For myself and many fellow university students, the university term is complete! I personally just finished my first semester of my second year, which feels like a blur now that it is all over. The theme of this terms’ challenges were learning to balance multiple tasks at once, which I’m sure will be a continuing theme.

I feel that the term moves so fast, there is little time to stop and meaningfully reflect. After talking to several friends, we’ve concluded that it promotes a tunnel vision type mentality where the most pertinent goal is to stay afloat. We are all learning how to shift away from pure survival towards living more presently and learning in a state of balance. Aside from these general reflections, here are seven lessons I’ve taken away from Term One.

Lesson One: Mindset is everything

Sometimes we can fool our brains into thinking everything is okay even if every other sense tells us otherwise. Aside from any preparation you can do, having a positive open mindset when it’s time to show up works wonders. Functionally, this looks like having a positive mindset for an exam (even if you are doubting yourself) or remaining confident even if you are in a space filled with people who intimidate you. We can’t always control our surroundings, but we can control how we react or respond to them.

Lesson Two: You don’t necessarily need weeks for a good outcome

In an ideal world, we’d have all the time we need when we need it to do certain things. But the amount of time we have lessens as we inevitably take on more roles in life and and grow up, meaning ample time for execution isn’t likely realistic. A good outcome, though, doesn’t depend on perfect circumstances. In fact, our most-loved success stories are the ones where the circumstances within which success was achieved seem fundamentally incompatible with any good outcome. But with grit and against the odds, good outcomes happened. Good outcomes are possible from less ideal circumstances, and it is always best to make the most of the circumstances you are in rather than lament that they aren’t as conducive to success as you’d have liked.

In a similar vein of thought, achieving a certain outcome from a process doesn’t make the process used flawless.

Lesson Three: Just respond, it takes a minute!

I’m terrible for seeing messages or emails and not responding to them until much later. I get the impression that a conversation may be stressful and I won’t have the bandwidth to maintain the conversation. Sometimes it’s also a commitment issue; I think I’ll have something more eloquent to say if I just wait a little longer (this is also why many of my peers and I put off submitting that important paper until literally 11:59PM, we just can’t get ourselves to committing to our work before then). It’s just better to tackle these small mental tasks when they arrive so that they don’t result in a chaotic mental inbox (as I type this, I have just shy of 300 unread emails in my email inbox. I’m sure scores of people have much more daunting numbers, but this is an all time high for me).

Lesson Four: If a new idea makes you nervous or anxious, you should try it

In high school, a classmate and myself interviewed an innovator from India with an indelible passion for writing who had started her own magazine; she attributed her starting her magazine to her having acted on her passion so fast that she didn’t have time to entertain doubts. Change is fundamentally uncomfortable, and it tends to be resisted by nerves or anxiety. But not all change is bad, and it’s good to embrace new challenges.

Lesson Five: Some things can’t just wait for a time when you are less busy

When deadlines are piling up, the fridge is getting ominously empty, your desk a mess and you come home to your clothes strewn around, getting extra tasks or favour requests or meeting times don’t help the situation. But there are some things in life too important to wait the four or five days it’ll take for the storm to pass. Many times, after you emerge from your struggle, the opportunity for that meeting, fun meetup or application has passed. There is no perfectly convenient time for anything, so don’t be tempted to leave things until you have the perfect moment to pick them up.

Lesson Six: There is no need to pretend you know everything

It’s nice to be “be in the know” in whatever way; what new movie is coming out next week, what that protein does, what your friends’ favourite restaurant is, how to use some weird piece of equipment. So understandably, it’s undesirable to show anyone (sometimes even ourselves) that we just don’t know. I think two things are important here: redefining our relationships with the things we don’t know (seeing them as new challenges, not deficits in ourselves) and embracing the spirit of being continuous learners. I found that admitting I don’t know something more often has been freeing, and is something I want to embrace more.

Lesson Seven: Plan ahead, but don’t make that plan binding

A previous mentor of mine once said “be kind to your future self”. I think this so aptly illustrates why we must consider what impact we are having on any future actions we take if we neglect something we need to do today. But it’s still important to remember our plans will most probably never go to plan, and life isn’t linear in any way.

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