to failing.
    If we fail at something, we get emotional or experience pain and it has an impact on our lives, hence a memory is laid down and the learning process begins. It is therefore essential we fail often (and fast) so our brains understand that what we are trying to learn is actually important and it can then attach significance to it. Anything with significance then gets a lot of attention from our brain and we get better at it.

    As children we failed at everything all the time. We fell over all the time before we could walk, and even then it’s years before we have any real coordination.
    The only thing that’s changed is that there is a stigma attached to failing as we get older.


    Very Evolveds last blog post..How to generate an emotional response from your audience

  • Eric Hamm

    Hey Maya, thanks for the mention, first of all! And secondly, I love the uniqueness of this post. This is stuff we can ALL relate to. Since reading this post I realized that I had left my ‘Ditch Communication Device’ on standby. I’m turning that thing on RIGHT NOW! :-) Eric.

    Eric Hamms last blog post..Introducing The Blueprint Newsletter And A Few Other Cool Things

  • Maya

    Hi Patrick,
    Welcome to ThinkMaya. And thank you for the wonderful explanation. BTW, I love your blog and I will be back there to participate :)

    What you say reminds me that I need to let my children fail – fast. I also need to help them figure out how to pick themselves up :) Is there a way you suggest I do this? I mostly follow “letting go” – I let them experiment and try things and when in trouble I “will point them in the right direction” so they can figure out what is right. Ofcourse, I have a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old, so I ain’t seen nothing yet πŸ˜‰ …do let me know if you have suggestions …Thank you :)

    Hi Eric!

    hey, you guys are so cool, how could I not give you a mention?? All the best to the both of you – and am glad you are carrying that “Ditch Communication device” πŸ˜‰

    Mayas last blog post..Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

  • Very Evolved

    Maya, thanks for visiting my site!
    As for your question:

    With all forms of learning the human brain is brilliant at figuring things out for itself, but humans are even better at observing how others do things and mimicking their actions – no need for every Stone Age man to discover fire independently, all alone by themselves, much more efficient to copy what works!

    Since I don’t have kids, I think the best source of information on your question is not myself, but would would suggest instead that that you be the one learning from other parents and mimicking what you see works :)


  • Daphne

    Hi Maya,

    Thanks for sharing this story. I’d never thought about life in terms of ditches, and it’s a useful concept.

    I think the first time I fell in a ditch was when I failed my driving test. I’d never failed in anything before until then. So I know how you felt with the engineering paper. Awful! Now I can laugh about it (not until I took the test another two times till I passed though!) and even my most daredevil male friends admit I’m a good driver. So I guess I recovered, and am glad you have too. Thanks for a very sincere and authentic post.

    Daphnes last blog post..Interview: Lance from Jungle of Life

  • Still Life in Buenos Aires

    Great post, Maya. I was thinking recently about what I’d do if I fell in a ditch unexpectedly. I need to consider some escape plans and worst case scenarios–my tools. :-) Thanks for reminding us that not everything goes as planned!

    Still Life in Buenos Airess last blog post..Crossing the Andes

  • Nathalie Lussier

    I loved learning about your Engineering story. I studied Engineering too, and there were times where I probably felt like you did. I too wasn’t at the top, nor at the bottom.

    I thought the story about the fortune teller was extremely interesting. Isn’t it weird how sometimes just knowing these things seems to influence how we feel & act? Maybe that’s what makes it “work”, because it changes our actions. πŸ˜‰ I’m glad you got out of your ditch! :)

    Nathalie Lussiers last blog post..55 Green Budget Tips to Show Nature You Love Her

  • Maya

    Hi Nathalie,

    Hey, it is really really nice to see you here after a while :)
    It is so true – what you say about how what we know influences how we act …but thankfully it did not pull me down in this case – it turns out that I am not THAT bad afterall πŸ˜‰
    But you made a very true point here ….I wonder what the solution to that is …I always think a lot about how ignorance is really wonderful in so many situations!

    Hope you are well!!

    Mayas last blog post..Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

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  • Amy Jewell

    Hi Maya,

    My first time visiting your blog. This is a great post. I think that it is particularly important right now as there are many people “in a ditch” with being out of work and perhaps being bored by this. I can see that your blog is a great resource!

    Amy Jewells last blog post..Is Hiring a Website Designer Stopping You?