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8 Lessons Every College Graduate Needs to Learn About the “Real World”

8 Lessons Every College Graduate Needs to Learn About the “Real World”
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Being a new college graduate is as exciting as it is scary. For the first time you are face to face with the real world and charged with making something of yourself. School is out and it is up to you to take what you have learned and find your way in the world. It is easy to lose sight of the things that really matter along the way, so as you try to find your way through the tangled jungle of the “real world,” take these eight lessons along with you to make the most of your life.

1. Focus on Happiness

It is easy to confuse money and happiness. Money can buy you comfort and remove a lot of the stress that goes along with struggling to pay the bills. The thing people often forget, however, is that once you have enough money to pay for a nice life and put a little savings away each month, every dollar you earn brings you less and less happiness. Instead of driving yourself towards your next promotion or next big career move, spend time with friends and family enjoying the simple things and relaxing. Happiness is worth a lot more than money.

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2. Prioritize People

Whenever scientists go off in search of what makes people happy they always find the same thing: family and friends. In the words of Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert, “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” Put people ahead of money. They are the only thing in your life that really matters.

3. Think Critically, Always

Don’t do something or believe something just because a lot of people have done it or believed it for a long time. Question everything and have reasons to back up the way you act. The moment you give up examining the world is the moment you will fall into the crowd and lose your individuality.

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4. Time is Valuable

Nothing is as valuable as your time. You can’t save it or expand it. Time will always pass at the same rate no matter how much money you have or how successful you are. Make sure you use it in ways that will maximize your enjoyment of life. Every moment you spend doing something you hate is a moment you will never get back. Value every second.

bensonk42
    bensonk42 via flickr

    5. Beware Bureaucracy

    When you are starting out in your career it might be tempting to go work for a large organization that can offer you a lot of perks and opportunity for advancement. The problem with companies like that is the only way to hold them together is to have lots of systems and rules in place with very little flexibility. The bigger the company, the less room there generally is for creative, outside-the-box thinking, which is exactly what young people are good at.

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    6. Networking Is Important

    Everyone says it, but they say it for a reason. As you move through your career the best opportunities will present themselves through people you have met. Odds are you won’t find a life-changing path to follow on a job board, it will pop up in a conversation.

    7. Pursue Health

    Don’t undervalue your personal health. The only way you will have the energy to pursue the relationships and experiences that will make you happy is to be in reasonably good shape. Adding a few years to your life will also give you more time to enjoy things, which as we have learned is your most valuable resource.

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    8. Roll the Dice

    In the immortal words of George Carlin: “Take a chance.” You only get one shot at living the life you want, so don’t waste it always following the safe path. If you really want to start your own business but are worried about the risks, use your fear to fuel you passion. Learn as much as you can about what you want to pursue and go after it. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Schwegler via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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