Profile of Perseverance: Arianna Merritt

I came up with the idea to interview individuals while walking by the water this past Easter weekend.  Instead of only asking people to share their stories, I’m also asking them the following questions that have been featured on my blog.  To kick off the series, I decided to share my personal answers to the questions.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who did you receive it from?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” I learned this lesson from a high school math teacher. During the first term, I was having a hard time grasping the concepts in Algebra and Geometry class. Instead of reaching out and asking my teacher for help, I decided to try to understand the class material myself. I was shy and had a hard time going up to people and asking for help. I thought asking for her help would show that I did not understand the material, and that she would think I was inadequate. However, I was not happy with my level of understanding and wanted to improve. So, I got up the courage, and asked my teacher for help on a question that I was stuck on. She was proud of me for gaining the strength to ask for help. I felt so great from this positive experience, that I kept coming back to see her throughout the semester. Guess what – my marks improved significantly, and I mastered that course.  Almost ten years later, her lesson is still with me!

How important is mentorship in terms of your success?

I have learned a valuable life lesson in my transition from academic studies into the professional world; mentorship is essential. I have been so lucky to have positive mentors in my life, people who are ahead of me on the path of life who encourage, teach, and offer direction. Their mentorship has been life-changing.

swim out to it

What has been the best moment in your life so far?

I would have to say, the present one.  I have been blessed with many moments in the past and am excited for where I will go in the future.  The present is all I have, and therefore I’m enjoying it.

What tips would you have for living a healthy life?

Eat healthy foods.  Exercise. Maintain a positive attitude.  Work hard. Collaborate. Persist. Have fun!

How do you motivate yourself to persist despite setbacks?

I write down my thoughts and feelings, instead of dwelling on any setbacks.  I shift the focus to the things that are going well in my life.  I emphasize that the setback is only temporary, and that I will get through it. I maintain positive relationships that will encourage me and where I can talk out my problems.  Even though it is hard, I try to keep a positive attitude.  If I get stressed, I go to the pool or on the water and work out – then I feel back on track.  Having a strong faith motivates me to persist.

What has been your biggest setback? How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

Throughout my life, I have compared myself to idealized images of women in the media and letting these comparisons influence my behavior, treatment of my body, and my attitude. I thought that I should change myself to a standardized “ideal” image in order to be happy and accepted by others. I dealt with this issue by coming to the realization that I am beautiful just the way I am and that giving power to others is wrong.

The lesson I learned can be summed up in the E.E. Cummings quote, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you be everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – and never stop fighting.”

How do you deal with critics?

I don’t let them bring me down. It is a hard process, but I have learned to overlook negative comments; they only make me work harder. The negative comments motivate me.  I know I am on the right path if there are people who want to bring me down – they must think I’m important!

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

How important is social support in overcoming obstacles?

I believe social support is an integral part of overcoming obstacles; it is one of the reasons I continue to write this blog.  One key example that sticks out to me was when I had been criticized, and it really hurt. I reached out to a friend, who responded almost immediately with support and encouragement. This experience made me realize the importance of not going through events alone.

What advice would you give others about goal setting?

You will have setbacks, and you will have times when you want to quit; but don’t! NEVER GIVE UP!!!

After taking a Learn to Row course, I decided I wanted to join the Rowing Team at the university where I would be taking my Master’s degree. However, the plan came to a halt after reality sunk in. Valid roadblocks prevented me from rowing that year.  The next summer, I decided to not let obstacles stand in my way again. The roadblocks that had previously stood in my way were no longer there.  Some people would have not gone back and tried again, but I did.

Rowing 017

What life lesson have you learned that you would like to pass along to others?

Don’t be silent! Own your power and Speak up. It may be hard, but you must do it! Don’t give anyone else your power. You are the owner of your own life!

The creation of this blog is a result of me speaking up and sharing my random thoughts with others.  To quote my blog’s mission statement:

“If we are lucky, we will be given the opportunity to overcome setbacks and persevere through tough times; those are the times that build our character and prove our inner strength. We all have a story and random thoughts that swim through our heads; they are what shape us into who & where we are today. Every event has occurred in our lives to teach us valuable lessons; whether we learn from them or not, it’s up to us. Stories are meant to be told and shared with others; so, what are you waiting for?”

Looking forward to hearing the lessons you have learned!

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!