This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
Here are some things you might not regularly contemplate that deserve some thought.
1: Where your life is going, in the broad sense.
You are probably saying, “Crazy Rob, I am so future-oriented it would blow your mind,” and reciting what you are doing to prepare for your future. Though you can’t know what your career is going to be further out than five years, what you can do is ask fundamental questions, such as, “Who do you want to be when you’re 40? 80?” We have an implicit trust: If we plan the next step and succeed, then we can plan the rest later. Instead, you can dream up where you want to be, then walk backward from there, figuring out what needs to happen to live the dream.
2: What biases you have, and how they make you who you are.”Check your privilege,” you might hear if you hang with certain people. Growing up, we are supposed to confront different views and question what we think, reaching new conclusions about beliefs we took for granted. Still, we don’t often make time to actively inspect the lens through which we see the world.
Think about the way you select what you consume — likely a more important bias than how you interpret any particular narrative. What other biases do you have? It feels silly to write a list, but if you actually do it, and let me know, I’ll give you a gold star, redeemable for one hug.
3: Goals, strategies, tactics, plans and habits.
You hear people talk about vision, leadership and goal-setting. You swallow platitudes whole. You know you have to plan ahead, think about your goals and develop strategies for accomplishing them. You’ve heard that stuff hundreds of times, probably. But now it’s on you to take the time to contemplate your goals, observe patterns in your behavior and design habits and mental tactics to serve as the basis of your actions.
Schedule an hour a week, or if that’s not your thing, take a strange, intense weekend all at once. It’s going to take time to formulate these things, so browse Wikipedia articles for heuristics and thought, read the “Seven Habits of” whomever, and figure out how you tick.
4: What you learn in your major, and what people learn in other majors.
While those designing course requirements no doubt know what they are doing, they cannot tailor your course of studies just for you.
You must contemplate the point of each class (and extracurricular and job). Are you taking economics to help you understand the way value flows among people or for analytical skills? How does it relate to the material in your government, English, or biology classes? While the advisers and forms will help you graduate with the necessary credits, you are responsible for drawing the connections among your classes, for building yourself from all these disparate pieces of theory and data.
Don’t wait until senior year to realize why you had to take foundational classes. Don’t look back during a midlife crisis and think you ought to have paid better attention or taken a different class. There is no requirement to learn the shape of human knowledge (unless you are in library and information science, and then only maybe), and no one will tell you who you are. Make time to talk about it, think about it, write things down, draw out different four-year plans and consider how your education fits together into an integrated whole. That process is likely as valuable as the stuff you learn in class, which has a current market value of about $80,000. Take it or leave it.