I walked past one of my student leaders today. I asked him how things were going. He responded that he felt like he could use another week. (classes start in less than a week).
As I thought about his response, I understood how much a break can mean in the life of a student. A semester of studies can be demanding both mentally and physically. Those intense weeks of learning, reading, and studying - coupled with a student's other involvements and responsibilities - can be draining.
But this is the unique rhythm of an academic year. As many of us are starting to gear up for another semester of learning and growing, I wanted to offer some simple advice for those in student leadership (or most any student) to get the M.O.S.T. out of the opportunities each semester brings.
Each semester you make some commitments. Those commitments are based on your academic schedule, your extra-curricular involvements, your friendships, and your other responsibilities. You've even made some commitments to yourself. Now it's time to manage those commitments.
Get out your calendar and write everything down on it. Look at it every week to give yourself an idea of what lies ahead. Look at it every day to remind yourself of what's expected of you and to reflect on what you just experienced. Keep a calendar as your constant companion and make sure to make time for what's most important.
Managing what's most important is called prioritizing. Every commitment is not on equal footing. Keeping some sense of balance in your life requires constant correction. Spread yourself too thin and you'll find that you don't have the energy for excellence or the time to be terrific at anything.
That's right - getting the MOST out of your semester isn't all about you. In fact, the most rewarding experiences you have during your semester will involve doing things for others. As Zig Ziglar says, "If you help enough other people get what they want, then you'll discover you get what you want." Listen to others. Help others. Serve others.
It's so easy to get busy and start living from event to event, project to project. When you do that, the focus tends to be on yourself and everything you're experiencing. But if you widen your perspective and include others in your area of concern, you'll find you're less worried, less stressed, and more connected to the life of your campus.
Most of the students reading this are student leaders. So I invite you to do the thing that you've signed up for - I invite you to lead and to lead well.
If you can focus on being excellent in the first two areas above (manage your year and be others-focused) you will already have gone a long way in laying the foundation for your leadership. The second semester of a student leadership year can be the most difficult. You'll begin to see the end coming, you'll experience others seeking to fill your position when you're gone, and you'll find that people aren't as motivated as they were at the beginning of the year. That's why strong leadership is so necessary at this time.
You will probably only be able to accomplish one or two more big things as a student leader. But what you accomplish can go a long way in making sure that you finish as strong as you started. It will be easy to simply pull back and go through the motions. But is that how you want to be remembered? Your legacy you leave behind is determined by the leadership you live right now. The worst thing you could end your leadership year with is regret.
The beauty of being a "student leader" is the student part of it. You're learning. That means you get to try some things and figure out your own unique style of leadership. You get to fail and discover that it won't kill you (in fact, I hope you learn the most from those mistakes).
But learning from your leadership opportunity doesn't happen unless you have that one special ingredient: teachability.
You don't get to choose all the experiences you have, but you do get to choose what to do with them. I challenge you to make everyday an opportunity to learn. To move outside of your comfort zones and transform your experiences into new lessons. This will make each day an opportunity for lifelong growth.
I wish you all the best as you embark on a new semester. If you still wish you had a little more time for your break, just remember: If you learn to love the process, you'll find you start to love the learning.