If you’re old enough to begin seriously considering college or other alternatives as a stepping stone or door of opportunity to your desired lifestyle and work of choice in the near or distant future, it’s imperative that you take full responsibility and be accountable for your educational journey. If you’re already in college or have already taken advantage of some of the alternatives to college and experiencing some bumps or detours along your the way, it’s imperative that you start taking full responsibility and become accountable for your educational journey.
Responsibility – (n) the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.
Accountability – (n) the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.
- Begin with YOU
Your journey has to begin with you asking yourself, “What do I want?” This is a small question that requires some BIG reflection. It’s a very difficult question to answer because we’re not taught, typically, to even consider what we actually want. We spend most of our childhood learning about what others expect of us, then when we reach the age where we’re told its time to make some decisions about the rest of our lives, we have nothing. We haven’t been primed or prepped. We’re thrown into this conversation cold with few, if any answers. Spend some time getting to know what lights you up.I love the innercise in Helene Brenner’s book, I Know I’m In There Somewhere, Chapter 3, page 70 – Write Your Own Plant Tag. Think about it as writing your own Human Tag. At the heart of this innercise is you really knowing what makes you thrive. What are your talents, passions, abilities, experiences, etc. that make up YOU? We tend to be much clearer about what we don’t like or love, so begin there, then consider the opposite to help you get started. What do you value? What are those core non-negotiables that drive your daily decisions? You can start with Steve Pavlina’s List of Values and challenge yourself to whittle your list down to a few core values – five to ten is usually a great place to start. If you don’t who you want to be, how you want to show up, where you want to land, what you want to do, or what you want to contribute, the chances of your journey being longer and more difficult are very high. Take the time to do this necessary personal (internal/inside) exploration.
This is a strong first step to creating the blueprint for your desired lifestyle, which includes your work of choice.
- Nestle Into Research Mode
After you have a strong sense of who you want to be, how you want to show up, where you want to land, what you want to do and what you want to contribute, now it’s time to figure out how to get it. Now you begin your (external/outside) exploration. Don’t simply choose what others tell you is available, decide what you want and start exploring. Dive into the Internet. Have lots of conversations with those who are doing what you think you may want to do. Do some shadowing. Volunteer. Take on some internships. Do whatever you can to uncover as much information as you can about what interests you. Based on what you value and what motivates you, start thinking about the various aspects of the life you want and what it will take to get and maintain your desired lifestyle. Consider your desired income. Consider other things you want to have. Consider how you want to spend your time.
- Identify What’s Too Cold, Too Hot and Just Right
Start sifting and sorting through what you’ve discovered, uncovered, learned to see what’s a fit and what’s not. Do some experimenting. Remember Goldilocks – if it’s too cold or too hot, it’s not for you; you’re looking for what’s just right. It may take some time, so be very patient with yourself and your process.
- Start Connecting the Dots and Building Your Network
Hopefully you’ve already started sharing your vision with others in your life who care, who you trust, who you admire and who are strong supporters. If you haven’t, start pulling together your support squad – a close circle of folks who inspire, encourage, provide resources, help you make connections, open doors, etc., folks who buy into your vision. Not everyone who you care for and cares for you will. That’s OK, focus on those who do.
- Try Things On For Size
Again, you’re back to trying things on to see what fits and what doesn’t. Experiment some more. You’ll do this often, as you evolve and change, and your circumstances evolve and change. We’re not talking drastic changes, just course corrections. If it fits, keep it. If it no longer fits, release it. This can be easy or difficult, it all depends on you.
- Commit to What Fits
Once you have some clarity around where you’re headed, commit to your journey. Don’t allow anyone or anything to discourage you or direct you towards any detours. You’ve explored and experimented, now it’s time to commit to your journey and move forward. This is where you ask yourself the question: Is college necessary to get me where I want to be, doing what I want to do?If it’s not really necessary, what are some viable alternatives? Do you need assistance with figuring this out? There are so many possibilities and opportunities available today, more than ever in lieu of college.
- As You Take Off, Dive Into the Experience
Really enjoy your process. If college is part of your journey, make a decision to make it a great experience. Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Get to know your professors. Make some great connections with peers, and others along your path. Don’t just go to school and go home, use this time to engage fully.If college isn’t part of your journey, make a decision to have a great experience with whatever your alternative proves to be. The point is to make a decision to make the most of whatever experience you choose.
- No Playing Victim
Don’t blame others when things don’t work out. Being a victim never moves you forward, it just keeps you stuck. If you want to move forward, don’t blame, just keep moving with your lessons learned easily accessible.
- Course Correct Whenever Needed
When something you thought would work, doesn’t, don’t be afraid to course correct. Sometimes we feel as if we have to continue down a path because we’ve started it. If continuing means you’re going to be miserable, waste time and/or waste money, do some serious soul searching. It may be time to course correct. You may consider it quitting, but sometimes it’s a wise move to let some things go. Only you’ll know when this is called for; take responsibility and be accountable for whatever decision you make. In this case, if you’ve really spent your runway time wisely to explore, experiment, and be curious, you may not need to course correct at all.
- Learn From Your Failures
It should go without saying that failure is a prerequisite to success. We rarely, if ever, get it right the first time. We have to learn what doesn’t work to get a good grasp of what does. Again, at this point along your journey, if you’ve planned smart during your runway time, your mistakes are going to be minimal.
- Take Good Care of Yourself and Celebrate Your Successes Along The Way
We’re often so focused on our goals and where we’re going that we forget to take good care of ourselves (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) and celebrate our successes along the way – small and large.Don’t fall into the habit of saying, “I’ll take better care of myself after I finish, after I reach, after I accomplish . . . ” This is important every step along your journey. Don’t just wait for graduation or landing your work of choice to celebrate. Acknowledge every victory along the way. Celebrating is refreshing, and it forces you to be more aware of what you’re doing and how far you’ve come. Celebrating introduces some balance to your journey. Balance keeps us healthy in all areas of our lives.
- Contribute YOUR Way
After you’ve taken on college or delved into one or more alternatives to get where you want to land and do what you want to do, contribute your way. Remember, this is your life we’re talking about. What kind of footprint do you want to leave? What kind of dent do you want to make? It’s all up to you. Enjoy your life; choose consciously every step of the way!
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. - Jim Rohn
YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE, CHOOSE CONSCIOUSLY!