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Advice for students: New year’s resolutions

Advice for students: New year’s resolutions

People in academic life, teachers and students alike, get a curious bonus — while everyone else trudges from January to December, we have a chance to begin anew with each semester, term, or quarter. In a wonderful passage from his autobiographyThe Seven Storey Mountain (1948), Thomas Merton evokes the feeling of possibility on a college campus when everything is about to begin again:

October is a fine and dangerous season in America. . . . It is a wonderful time to begin anything at all. You go to college, and every course in the catalogue looks wonderful. The names of the subjects all seem to lay open the way to a new world. Your arms are full of new, clean notebooks, waiting to be filled. You pass through the doors of the library, and the smell of thousands of well-kept books makes your head swim with a clean and subtle pleasure. You have a new hat, a new sweater perhaps, or a whole new suit. Even the nickels and quarters in your pocket feel new, and the buildings shine in the glorious sun.

Here’s a suggestion for the beginning of an academic year: Make and keep a resolution or two to address what’s really urgent in your academic life.

If, for instance, like J. Alfred Prufrock, you tend to think that “There will be time, there will be time” and endlessly defer getting to work, resolve to work as though the first weeks of class are already the last few. Every semester I talk with students who acknowledge that they could benefit from this resolution — they begin with Ds and Cs and sometimes, much later in the semester, when they make a real effort, they get Bs and As. Alas, their semester grades reflect all their work, not just what happens when they get going.

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If you’ve felt invisible in your classes, you might resolve to bring your invisibility to an end. Don’t sit in the back of the room or off to one side, as far away as you can be without being elsewhere. Contribute to class discussions, even if you feel uncertain about doing so. Ask questions after class, and seek out your professors during office hours. Faculty are sometimes too willing to lump all students together as iPod-toting consumerists who want nothing more from their education than a good grade-point average. If that’s not you, make your professors see who you are.

Your resolution doesn’t have to be complex. It might be a matter of simple, direct action — placing an alarm clock at a significant distance from your bed (and remembering to turn it on), or buying and using a datebook to keep track of what you need to do. (I’m always amazed to see students who have no reliable means of planning — no datebook, no PDA, no hipster PDA.)

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The academic year is an almost magical construction. Here in my corner of the northern hemisphere, I always marvel that when the leaves are changing color and the calendar year is running out, everything is also beginning again.

Michael Leddy teaches college English and has published widely as a poet and critic. He blogs at Orange Crate Art.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

  1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
  2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
  3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
  4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
  5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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