How many times have you heard that your years in college will be the greatest years you will ever have? Even if you have the wisdom to see the falsehood of that statement, it's impossible to deny that there is a lot of pressure to make college exceptional. Your elementary and secondary school years are spent dreaming about it, working to get into that one school, and once you get in, everything complicated in your life will fall perfectly into place, right?
Wrong. Let me preface this by stating that college is fun. It's a time to meet new people, explore who you are, and build connections that will last a life time. And yes, you will probably look back on college and notice that a handful of your college memories really are some of the greatest you've ever made. College, though, is not all fun and games. You have to figure out who you want to be, and most of the time, there's pressure to figure that out right now. What do you want to study? What do you want to do? Will you go into the workforce, or should you try to go straight into graduate school? What do you value? Who are you really?
College is an amalgamation of extreme opposites. You are getting your first taste of adult freedom, while simultaneously feeling restrained by the pressures of school. You feel sure of yourself on campus, while also feeling uncertain of where you fit in the "real world." College is a time in your life rife with indecision, and how you deal with it shapes your experience, while teaching you how to deal with obstacles you will face later in life.
I'm sitting in the middle of the indecision right now as I enter my second year of college, but I've already handled my fair share. I walked on to Harvard's campus in August 2017 an ardent Republican and a yoga aficionado, just knowing that I was going to concentrate in Government with a secondary in English, join the competitive Mock Trial team and the college Republicans, and graduate in three years before going to Harvard Law School.
One year has passed. I am returning to Harvard a fierce political independent and weight lifter, concentrating in Philosophy, and definitely taking all four years to graduate. I never tried out for the Mock Trial team, and I didn't run for student government. I left the college Republicans to form a group on campus for political moderates, and who knows whether I'll be in law school three years from now.
The point is that this year threw every obstacle in my way. Going off to school forced me to question who I am, what I want, and how I am going to accomplish my goals. When I went to college, I made things difficult for myself because I did not want to accept that I did not have my life completely figured out. I could not acknowledge that my thirty year plan might not have been perfect, or even good for me. As a result, I dug my metaphorical heels into the ground, and I resisted change. I forced myself to go to Government events that I did not want to attend. I tried to make myself fit into spaces on campus that I knew in my heart were not where I belonged.
Why? Because I thought it would be easier. I thought that keeping myself in a state of contentedness rather than reaching for real happiness was good for me. I could not bear the thought of taking a risk to find fulfillment, and failing to do so. I was comfortable; why fix what isn't broken?
Clearly, I had a change of heart. It came when I was sitting on the floor of Widener Library at 10:30 pm, discussing Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy with a group of my classmates and my professor. It was the moment I fell in love with philosophy, and I decided to take the words of the Meditations to heart.
In Descartes's Second Meditation, the meditator is questioning whether she exists. Eventually, she comes to the conclusion of "cogito ergo sum," which translates to "I think, therefore, I am." The meditator uses this to prove her own existence; when I heard it, I decided to use it to affirm mine.
Cogito ergo sum. Those three Latin words sent me into an existential spiral. If thinking is the essence of existence, then didn't a constant denial of my innermost thoughts constitute a constant denial of my own existence? Why was I so intent on following a path I had fabricated for myself years ago, when my mind was begging me to move in another direction?
That night changed my life. In that moment, I decided to stop denying my reason, instead combining it with my passions to create a path that made me truly happy. When I was faced with cognitive dissonance, I asked myself why I was experiencing it, and I used my reason to carve a new path that avoided it. I questioned my preconceptions, challenged my beliefs, and constructed a new system of values. These values have led me to some incredible opportunities, experiences that have brought me true joy.
What does this have to do with you and dealing with indecision in college? Everything. College is so often described as a place designed to challenge you, but the challenge goes so far beyond the classroom. You need to challenge yourself. Examine your beliefs, dissect them, and decide which ones are worth keeping. Rebuild your character and your system of values to create a person who is confident, life-affirming, and happy.
When you are faced with indecision, ask yourself why you are feeling it. Trace it back to your values, and reason your way through it. I know, I know: easier said than done. You are right. Dealing with indecision in college is not by any means easy, especially when it feels as if the stakes are higher than ever. Indecision, though, helps us towards inner discovery. It forces us to adapt, to progress in order to address the obstacles ahead.
Face indecision head on, and do not fear failure. Failure allows us to grow. It shows us that somewhere along the line, there was an error in the mechanics of our decision making, and it teaches us to review our mistakes to become stronger. I am by no means the expert on dealing with self doubt, but I can tell you from personal experience that in our moments of indecision, there are no wrong answers. Every time you are faced with a challenging decision, you are faced with an opportunity for growth. Follow your reason combined with your passion, and do not be afraid to embrace change. After all, these are the best years of your life.
We’ve all been there. We’ve had an experience or a situation that has taken us from our “happy place” into one of despair and misery. Sometimes it can last a day, other times weeks, months and in extreme cases years. None of us are immune to things happening that we can’t control, but how we handle it is up to us.
I have certainly had occurrences where the questions, “Really God?!” and “Why me?!” has crossed the threshold of my mouth and what I have learned is that while those may be the times I feel least like having and expressing my gratitude, those are the times that I most need to go deep and find it. So, I’ve come up with a few tips to get to that place of having gratitude even when you don’t feel so grateful.
Firstly, step outside of yourself. That means stop making everything about you for a bit and focus on someone else. Give some of your time and energy to another person who could use your help or love. One way to do this is by volunteering. It is amazing how not only helping other people puts things in perspective with regard to your own life and circumstances, but it also gives you the reciprocal gift of feeling love and connection to another human being- something definitely to feel grateful for.
Next, just watch the news, even better news that covers things that are happening in other parts of the world. While this may strike a chord, because sadly so much of what is covered by the news is negative, seeing how other people’s lives are being affected in your own backyard and on the other side of the world can certainly help you qualify and classify what you’re dealing with which can in turn give a sense of gratitude.
Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a human being. We all have ups and down; some downs are significant and life altering while other downs simply throw us off track for a bit. This isn’t about feeling bad for the sake of feeling bad – what good does that do? But when you are in the valley of disappointment and depression, start making your list. Your list of what you can be grateful for. You may feel at first like you’re pulling it out of where the sun don’t shine, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are taking a positive and progressive step toward being in a place of gratitude.
Here’s what I know about living in gratitude. The more we can express our gratitude, the more God/The Universe hears us and gives us more to be grateful for. It’s part of that wild Law of Attraction thing. So, the real key is to just get started and make it a habit; every day come up with 5 things for which you are grateful and just watch how that list magically expands.
If you’re not sure where to begin here’s a list that you can borrow from until you can create your own.
Things To Be Grateful For
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
It’s only the second month of 2018 and most of us are still probably getting into our groove after the start of a new year. I’m sure I am not alone in trying to stick with New Year’s resolutions, by regularly giving thought to what I can do to make myself and my life better. What can I change to make this happen?
For me, the idea of change hasn’t necessarily been a daunting thing as much as it’s been an external thing. For years I saw change as something that happened around me or to me; that I had to adjust or react to.
But then I came across the Norman Vincent Peele quote, “Change your thoughts and change your world.” My first thought was, how could such a simple saying be so deep and complex? Well, I was determined to make it complex, ‘cause that’s how I roll, by nature or nurture. I’ve grown to believe if something is simple it’s too easy; or it’s cheating (thanks Baby Boomer Parents!)
But the more I let that idea marinate the more I realized it is that simple. So why hadn’t I thought of it myself?! I chalk it up to it being a case of having to hear the right thing at the right time.
That got me thinking. Sure, when things aren’t going the way we want we can change external things- i.e. the variables like our clothes, our car, our hair, our jobs, even our partners- but the one thing that is constant is us! And if we’re the ones that need true change; altering or eliminating that external stuff is a just temporary fix. We must first change ourselves by, as Mr. Peele so profoundly put it, “changing our thoughts.” Otherwise we will be in an emotional tar pit for as long as we keep our old way of thinking.
There is no denying it; our thoughts are powerful. They are powerful because what starts as a thought /idea, then becomes words- written or spoken. Those words also take on power because they become actions and energy. Actions are what we must take to create the momentum for change to occur. So, it all starts with changing our thoughts—but how often do we think of it that way?!
Full disclosure- I have struggled with my weight since adolescence. I had the unfortunate hindrance of steroids and medication for asthma that played its role, but later, it was my addiction to food and using food as comfort and medication to feed my emotions that was to blame. I failed miserably at every “diet/life style” change I tried except for ONE time.
I desperately needed a change. I was coming out of a toxic work situation and personal relationship during which I’d added an additional 20+ pounds to my already full figure. But I decided to approach it from a completely different angle.
Instead of attacking the issue from the standpoint of “I’m doing this to lose weight and see how many pounds and inches I can lose.” I chose to approach it from the perspective of “How healthy can I get? How will changing the way I’m treating my body benefit me?” I was certainly open to all the possibilities and if it included not dropping a lot of weight that would be a bonus. It was my own personal psychological experiment, which I took literally one day at a time.
Not that I’m recommending this, but you should know the seriousness of my commitment. I vowed to myself and my viewers (at the time I had a daily web show) that I would go 90 Days with NO Sugar, NO Wheat, NO Dairy, NO Gluten, NO Alcohol.
On stage while doing stand-up comedy, I share that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Detoxing from the sugar was the worst! It was so bad at times I hallucinated. I was at the mall one day and these two little white kids with frizzy hair walked by; and I started following them because I thought they were cotton candy!
Joking aside, I did have highs and lows, but the longer I stayed in my commitment to my health vs. my singular goal of weight-loss the stronger I became and the more incredible differences I began to notice in myself. I was sleeping better. My thoughts were clearer. My skin was looked amazing! I was glowing so that a few people asked if I was pregnant. My asthma and allergies became almost non-existent and I felt really good about myself. Oh, and in those 90 days I lost about 22 inches and close to 30 lbs.
While there were several factors in my success the main one I credit is my completely different approach. Because I changed my thoughts I changed my world.
We obviously aren’t all dealing with the same struggles or issues so while there is certainly no cookie–cutter answer, I can’t help but believe that starting by changing how you think about something, changing how you approach something and seeing how you can put a twist on it will help you bring about the change you want to see and be. So when you think about it, what do you have to lose?
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
In the past a five years I have experienced some pretty incredible and drastic life changes. I went from being a single Carrie Bradshaw-esque New Yorker to a married stay-at-home-working mom of two under two. I had the very specific life dream to be married and “have a couple of kids” by a certain birthday- I met my goal with 48 hours to spare. But things were and still are far from perfect.
I know I’m not alone. I am not the only woman who suffers from “perfection-itis” (Shout out to Doc McStuffins). Most women, not all, but most have this ingrained, yet completely unnatural, compulsion to be perfect. We want to be the perfect wife, perfect girlfriend, perfect mother, perfect friend, perfect sister, perfect daughter, perfect boss, perfect employee. THE PERFECT PERSON!!! We want it like there’s a prize to be had.
I’m dying to know where this idea of attaining perfection came from. Did it start with my mother or the Kardashians? Does it go as far back as supermodels or the whacked-out image of the 1950’s housewife that our own mothers and grandmother’s were killing themselves to emulate? After a “come-to-Jesus-meeting” with myself about it, sadly, I understood I’ve been attempting perfection most of my life. I’ve only just had the realization that my attempts have been in vain.
You see, a few days after the birth of my first daughter while lamenting, what at the time felt like an epic fail in my mothering and life skills, a girlfriend said to me, “Karith, you can be perfect…or you can be happy. The choice is yours.”
Now, that’s when the heavens should have opened up; angels begun their chorus and my friend should have been showered in a golden white light equivalent to the epiphany I should have had in that moment. Unfortunately, I was too tired and foggy to appreciate the power of those words. I know now, that was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. Her statement was simple and nonjudgmental and while it made me smile and feel good on the surface it took years of marinating to help me get to where I am now.
So how with two kids under two, a relatively new relationship/marriage and a very demanding career, did I get into the right headspace to choose happiness over perfection? The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that it IS a choice. The second thing I had to do was recognize perfection for the lie that it is. There is no such thing as perfect and that is okay.
In order to stay on my track for happiness and not be sucked into the veritable pitfalls of perfection I developed a guide for myself. I call it sticking to the B.A.S.I.C.S.
Be kind to yourself. It is amazing how readily we beat ourselves up but are so quick to be sympathetic to a friend. You need to be your own best friend and treat yourself as such. This also means be your own biggest cheerleader so that others know how to treat you. People take their cues how to treat you from how they see you treat yourself.
Ask for help. Even I still need work on this one. But I’ve realized I can let my pride stand in the way of my success and be miserable or I can ask for what I need and 9 times out of 10 get it. This isn’t about taking advantage of another person’s time or energy it’s about putting what you need out there and in doing so taking care of yourself so that you can then pay it forward. Why do you think companies hire employees or start-ups seek investors? They need help to get the success they desire.
Stop comparing yourself. To whom you may ask? To your mother, your sister, your brother, your cousin, your best friend, the Super PTA Mom, the mom blogger you follow, anyone on Pinterest, your Facebook frienemy, your boss, your nemesis. If you’ve not picked up what I’m saying -essentially anyone who makes you feel less than when you compare yourself to them. Your #1 job is to be THE BEST YOU you can be.
Ignore the critics- that includes you. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams, don’t let anyone create doubt. Be open to advice and guidance for sure, but there is a distinct difference between someone who is trying to support you in their critique versus someone whose trying to bring you down.
Celebrate even the smallest of victories. Say you stepped out of your comfort zone and you did something, like, oh, I don’t know asked for help? Or maybe you’re a new mom and you’ve not slept in more than 3 hour increments in weeks. Celebrate that stuff. Have a Hershey’s kiss, do a 60 second “happy dance”, get that 10-minute shower Girlfriend!
Say thank you. Show gratitude for even the smallest things. Sometimes we have days where it seems like everything is going wrong, like we can’t catch a break and if one more person gets on one more nerve you’re going to lose it. But before you do- stop. Take a deep breath and quickly think of 5 things that you are truly grateful you have in your life. It can be as simple as access to clean water or as deep as both of your parents are still alive. It doesn’t matter what you’re grateful for, just reflect on it for a moment until you’re grounded again. Don’t just do this when you’re upset. Make this a regular exercise. I don’t know why it works this way, but God/The Universe hears/feels this gratitude and for some reason rewards you with more to be grateful.
I am in no way perfect, nor is this article, but I’m happier for putting it out there and I hope you take what you need from it. Remember, perfection is in the eye of the advertiser, the casting director and the photoshopper. Happiness is in the heart of the beholder.