I had been struggling through college and thereafter to limit the distractions in my life and find true direction. It was not that I was an epic failure by the least. I managed to earn high marks in college, dedicate myself to all responsibilities, and make financial ends meet. The one thing I did not have, however, was control. I could not make all of the dots line up correctly due to outside influences, such as social pressures, multitasking, joining the wrong causes, etc. It led me to be confused in some respect from ages 19-24.
Going through this phase happens to a lot of college students and young professionals. Being institutionalized your entire life can do that to you. School, clubs/activities, and demanding work schedules can force one to fall into habits and routine. What results with these types of demands is the lack of time for someone to think and strategize their plan.
I cannot sit here and say with certainty that I know my exact path in life, but I have carved out certain roads that I cannot wait to accelerate down as I move forward. Here are eight tips for anyone stuck in the aforementioned position:
1) Write out your ideas – Do yourself this favor, take out a piece of paper or grab a notebook and jot down all of the skills you have: hard (something that could be taught) or soft (interpersonal or personality traits). Next, write down a list of your interests. Then, a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Finally, write down a list of people that you could not live without.
When you have finished these lists, see what matters most to you from your responses. You may start to see trends in how you are defining the type of field you should be working in, what type of organization you would have pride in working with, and the places and people you would like surrounding you throughout your journey.
2) Eat healthy – Since coming to the Republic of Moldova for the Peace Corps in June 2012 I have shed approximately 15-20 pounds. Now, a lot of that is due to stress in changing environments, a change in diet, and lack of adequate protein, but I am no Tom Hanks from Cast Away. What was instantly reduced was the beer gut, consumption of fast food, and portion sizes.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with sliced banana or apples, a spoonful of honey.
Lunch: Chopped chicken salad with cabbage leaves, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and red wine vinegar.
Dinner: Buckwheat (instead of pasta), two eggs (lose the yolks), vegetables, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and paprika.
Snack: Grapes, pears, apples, carrots, bananas, etc.
3) Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol really has never given me anything I could have taken on my own in life. It has taught me to blend in, to hide behind my true feelings or desires, to settle, to avoid conflict, etc. It has provided close calls with the police, has ended relationships, has caused me to stay dependent, has taken away a third of my baseball season in high school, and has made me waste a ton of money along the way.
I am not trying to be your D.A.R.E. officer but think about it: what has alcohol added to your life that you couldn’t have taken in its absence?
I cannot sit here and say that I am a straight-edge, I have a few drinks every other week, but my reduction of alcohol intake has raised my levels of daily awareness and motivation ten fold.
4) Exercise regularly – I exercise five times per week when the weather is agreeable and about 2-3 times per week in the colder months of the year. I enjoy playing basketball and running. Find something that will make you get off the couch, away from your computer, and on your feet!
Create some new playlists, sync them up, and get moving.
5) Stay clean – In the first three months of Peace Corps service a volunteer told me that they did not shower for 30 days straight over the past winter. Granted this person lived in a rural village without running water or proper heating, but that is freakin’ gnarly. That was motivation in itself to stay clean every single day for the rest of my service. This does not just go for my personal hygiene (showering, shaving, getting haircuts, clipping nails, etc.) but for my apartment and bedroom, as well. I clean dishes immediately after eating, take out the garbage, sweep the floors, change sheets, do laundry, and wash the counters, stovetop, and furniture regularly.
Baseball player Torii Hunter once said, “When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you play good. When you play good, they pay good.”
I could not agree more.
6) Become a lean spender – I am not a millionaire, I am barely a thousandaire yet I have been able to travel to France, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, and Greece in a span of eight months. You may be thinking… what bank did this dude rob? The answer is none. I save… like it’s a sport. At the beginning of each month I take out all of the money I owe for mandatory expenses: rent + utilities, internet, and TV and pay it forward immediately. With whatever is left over, I make a goal on how much to save and let the games begin. I take the figure and divide it by four (for weeks) and thirty or thirty one (for days) and keep those two numbers in the back of my mind every day. I always know how much I have and what my weekly and daily limits are.
Decide what it is you would like to save for and discipline yourself in saving the rest.
Some tips: a) When you buy food or toiletries do not think about what you will need over two weeks but for today’s use instead. I do not mind making daily trips to the supermarket in order to stay disciplined. My supermarket is also on the way to and from work. Consider this. I have gotten into a habit where I know what I need and if I absolutely don’t need it, I don’t buy it. b) Always carry cash. I used to get into terrible spending habits when I swiped my card. I know building credit is important, however when your budget is always cutting it close just so you can buy your fourth blue dress shirt it is time to reconsider.
7) Dedicate your life to family – I have a very strong family and it has always been that way. Everyone’s situation is different, but for those that have known you your whole life it will most likely be that way from here on out. Make time for these people, be involved in their lives, try to grow them as individuals, and be there in need. I do not know where I would be without mine, so I always try to remind them that they are important to me and that I am there for them whenever they need me.
8) Create and maintain relationships that will provide value to your life – I am not advising you to align yourself with ten Donald Trumps. It is just better to have friends and colleagues that will give as much as they receive from you. Be willing to give a lot in order to receive the same and avoid those who do not aim to improve you. It makes life easier and those bonds stronger, believe me.
Good luck on your quest for success!