1: Focus on the short-term.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Long term goals are extremely important to have and they help you find some sort of direction in life. But to get through each day, you should really try to keep some short-term goals on your mind. And as always, those goals can change each day or you can keep a few of them to help you through each week.
Short term goals can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like. For example:
“I woke up on time for work.” “I ate breakfast and showered today.”
“I did something positive for someone else.” “I learned something new.”
“I finished my assignment ahead of time.”
Enjoy the little victories; they add up in the end.
2: Make a list.
It’s so easy to fall victim to the bad in your life. Sometimes it’s best to take a breath, clear your thoughts, and start to think about what really happened that day. I remember seeing a quote on Facebook that said something along the lines of, “Did you have a bad day or did you just have a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?”
I know I personally have a bad habit of this. Once I’m in a mood, I stay in that mood for at least another half an hour. It’s why I started to make lists. Just list all the good and the bad that has happened so far that day, and only focus on that specific day. You’ll find yourself looking for bad things to write about while also discovering a lot of little good things you haven’t noticed before. Whether it was seeing a squirrel on the way to classes or sharing a funny moment with a stranger, there are always little things happening each day to lift your mood that you may have forgotten about.
3: Take a break.
Now, this one seems a little counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
I care about you, and so do your teachers, professors, bosses, co-workers, fellow students, band directors, and everyone else in your life. We all want you to succeed. We all love the work you do. But everyone needs to know their limits. Any college student out there will understand the coffee-infused-night-before-a-test-4-hour-study-session. And, although this seems like a necessity at the time, your brain can only take in so much.
Many successful students will say something along the lines of, “Oh yea, I’ll spend 30 minutes on this first project, take a quick break, work 30 minutes on this other project, take a quick break, go back to the first one…” This helps your brain to have a more even workout and be able to work for much longer without burning out. You don’t have to work yourself into a coma. Step outside, take a sip of tea, enjoy your surroundings, and go back to your project with a refreshed mind and positive attitude. You just may see better results.
4: Be open to criticism.
Speaking from a musician’s perspective, this is a skill on its own. Taking criticism isn’t easy, and it won’t always be what you want to hear, but it is nevertheless important. Whether or not it’s good constructive criticism is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Consider these comments and see which you think are constructive:
“Wow, that just sucked. Get better.”
“In the fourth paragraph of your paper, your argument wasn’t supported as well as it could’ve been. Why not try to find a few more articles to back up your views?”
“Your tone in this passage was a little weak. Here are some breathing techniques and technical exercises to practice that might make that passage a little easier.”
“I hate your point of view and I think the presentation was just awful.”
I know, these are extreme examples and criticism isn’t always this black-and-white, but maybe it helped you to start seeing the differences. Someone pointing out a flaw to help you progress as a person is not always a bad thing. Listen to those around you, and especially listen to those trying to educate and help you. Be open to try new things and be open to change. We must progress as individuals in order to stay on task in this ever-evolving world and to help further our accomplishments in life. Always strive to be a better you.
5: Most importantly, make sure you’re actually putting in the effort.
This is one of the more conservative things you’ll hear me say, but a lot of times it’s true. You have to put in the work to get the job done. Now I don’t define “work” as just the obvious stuff. Work includes critical thinking, asking questions, keeping an open mind, as well as being both a leader and a follower. Now, once again, all of these things are skills that will improve over time. But as long as you’re trying your best and you’re asking for help along the way, then who’s to say you’re not accomplishing anything?
We all grow and progress at different rates, and that’s okay. No matter how menial the job may seem, you should always strive to do it to the best of your ability. This is how to get noticed in the work place and academic settings. Offer help to those who need it, and always ask for help from those who can provide it. There is no shame in asking questions and there is nothing wrong with not knowing as long as you work to fix the gaps you’re missing.
Work hard, take every opportunity you can, and always keep learning. Try your hardest, work on these skills, and do your best to succeed. That’s all we can ever ask of you.
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