Why? A simple question, and one that can be deceptively hard to answer.
For many students, high school is a time driven by “musts”. I “must” take these classes to prove that I can handle a rigorous course load. I “must” get good grades so that I am accepted into my dream school. I “must” participate in extracurricular activities so that I have a diverse resume. Any time you hear the phrase “I must”, be wary – because it means that the action you are taking next is an obligation, and not a choice.
This is a small but important difference that completely alters your experience. Think about driving to a destination. A series of “musts” will move your car forward, but prevents you from enjoying the journey along the way. Choice – intentional choice – allows us to drive, and put the windows down so you can feel the breeze, and play your favorite road trip playlist on high volume, all while taking in all the gorgeous landscapes along the way.
Do you see where I am going with this?
When we begin to make conscious choices – choices that are fueled and supported by a strong WHY – we are naturally more engaged, curious, and present.
It is easy to live life on autopilot. To combat this, periodically take time to reflect on the choices you are making, and to confirm whether or not you know your “why”. If you don’t know where to start, begin by taking a look at your daily activities and choices, and asking yourself the following questions:
Is this activity, commitment, or relationship one that brings you joy?
Is it one that will help you grow into a better version of yourself?
Is it one that will teach you something, or challenge you?
Is it one that highlights or further develops your skills?
If the answer is no, reevaluate. Maybe there is a “why” hidden in there, despite the no – but it is important that you know what it is.
Students can use this process frequently to ensure that they are truly going the direction they want to go, and to be more aware of their growth and learning along the way. From a university application perspective, this knowledge of self is incredibly important. If a student can authentically reflect on their choices and their growth, it translates on paper as a more compelling and mature applicant. More importantly, it reminds students that they are in the driver’s seat – and this sense of agency can go a long way.