6 Life Lessons
June 6, 2018
During the 20th century, when my father, grandfather, and mother were working, the lessons were few and simple. Get up, go to work, complete your work, and return home, and do it all again the next day. Times have changed. As we near 2025, a quarter of the way through the 21st century, there are more pressures, more opportunities and challenges, and a recognition that there is more to life than work. In preparing for the final Career Exploration and Planning class of the term, I thought a great deal about what I wanted my students to take away – I came up with six important lessons, which I also want to share with you.
There are people to help you along the way. No CEO worked their way to the top single-handedly. Throughout their journey, they asked for help, forged connections with people at all levels, and sought the advice and counsel of others.
Decisions you make today are not permanent. With very few exceptions, any decision you make today or tomorrow, is not something you will have to live with forever. If you chose to take a position and are unhappy with it, your boss, your co-workers, your commute, etc. – remember, you can make a move, a terrible or mediocre boss won’t last forever, and a lease has an end date. There may be consequences to change – financial, time, etc., but if you want the change enough, then those consequences will be worth it.
Explore as much as you can. While this may seem most applicable to a college student, it is also valuable advice for anyone. Certainly, it is easier for those who are younger, who have no deep family commitments, etc., but take the time to take a class that interests you, go to a poetry reading, go to a lecture on global sustainability or the impact of globalization on developing countries, regardless of what it is, just do something to expand your knowledge base. As a bonus, you never know whom you will meet, what network connection you may forge, or what spark it might ignite.
Make decisions based on multiple criteria. As I noted in the beginning of this post, earlier generations focused on getting up, getting to work, completing the job, going home, and then repeating the cycle the following day, the following week, and the following year. Concepts such as work/life balance didn’t exist, being happy with the work they did day in and day out, was not necessarily an option, certainly not a priority. Today, things are different. We are a more mobile society. We change jobs and careers. Thus, when making decisions about your career, consider all of the following: interest, happiness, making ends meet, location, work/life balance, and anything else that is important to you. Only you can decide the order of these criteria, but they should all be considered as part of the decision process.
Accept that life will throw you curve balls. These interruptions can be good and bad: an unexpected job offer, a death in the family, an illness, an opportunity for travel (for work or pleasure), a job loss, a car accident, a promotion, someone new walks into your life or someone opts to walk out, or an unexpected or unplanned expense, and the list goes on and on. The point is, you can’t plan for these events – they just happen and usually at the most inopportune moments. Your reaction, however, is key. For those who live in a world of denial or lack adaptability skills – it will be much harder to process and handle the curve ball – good or bad. For those who have accepted that these interruptions do happen, are likely to happen, they are often better able to cope, manage, or make decisions around the situation with more ease, efficiency, and with less drama.
Finally, take time to give back. We live in a world of selfies, Instagram posts, and me over we – you can combat that by taking time to give back. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help build a habitat house, participate in a community garden, mentor inner-city youth, or whatever interest you – there are so many different ways to give back, to help those less fortunate. The opportunity is a win-win situation – not only are you contributing to the greater good, but you will also meet people you might otherwise never have the opportunity to meet.
Regardless of your age or career status, these six lessons or pieces of advice will help you navigate through all the ups and downs life throws at you.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies