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From a freshman: Five tips for success in college

From a freshman: Five tips for success in college

As the academic year comes to a close, I’d like to thank Leon for inviting me to contribute to lifehack.org. For this post, I asked my daughter Rachel, who’s finishing her first year of college, what advice she might offer to lifehack.org’s student-readers. Here are Rachel Leddy’s tips for success in college:

1. Build a social network. Living away from home in a dormitory with 1000 other people your age is a little unnatural after about 18 years of family living and close friends. It’s important to make sense of the mass of people by finding those you can relate to and trust. If your roommate is a no-go on the friendship front, seek out activities in your dorm or your campus. Look for religious organizations or activities like intramural sports or debate teams. Find support from your resident advisors, teaching assistants, or other mentors. College friends do not have to replace the connections you have at home; they do, however, make your home away from home more comfortable.

2. Get good with names. Meeting people can be overwhelming, so make yourself special by being the one who knows everyone they meet. People love to be known and recognized, so find a trick to help you keep people straight. When you meet someone new, repeat his or her name aloud once or twice and then put your trick into action. Identify something deeper than clothing choice with the person, such as a story they tell you, the place you where you met (i.e. on a bus to the quad or a specific basketball court), or someone they strongly remind you of. If you forget a name the next time you meet, be honest and ask. Tell the acquaintance that you remember the time or place but you can’t remember the name. People want to be remembered; don’t worry about offending someone by asking them to help you remember them the next time.

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3. Feel out your campus. Get to know your new home by finding a place for everything. Find a specific place to study (like a residence hall library, a specific table at a library, or a coffee shop you like). Find a space outside to play Frisbee, lie out in the sun, or read. Make these places your own and you’ll be more comfortable in your new home. Of course, it’s important to be flexible with your space. Be aware that your space is shared, not owned, and be prepared to find a new place if needed.

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4. Create rituals. This is perhaps the easiest and most important thing to do at the start of the year. Establish familiarity through daily, weekly, and monthly rituals. Rituals can be as simple as taking notes with a favorite pen in journalism or always stopping for a drink at the same soda machine before chemistry. They can be more formal, such as going out to dinner once a week with your roommate or significant other. By setting rhythms in your new space, your days and weeks will be more natural and flow more easily. Flexibility also pertains here, so be prepared to change or reschedule your ritual based on availability and conflicts.

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5. Remember what you’re at school to do. You’re at school to learn. The school is there to provide you with a great education, so do your part and go to class. Stay healthy. Take plenty of vitamin C. While it’s tempting to stay up all hours with friends, get enough rest to keep your immune system up and your mind alert. College is a great (and expensive) opportunity. Don’t waste it.

Rachel Leddy, a linguistics major, is finishing her first year of college. Her dad Michael Leddy teaches college English and blogs at Orange Crate Art.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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