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5 things I wish someone told me in high school

5 things I wish someone told me in high school

I’ve had the awesome privilege to give talks at The School for Student Leadership in Victoria, Australia – the same program I was a part of 5 years ago. My best mate and I get to spend a day hanging out with the leaders of tomorrow. Although there are far too many to get to know in such a short amount of time (45 in fact) we do get to hear most of their stories.

Where are they from? What do they want to do? What do they want to learn? What do they want to be?

Through spending time with and giving talks to some of the most awesome and capable young people, I’ve had a solid chance to reflect on myself when I was their age. I’ve gotten to combine my own knowledge with the wealth of information that these students share with me to come up with 5 things I wish someone told me in high school.

1. It’s okay not to be okay.

This is something I really wish someone would have told me. It’s something I genuinely believe more young people need to hear.

The mental health of young people is something that could be addressed a lot better. It’s often overlooked, but the rise of the internet and awesome resources like Headspace really give young people an opportunity to discuss their mental health anonymously.

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There seems to be a stigma among young people (young men especially, trust me, I fit that demographic) that struggling with and then talking about your mental health isn’t okay. That it’s uncool, or that people will judge you or even worse that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s look at it this way: Imagine you’re moving to a new house, and the last thing to go on the loading truck is your couch. You try lifting it yourself but it is way too heavy. What do you do?

You ask your mate for help.

I ask you, why is mental health any different? If you’re not ashamed to ask your mate to help you lift a couch that’s too heavy, there’s no reason to be ashamed of asking them to help you with talking about your mental health.

I wish someone told me that it’s okay not to be okay.

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2. It’s cool to be uncool

Remembering my high school days often makes me cringe. The sheer extent I went to, and others too, just to fit in. Just to be part of the ‘in-crowd’.

Let me tell you right now, in a few years’ time, no one will care if your hair was cut a certain way, or if you owned a certain pair of sneakers. In years to come, you will really value the fact that you were true to yourself. Don’t go out of your way to impress others, just be you.

Be weird, be quirky, be different! But most of all, be yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.

3. The grass is greener where you water it

This is the main message I gave throughout my speech at the School for Student Leadership. I’m pretty sure it’s a quote by Neil Barringham, but I first remember seeing it on a friend’s Facebook wall. It has stuck with me ever since.

If you have a goal, or something you want to achieve no matter how improbable or even impossible it seems, you can do it. If you take your time to practice, nurture and care for your goals, there is no reason why you can’t achieve them. Put in the hard yards, push harder than everyone around you. If you fall down, get back up and keep working at your goals.

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There’s nothing better than accomplishing your goals and having something you can look at and say “I did that.”

4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do

All the way through Year 12 I was being pressured and pushed to decide if I was going to go to university or not. Which university I was going to go to, in which city, and what I was going to study.

As it turns out, I got to university and then changed my mind completely after I got there!

You don’t have to know what you want to do yet – I know adults that still don’t know what they want to do with their lives and that is awesome. 

If you already know what you want to do in high school, that’s equally as awesome, and refer to point number 3 on this list if that’s the case. It is alright to take your time. It’s alright to figure out what you want to do, and it’s alright to change your mind. It’s also okay if you have no idea what you want to do, and it’s okay if you don’t even know where to start.

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If that’s you, my advice is just start doing things. Try new things and go new places.  Follow what makes you happy, and do things that you love to do. You’ll figure it out, I promise.

 5. It’s okay to make mistakes

You are going make your fair share of mistakes throughout life. Some will be small, and others won’t be. It’s okay to make mistakes if you learn from them.

Something the School for Student Leadership taught me, and was reinforced over years of analysing my performance in sport, is reflection. What did I do well? What didn’t I do well? What can I improve on? What would I do next time this situation arises?

Reflection is one of the best things you can do to help yourself learn from experiences. Whether it’s through keeping a diary and writing stuff down, or whether you simply ask yourself these questions mentally. Maybe you find it best to talk things through with another person? I personally find talking to someone helps me clarify and understand my own thoughts, but you should try your best to find what works for you and use it to reflect upon your mistakes.

If and when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, reflect on it, learn from it and move on. Nothing will ever be accomplished from dwelling on things.

Life is really long, and you’re going to do some really awesome things, but from time to time just ask yourself: What would you tell your 15 year old self?

Featured photo credit: Anna Tesar via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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