University: Don’t Rush.

A bit of sound advice for those waiting on University Acceptance Letters.

There is a certain narrative that young people are sold these days: University is the only path to success.

We’re told that if we want to make a difference, we need to pack our bags and join the never-ending queue of people rushing to University straight after High School.

But I’m here to tell you that attending University is not the only way to succeed, and it certainly isn’t the only way to make a difference.

Opened Notebook With Three Assorted-color Pens

Please don’t get me wrong here – I am a firm believer in education. Without an educated society, we give in to ignorance.

But what I am saying is:

If you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you finish High School – University won’t magically enlighten you.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of rushing off to university with everyone else.

We’ve all heard the same old lines, over and over again:

‘University is the only way to make good money.’

‘No one will hire you without a degree these days.’

‘You’ll be stuck in this town forever if you don’t go to University.’

The trouble is, entering a degree straight from High-School is oftentimes not what we should be doing. We risk being put in a box, becoming disillusioned and regret going to University at all.

I’m not saying everyone will have this issue – some people know exactly what they want to do for a career and enter University with confidence that they know where their future is headed – and that’s absolutely fine!

Question Mark Illustration

But when I was in High-School, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

I was told by my teachers to fill out a University Application like everyone else, and put some preferences down.

I chose Nutrition, Art, Law and Psychology as my preferences.

My choices were based on what I thought everyone else would want me to do, because I was young, impressionable and everyone expected me to go to University. I really had no concept of how big of a decision a degree was.

I was a bright student, and got accepted into Law School a couple of months later.

But I had never studied anything to do with Law before, and had chosen the topic because I thought it would be ‘cool’ and that my Dad would be ‘proud’.

I didn’t choose Law because I had a career in mind.

I struggled my way through three years of Law School, because I didn’t want to let my friends and family down. I felt guilty for going off to University and not liking what I was studying.

I had poor grades, I hated my degree and had realized my passion lay elsewhere – I wanted to help vulnerable children and young people.

It wasn’t until 3rd year that I had realised I hated Law School and had never wanted to be a lawyer – I was just caught up in the hype of going to University.

It was this sudden realization that made me switch into Psychology instead.

I enjoyed my Psychology studies, but I was already three years into University, and was becoming more and more depressed and regretful – I had wasted 3 years of my life studying something I never truly cared about.

I kept thinking: ‘If I had done Psychology to begin with, I would have graduated by now…’

This mindset led to me becoming miserable and resentful of going to University at all – plus by this stage in my life, I was in my 20’s, had bills, a job and plenty of personal issues that distracted me from studying.

Boy in Brown Hoodie Carrying Red Backpack While Walking on Dirt Road Near Tall Trees

I ended up dropping my studies.

I contacted my University a year later and asked if there was anything I could do, or any qualification that I could attain from the University, considering how long I had studied for.

The University offered me an Associate Degree for the amount of topics I studied – basically the equivalent of an Advanced Diploma (which would have only taken me 2 years at TAFE).

I graduated in 2017 with an Associate Degree (I began University study in 2011). I didn’t attend graduation because I was ashamed and felt I had failed myself and my family. I then spent 5 years in different industries, gaining valuable life experience, before I ever even used my Associate’s Degree for anything. To me, it was just a bit of paper that reminded me I could have been much more successful than I currently was.

Luckily, an opportunity arose, and the Associate Degree was enough for me to obtain work in the field I have now realized I have a passion for: Youth Support Work.

Flat Lay Photography of Notebook, Pen, and Drafting Compass

I have now been working as a Youth Support Worker for over 6 months, and enjoy every moment of it.

I work with vulnerable young people who are wards of the State and have a relationship with a range of people from different organisations and the Department of Child Protection.

It is only now, 9 years later, that I have finally decided that if I go back to University, it will be to do Social Work – something I am passionate about.

For a long time, I felt I had achieved nothing but accumulate a large student-loan debt and a waste a lot of years studying something I didn’t even care about.

And although my journey was long, twisted and had lots of bumps, I finally found something I would be willing to go back to study for, and for that I am grateful. I have long-since let go of my resentment.

But more importantly, what I wish for everyone getting their High-School grades soon and receiving their University offers is this:

Don’t rush. Take time to know who you are and what you want to do before you jump straight into a degree.

And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing it.

Unrealistic Expectations & Their Consequences

What to do when there’s too much to do.

It’s the same old story: impossible deadlines, unachievable KPI’s, not enough team members, inadequate budgets and bosses who seem to live in a fantasy land.

Whilst setting goals is perfectly normal and an expected part of any job, the reality is that setting the bar too high has incredibly negative ramifications on employees and over time, the business as well.

SHORT TERM PROBLEMS:

Unrealistic expectations in the workplace can have immediate effects on employees and the business, including:

A DROP IN WORK QUALITY

What happens when we have deadlines that are unrealistic? We rush. We cut corners and we don’t double check things…. because we don’t have time!

And when we rush, we miss things. The quality of our work is sacrificed and things become sloppy and disjointed.

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Person Lying on Sofa

ABSENTEEISM

Who would want to get out of bed and go to work, knowing they will never live up to their bosses expectations?

Unrealistic expectations create stress and anxiety which costs workplaces money in sick/ stress leave.

Not only does absenteeism go up, but pressure rises too – the rest of the team has to pick up the slack.

MISSED DEADLINES

When there are unrealistic expectations, deadlines and due dates become increasingly difficult to achieve.

This becomes a massive issue, especially in team environments, where missing due dates could potentially mean missing out on bonuses.

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LONG TERM PROBLEMS:

Setting unrealistic goals, time-frames or other expectations in the workplace not only have immediate ramifications, but can also lead to longer lasting issues in the workplace, including:

Boy in Brown Hoodie Carrying Red Backpack While Walking on Dirt Road Near Tall Trees

EMPLOYEE TURNOVER

People don’t want to work in a job that has an unattainable ideal. If workers don’t get praise, or manage to reach goals and feel successful, they end up disenchanted.

Often, employees feel they have to seek validation and success somewhere else.

This is a huge issue, where companies want to achieve great things, but end up losing workers with valuable knowledge and experience in the process.

LOW MORALE

If the work is ‘never done’ and the goals are never met, when do staff get a chance to celebrate their achievements?

Never.

When we don’t celebrate the successes, it can lead to low self-esteem, low motivation and productivity, and eventually, low morale.

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Pair of Red-and-white Low-top Sneakers

FAILURE BECOMES ACCEPTED

If success is not an option and targets are set too high, failure is a given. Sometimes, this failure becomes the norm, and eventually accepted.

People stop trying, projects become doomed, and no one achieves their true potential. Not only that, but respect for managers becomes non-existent and employees become un-willing to do anything but the bare minimum.

So, how do we avoid setting the bar too high?

Unrealistic expectations make for an uninterested, unproductive team. It affects employees, managers and the company as a whole, so it is worth tackling properly. So how to we do that?

NUMBER ONE:

Understand Your Employees

How will you know what your workers are capable of doing, if you have no idea of the scope of their skill set?

Understanding what people are good at, what they need help with and who is able to help them are all important things to know.

You also need to know their limits.

If you know your Call Centre employees can make roughly 80 calls a day, you don’t set the target to 300. If you know a job requires at least 4 people, don’t make one person do it.

Gallup uses the Clifton Strength Finder is an amazing way to understand the people who work for you, and how they tick.

But asking questions, being available and have a workforce that isn’t dehumanized is a great place to start!

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Macbook Air Beside Printing Paper

NUMBER TWO:

Constant Evaluation

If you want to make sure you aren’t setting unrealistic expectations, looking at trends in your data is a great tool.

Not only that, but asking for feedback from the people who work for you is an excellent way to keep an eye on morale, while also finding out what works and what doesn’t.

If you can keep track of the numbers, and can see there hasn’t been any goals hit for months, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

These days, there are even websites like Peakon, which gathers employee feedback, and can provide insights for improvement.

NUMBER THREE:

Be Reasonable & Outline Expectations

Look at the project you need completed as a whole. If you want something completely in a month, what resources will you need? How many people, how many hours, how much money, etc., etc.,etc.

You can’t just decide what you want and when you want it and dive right in without a plan.

Take a step back and consider what the entirety of the picture looks like, and how it will be achieved.

Only then can you set the expectations, and only then will they be thought out and reasonable.

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AND LASTLY…

Support Your Staff!!!

You’re all in this together!

Why put unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations on the people you see day in and day out? They’re there because they have the ability to make real changes in the company – so support them!

As Wolfgang Von Goethe puts it:

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.’

How Embracing Your Mental Illness Can Empower You.

‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’
– Mark Twain

Mental Illness is a struggle that affects many people and can take many different forms.

Mental Illness can be lonely and debilitating, forcing us to withdraw socially and try to hide our condition from the world. One of the hardest things for those who are suffering from Mental Health Issues to do, is to accept their condition in the first place.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being introverted, or enjoying time to ourselves, but it becomes a bigger issue when that becomes the norm. Balancing those qualities and still having (and maintaining) meaningful connections with those around us can sometimes be hard – especially when we choose not to accept our reality.

Many of us choose to suffer in the dark, rather than admit to anyone they are struggling, or are ‘different’ or ‘sick’. This shouldn’t have to happen.

There is far more beauty, strength and power in accepting and embracing our flaws.

‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’

Mark Twain

Here are a few ways to learn how to embrace our struggles and turn them into something we can use in order to grow in our journey:

Get Diagnosed & Refer To Your Condition By Name.

Being diagnosed can often bring about shame or confusion in many people, as well as feelings of guilt or anger. ‘Why me?’ is something that people ask over and over again.

But as scary as being diagnosed is, it can be incredibly useful as well.

You can’t defeat something if you don’t know what it is you’re fighting. But knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step to finding a solution – a way to fight back.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Depression – call it by its name. Bi-Polar? Name it. Anxiety? Own it. If you name something, you own it. If you own it, you choose how much power it has over you.

If you choose to name your condition, you also help others put a name and face to the condition – making it far easier to relate to and empathize with – thus reducing the stigma attached to it.

Educate Yourself.

If you want to educate others, you start by educating yourself. If you want to be empowered and influential, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the topic you want people to understand.

Having stories, facts and figures at our fingertips can prove incredibly important when we are trying to get our point across to someone. And learning just how many other people out there are in similar circumstances to us can propel us forward and give us hope and confidence.

Sidney Hook put it like this:

‘Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’

If we can learn about ourselves, and truly know ourselves, it can create an energy within and a fire that can’t be extinguished. Being able to feel good about ourselves starts from within.

Respect Your Mental Illness.

If you want to own your diagnosis, you need to learn how it works.

If you want to tame a beast, you need to know how to make it feel respected.

Some forces demand a certain amount of respect – they are powerful and damaging, but beautiful too – like fire.

The same thing goes for our Mental Health. If we want to own our diagnoses, we need to respect that there are going to be days that are better than others. And that’s okay.

Never minimize your condition. It simply is what it is, and that sometimes means adjusting ourselves accordingly.

For some, that means taking extra self-care steps. For others, it’s removing ourselves from a toxic situation.

Paying attention to ourselves and our conditions is critical when it comes to empowerment and feeling ‘in-control’.

Implement Self-Care Measures That Work For You.

Self-Care is meaningless if you aren’t focusing on yourself. Self-Care looks different for everyone – and that’s totally fine. What works for one, may not work for another.

The challenge is finding what does work best for us as individuals. There’s no point joining your friend for Yoga if you absolutely can’t stand getting sweaty and bending yourself into a knot. It may work for your friend, but not you.

For some of us, Self-Care is as simple as taking some time out for an afternoon nap. For others, it’s hitting the gym, or a nice hot bath.

Spend some time thinking about the last time you truly felt relaxed, and work from there. If you know how to manage the bad days, you will find yourself feeling much better and more in-control over our situation and condition.

And Lastly…

Embracing who you are is vital on all of our journeys – not just people with Mental Illnesses. Being able to accept who you are, flaws and all, is hard sometimes (even for the best of us). So don’t give up, and remember you are never alone.

If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone, there are plenty of places you can reach out:

WEBSITES:

Headspace

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

MensLine Australia

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Q Life (LGBTI+ Specific)

PHONE:

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

QLife: 1800 184 527

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