Being a student isn't easy.
There are so many things to juggle and stress over and I'm not about to add to that list.
This is also not a list to make your life more complicated. In fact, this is a list that will make your life better - more organized and more grounded - if you're willing to do the introspection and the work.
Mistake #1: You're barely involved outside of academia, and even if you are, it's only on campus.
I'll tell you a secret on how I got so confident at networking and trying new things. I went on a TON of Tinder dates (yep, that’s right) during my third year. I was too sick for school (or anything much) and my friends were busy with their course loads so I had the time.
Now I'm not suggesting you become the next Tinder Queen. But I did learn an important lesson from these interactions. The more you expose yourself to a variety of people, the bigger your world-view grows. During this time, I met chefs, artists, actors, and construction workers. I tried acroyoga and experienced different friendships and intimacies. I learned that people CAN be happy working jobs that don't require formal education. I learned about jobs that I didn't know existed. I met young people who had traveled all around the world and exposed me to unknown concepts and opportunities.
Expose yourself to people who are different than you. Start conversations with people who you would have just walked past. Befriend people who are NOT STUDENTS.
TIP: A great way to meet a variety of people and try out weird things is meetup.com. You can find interests groups and events open for the public. Most of them are free or cheap to attend. I frequently enjoy Vancouver Business Babes, Internet Masterminds, Vancouver Social Innovation.
EXERCISE: Spend 15 minutes going through meetup.com and COMMIT to attending one or two meetups in the next 2 weeks.
Mistake #2: You are waiting until post-graduation to find career opportunities.
We all know it. It's incredibly difficult to land + maintain fulfilling jobs nowadays with just good grades in undergrad. So what else do you need? There are beneficial tools + skills that school doesn't teach you (yet *fingers crossed*) that are available elsewhere. But I hear students tell me that they don't have the time or money to invest in these extra tools.
I understand the leave-me-alone-and-let-me-just-finish-through-this mentality. And the trudging-through-university-waiting-for-it-to-be-done mentality. I was there too. But if you’re making this huge investment into a Bachelor's degree. Are you going to chuck it in the corner when you’re done with it or actually make use of it?
TIP: Look into personal + professional development programs, workshops, and resources such as networking, personal branding, and self-empowerment. Some popular ones are Tony Robbins and Landmark. TTP also provides personal + professional development programs through Tip Labs.
EXERCISE: Research + write down a list of places you want to work post-graduation. Contact them (send an email, call, or visit in person) and ask them what you can start doing now for higher chances of employment in the future. Ask about both on-paper qualifications but also qualities & values of ideal staff.
Mistake #3: You identify more with what you do than who you are.
How do you usually introduce yourself?
"My name is Paul and I'm a 3rd year in Science at UBC."
Ah, so now we know who you are . . . ?
What we do is our function. But when a function becomes a role and the role overwhelms a massive part of our identity - what we do becomes who we are. And then when we "fail" at what we do, we become the failure. Sound familiar?
Who you are has more to do with not WHAT you do but WHY and HOW you do things. How do you treat the cashier at the supermarket? Why are you studying this subject? Are you spending your time mindfully and intentionally? The key is in the values behind the thoughts, actions and presence.
TIP: Many of us are taught that we have to HAVE something in order to DO something in order to BE something. But actually, it's the other way around. You choose to BE something, then you DO something, and you then you HAVE something. For example, you can choose to be compassionate, do impactful work, then have a fulfilling life.
EXERCISE: Google a list of values. Choose your top 20, then top 10, top 5 and top 3. Not the values that you are currently practicing now, not the virtues that your culture/society/peers value, but the values that ALIGN with who YOU are. Once you have your top 3, for each value, write down your definition of each value and when/how it became important to you. Remind yourself of these values on a consistent basis and reflect if your actions + thoughts align with them.
Mistake #4: You automatically reply "I'm okay" to the question, "How are you?"
Last November, I went around campus asking my friends how they were doing. Everyone replied "I'm okay," although many of them were sleep deprived or incredibly stressed out from school. What is considered "normal" is not necessarily "okay." School has incredibly unhealthy standards of what's considered "normal" and it can have long-term effects like anxiety and depression.
TIP: Let's start with the basics. Let's get honest about how we're really doing and feeling with ourselves if not with our peers. Acknowledgment of an issue is step one of healing + growth. Unhealthy habits + tendencies will bite you in the ass so might as well address it now.
EXERCISE: Call up a friend and ask them "how are you feeling?" Or journal about how you feel about this next life transition, or how you feel RIGHT NOW. Commit to doing this in a consistent manner, whether it's every night before bed or every Sunday afternoon.
Mistake #5: You leave your mind on when you don't need it.
"I think, therefore I am." is actually a false statement. You are not your mind. The mind is a tool that we use to enrich our lives. Except nowadays, the mind uses us and we've lost control. We can't stop thinking as we wait to fall asleep in our beds. Our minds roll shame tapes of self-sabotage and self-hatred when we make a mistake. Our minds have become capable to convince us to harm ourselves.
But you are greater your thoughts, emotions, and actions. You are more than your mind. So how can you regain autonomy? Through mindfulness practices of focus and/or awareness.
TIP: Meditation has become the new "thing" but for good reason. Many people give it a try and give up really soon or don't even give it a chance because of its probable "difficulty." As our friends at Moment Meditation say - you're doing it right. When you're wondering if you're doing it wrong, you're doing it right. Just keep going and make it a consistent practice. Like physical exercise, it takes disciplined practice. Start with 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.
EXERCISE: Download the HeadSpace app and try out their free 10-day meditation to learn about the basics of meditation and give it a try. Afterwards, feel free to use other apps like Calm or Wildflowers. Also check out Canada's first meditation studio in Vancouver Gastown at Moment Meditation. The difference? It's like doing yoga off of an app and doing it in a yoga studio. And if meditation just isn’t your thing, look up the Wim Hof Method.
Congratulations on reaching the end of this list.
How are you feeling? A little overwhelmed? A little anxious?
It’s okay. .
Growth is not easy. It starts with self-reflection + self-confrontation, and then acceptance + focus.
You’ve got three choices.
1 - Continue doing what you’re doing, trudging through university with all of the uncertainty. And deal with the aftermath post-graduation.
2 - Reflect on how you want to focus your energy. What’s important to you? Why are you doing all of this? And take action based on your decluttering.
3 - Could use some help on where to start? I got you. Shoot me an email with your current biggest challenge. Let me hold space for you.
Founder of The Tipping Point