On average, a traditional student entering college is eighteen years young. Cognitively speaking, our frontal lobes (which are considered the home of our personality and vital in our decision making) are still developing until age twenty-five.
That means that the majority of students decide what it is they want to study and complete their degree all while their brain is still critically developing. It’s no wonder that so many students approach graduation feeling lost and unsure of what exactly they plan to do after they walk across that stage, answering their relatives with “I don’t know” when asked about their future plans.
So, what happens when you realize mid-way through your education that perhaps your passion lies elsewhere, that perhaps you’re not interested in doing exactly what you expected?
We’re told time and time again that feelings of uncertainty are perfectly normal and that it will all work out in the end, and yet that unwavering sense of worry that lies in the pit of our stomachs never seems to settle down. The ever racing mind can come up with a million scenarios of how things could go awry, and reading countless articles that cite how the majority of people work in areas unrelated to their degree does nothing to calm our sense of worry that perhaps we’re on the wrong path.
Fear is a natural feeling to have, but it’s important to not let it paralyze us.
Fear is a natural feeling to have, but it’s important to not let it paralyze us. When it comes to fearing your education and second-guessing your path, it’s crucial to remember to work hard in the field you’re in right now. It’s so easy to give in to doubt and convince yourself that “this class doesn’t matter” or that you won’t need your degree to do what you want to, but … what if you do? Maintaining to do your best is a reflection of your character: something that will be of utmost importance in whatever field you may venture into.
Here are a few ways to stay grounded even when you feel directionless:
Make A List
It sounds so simple but this classic task is classic for a reason. Writing down your agenda helps give a visualization of all that you have to do and can make it easy to prioritize and manage your time. Plus, who doesn’t love crossing things off a list? A list provides an immediate sense of accomplishment.
Clean One Area
This could be anything from your room to your phone. De-cluttering both physical spaces and technological ones can be therapeutic and help bring an immediate sense of relief when you feel overwhelmed. Something as simple as rummaging through your emails and weeding out the junk can help make you feel instantly productive and ready to move in a forward direction.
Take Time For Yourself
Going for a walk or a bike ride can help clear the mind and allow you to appreciate and take in all the beauty around you. Every season is beautiful in it’s own way – just make sure to dress accordingly if you live somewhere chilly!
Read For Fun
This is something that too many college students forget to do (including myself!). With all of the assigned reading and constant classwork, it’s easy to put fiction novels on the backburner. Reading can be extremely relaxing and is a great ways to wind down before bed. Try reading (or listening to) one chapter per night or every other night. The small routine won’t take much time and can be a nice escape from the stresses of school.
Change Up Your Shower
This may sound silly, but I always find that using a new shampoo or body wash instantly lifts my mood. Something about taking in new aromas and feeling pampered helps soothe my stressed mind and is a relatively easy thing to do. Showering can be a sacred time to reflect under the water and embracing that with mood-boosting scents (lavender and vanilla are two popular picks) can make the everyday experience seem luxurious.
Lastly, as hard as it sometimes can be, trust the process. Learn what you’re being taught and take away from it everything that you can. At the end of the day, rest easy knowing that you’re doing your best. Striving for excellence will pay dividends in the long run — even if it’s not doing what we initially imagined.
What’s an unexpected experience that taught you excellence?