Back in May, I was in the midst of a hectic summer session handling 200+ American study abroad students here in Italy for a four short weeks. An Italian classmate came in and asked me about my plans for my upcoming two months off. I rattled off my confirmed plans and then a few other things that were still in progress. When I finished, the college-aged Resident Assistant on desk duty at the time then said to me, “Wow. If there’s one thing you really know, it’s how to really live life. I want to live life like you.” Often, people ask how I go adventuring around.
Here are a few methods to my madness…
Goal Setting (Focus) – What do you want to achieve? By when? What will it take to make it happen? Outline your goals on paper or via something like a vision board (yes, there are plenty of apps for this). This makes them real and enables you to visualize what you actually want to do. I ended up printing pictures and phrases out last winter and designing my own makeshift vision board at home. Be sure to detail actions and other necessary steps you need to take to make them happen. Research, research, and do more research. For example, if you want to travel to some place requiring a visa, list out the process to follow. I’m a big fan of to-do-lists and Post-it Notes and anyone who has seen my desk can confirm this. I write things down, tackle them head on, and then enjoy the gratification of scratching the items off my list. For those of you with more energy, one student recently told me that he writes one thing to do on each Post-it Note, sticks it to the wall, and then, once the task has been completed, revels in the act of tearing the Post-it off the wall and throwing it on the floor in victory. In all seriousness, once you’ve outlined what you want to do and how you’re going to get there, tell others who can support you and who might even want to do the same things. Doing this will also help you FOCUS on the necessary and avoid distractions.
Planning – Apologies, you non-planners will hate me for saying this, and it might even sound counterintuitive, but it’s true. You must plan to a certain extent. And then prioritize. I decided that I wanted to venture to and experience all 20 of Italy’s regions before I move out of the country. However, due to working full time, MBA classes, visiting friends, and other commitments, I have limited spare time. Thus, I have to scrupulously plan my free weekends. For each season I travel, I create a comprehensive Google Doc full of all of the dates I’ll be in each destination and the necessary travel arrangements I’ve made or those I’d like to make. Then, I send it to my immediate family (for obvious reasons) and to any friends who might be in mix aka meeting up with me some place. Activities and events aren’t always filled in, leaving plenty of room for spontaneity. Even for volunteering at a 2018 World Cup-related event in Russia in July, I had to *plan* to have Italian friends help me translate the Italian-Russian consulate website, then call to check if I could submit documents in English, and then coordinate a visa appointment in Milan while I was still in Sicily. One colleague implied a few weeks ago that my life was boring because I planned things. Inside, I was giggling at the thought of one professor this summer remarking that she needed to get a GPS to keep track of me. I had the summer of my life but it did take hard work and planning to make it a reality.
Confidence aka Fearlessness – You have to know that you’ll succeed. Or at least be OK that in failing, you succeed by learning something in the process. So, essentially, yes, you’re going to succeed. More often than not, planning precedes confidence. But in the end, just freaking do it and know that it will be OK. I booked a bus to Macedonia, hoping to get to Montenegro from there, and simply thought, I’ll figure it out when I get there. Put yourself in situations where you are challenged and I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself. Sound a bit nerve-wracking? Start small and take a different, slightly unfamiliar way home from work or school. “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” ~Denis Waitley
Helping Others – In a previous blog about developing and maintaining support networks abroad, I discussed the importance of giving without expecting anything in return. In his short, simple, and super to-the-point TEDx talk, Unleash Your Superpower, Deepak Goel preaches the merits of micro-giving, the need to be consistent and unconditional about it, and the ever-imperative connecting with others. I couldn’t agree more.Fostering connections enables people to find meaning in their lives and I have an inkling that no one would really want to say ‘no’ to that. Engage with family and friends and remember, strangers are like friends you haven’t met yet! A world of supporters – people whom you can also support – is still out there waiting for you. Really, “The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.” – Iyanla Vanzant
Being and Staying True to Yourself – Do you! One of the best pieces of feedback I’ve ever received came from a close friend last September. I was about to embark on a two and a half day intensive leadership/personal development training and had asked for feedback to contemplate throughout the process. I still recall him saying, ” I feel like you’re the kind of person who, when you turn 30, you’ll feel like you shouldn’t be doing certain things that you did when you were younger, or you should now act this way based on perceived societal guidelines of how someone who’s 30 should act.” This striking comment beyond motivated me to continue going after what I – not society – thought I should be doing in my late 20’s! It’s led me to research more extraordinary, unconventional post-MBA options and to refrain from feeling constrained by others’ perceptions. With rampant FOMO these days, it’s easy to think you should do this and that by societal standards, but it may not fulfilling nor meaningful for you personally. Does the chance to do a working holiday in Australia keep nagging at you? Take a step back and listen non-judgmentally in order to pursue your own passions.
Proactiveness/Motivation – A lot of people have asked me, “How did you find out about this event?”, or say, “I didn’t even know you could do that!” How do I come across these things? I’m a self-starter interested in the exciting, motivating things that others are doing. I regularly surf LinkedIn profiles learning about the experience people in my career field have and stumble across incredible initiatives. I follow like-minded individuals on Twitter and use Klout to steer me towards other inspiring thought leaders. Then, I proceed to Google the people, organizations, events, companies, whatever, and if I like what I see, investigate how I can learn more or be a part of the action myself. Never, ever stop asking questions as you learn because once you do, you’ll stop getting answers to things that might very well thrill you. Opportunities don’t just fall in my lap – I seek them out as the best opportunities really are the ones you create for yourself. I can’t stress the importance of being proactive enough. Look for areas you can positively exploit for all parties and go make the magic happen yourself.
Does all of this seem pretty overwhelming? Pick one of the above and focus on improvement in that one particular area. Next, see what happens.