Shared by Leong ZhiZhong, Singapore Management University, Year 3
It’s getting tougher to be a happy Singaporean these days, don’t you agree? With the rising cost of living and immense competition, achieving happiness while surviving the economy becomes an obstacle. Well, life is tough, but we have to learn to be tougher. For us university undergraduates, this education can be a good platform for us to learn before we start working.
Five years back when I graduated from polytechnic, I could not get into my desired local university business courses despite trying for three consecutive years. In the end, I applied for the last choice on my list, SMU Information Systems (IS) and got accepted. At that point of time, I was absolutely clueless about IS since I came from a tourism diploma and had to make a choice between choosing a subject that I have no idea about, or going with a private degree in my area of interest. Eventually, I decided to take a leap of faith and join SMU because of its holistic education. No regrets!
SMU has taught me many lessons and has provided me with countless opportunities to grow. Of course, it may differ from individuals but I guess it is about the amount of effort one is willing to put in. It has been challenging for me as I don’t have the luxury to receive monthly allowances and thus, have been supporting myself since polytechnic graduation. With that difficulty, I value my education a lot because every decision I make has to be calculated to match my priorities.
They always say that university is like a triangle where you can only choose two options from social life, good grades and sleep. To me, it is more than just that. It is a test for me to attain good grades, get enough sleep, earn enough daily expenses for myself, have a social life and above all, achieve happiness. Despite that, I have managed to get a good balance through these two years. I am not a guru at this but here are some of my guiding principles through university.
1. Have Confidence and Trust yourself. If you don’t, don’t expect anyone else to do so
Having self-confidence is extremely important as it can be felt by people around you. Many times, we may take up responsibilities that are full of uncertainties and such times require us to trust ourselves that we are able to make it through. Also, there are moments when our decisions led us to some unwanted outcome such as failure. In such instances, we have to trust ourselves that we have made the right decision because there were reasons behind the choice when it was made. Having this mindset will allow one to avoid seeing failures as disasters, but just stepping stones to learn from.
I felt the importance of this value when I was the sponsorship directors for two events: SMU School of IS’s pageant bash 2013 and Project Sunshine 5 (an overseas community service project). As a sponsorship head, it was essential for me to portray confidence. I had to convince myself that I was able to raise $10,000 for my event within the limited time and that, required a lot of trust in myself. Well, if you don’t trust yourself, how would you convince others to trust you?
Confidence may be important but at times we may be over-confident to the point of arrogance, something that will lead directly to failure (in my opinion). With the endless number of opportunities we are offered in university, it is an excellent place for us to work on our confidence and know the fine line between confidence and arrogance; something we call humility.
2. Learn to Plan and Prioritize
All of us have 24 hours daily but some of us are able to get sufficient rest and still, produce quality work. The trick is to be efficient by learning to plan and prioritize. Planning may be painful, but it would cause more trouble when you end up without plans. Think about the times when you told yourself after a tired encounter that you would start planning on the next attempt. Did you?
The easiest way to plan is to list out your priorities. We all have tasks that require immediate attention and those that can wait. So come out with your list and make decisions based on that, it is that simple. Soon, it will become a habit and everything you do will be efficient.
Ultimately, planning and discipline works hand in hand to get the job done. So learn to plan through prioritizing and be disciplined enough to keep to your schedule. Don’t just work hard, work smart too.
3. Find the sense of joy in your sufferings
We will suffer many times in life, that’s a fact. When life throws us lemons, we can either learn to make lemonades out of it (having it with tequila and salt can be a good idea too) or get knocked out by the overwhelming number of lemons.
The key to making those lemonades is to find the sense of joy in all these sufferings. How so? It is about being positive in whatever you do and learning to appreciate what you have. There are many reasons to be grateful for what we have. We can be thankful for having a roof above our heads, having friends to get through the tough times with us or having sufficient food to eat. We just have to find reasons to move on through the tough days. My recent overseas community project to Laos made me realize how lucky we are, so appreciate what we have.
Project Sunshine 5
A meaningful quote by Anthony Robbins says “The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”
Time to learn to make some lemonades.
4. You are your own competitor
It is clear that the competition in university is fiery where everyone is particular about grades and performance. Well, I am too. The truth is that grades does matter because it is a gauge to how disciplined a student is. However, competing with your peers over such matters will only make you lose out. So, learn to be your own competitor. We are all raised from different backgrounds. Some of us are born into a rich family, where some of us have to work part-time jobs to sustain. My point here is that, no two people hold similar experiences and competing with one another isn’t wise. In the long run, it will only burn you out with all the endless thoughts of how inferior you are.
So don’t compare yourself with others if you want to be happy because there can be no end to the comparisons. Even if you are the richest man in the world, you would find fault with not being the best looking one. University is a place where we can work on this mindset due to its immense competition. So work hard, track your progress and be your own competitor!
5. Your body is not a machine, please take care of it.
Sometimes we are surprised with how resilient our bodies can be. We work hard round the clocks, over a few days to rush out an assignment that is due soon. But even machines need maintenance breaks, so remember to keep your health in check. It may seem that we are young and have nothing to lose. We can eat all we want and work all we want without exercising because our bodies can take it. Still, we must know that we aren’t doctors or fortunetellers (maybe some of you are). We can’t predict how our bodies will react to all these hard work, so remember to take good care of your health. You won’t want to end up regretting. This has been said countless times but wealth would be nothing without health.
As our schedule get packed, having time for workout sessions can seem almost impossible. Well, we all know that it is totally possible and is fully dependent on how well you can plan your schedule and how much you want it. It is also said that emotion and physical health are interlinked. I do agree on that as I am more productive and happy when my health and fitness are well. However if working out is really mission impossible, the least you could do is to watch what you eat, because all the little food you put into your body will have significant effect overtime.
“The first step is always the hardest, but it’s the only way to reach the second step.” -Susan Gale
If you don’t develop that habit, it will only get tougher when you start working. So take good care of your health now!
SMU Caderas Latinas Salsa and running is where I take a break from academics
6. Have some Time-out everyday
Take some time-out and relax daily. I don’t mean time when you spend browsing through your social media feeds but moments when you really clear your mind and arrange your thoughts. Every day when I commute, I will just stare blankly into the scenery outside as I can’t use my phone on the bus (I am one of those who will get a headache from doing so). This hour of time-out during my travelling is a period where I organize my thoughts and go through what I plan to do for the next few days. It helps in keeping your life in track, it really does. At times when my thoughts are too cluttered, I would go for a long and hard run to clear my mind.
We don’t have to keep ourselves busy by surfing through the latest feed and “be productive” with our travelling time. Just have some true time-outs and you will realize how well it helps with your busy life.
These six guiding principles kept me sane through the heavy workloads and reminded me that life is not about chasing the paper certificate or money incentives blindly, it is about living. Since we are in our 20s and on the way to building our lives, university education is a great place to make mistakes and grow. So do make use of these opportunities to develop yourself.
With that, I would like to thank Henry for giving me this opportunity to share my experience, it’s been my pleasure.
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