Remember in high school when you were involved in everything? You were on the track and field team, class president, a member of the National Honor Society, weekly columnist in the student newspaper and a community service all-star. Chances are, if you were anything like me, you didn’t do all of that because you deeply loved each activity. You did it because you really wanted to go to the college of your choice and you thought being so involved would make you look like the oft-desired “well-rounded” candidate. But now, you’re in college and it’s a different ball game. Your involvement should be purposeful. If it isn’t, then you and your organizations might come crashing down. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
What am I actually interested in?
Think about all of your current commitments. Are there some that stand out as rewarding and others that feel like drudgery? All of you have organizations that require a great deal of responsibility. You are probably capable of carrying out the most basic duties of your leadership position, but the best leaders are those who have the passion and excitement to further develop the group. You shouldn’t walk through these four years just checking different clubs and leadership positions off of your list. Consider taking a self-assessment offered at your school. You (and your organization) will succeed if, and only if, your passions and gifts match up with the position you are in.
What do I have the time to do?
I like to think of managing commitments as being a little bit like Thanksgiving dinner. Just like your calendar, your stomach has a limited amount of space. When you arrive at the table (activities fair) full of appetizing options (organizations), you have a few choices:
Option A: Taste one or two bites of everything at the table. You’ll get a well-rounded idea of what everything at the meal tastes like and you’ll walk away feeling lighter, but you won’t get to enjoy any one dish to its fullest.
Option B: Help yourself to a full portion of everything on the table. You will really get a sense of each dish’s flavor, but you will fall asleep shortly after the pumpkin pie. This is called a food coma – and you can end up in a student leadership coma too.
Option C: Or you can enjoy a full serving, but only of the things you really want to eat. Look at the spread and prioritize your interests. Maybe you aren’t going to have the green bean casserole, but you’ll get to enjoy a full serving of Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes.
The most fulfilled students are those who not only recognize their specific passions and gifts, but get to fully explore them. The Option C students may not know everything on campus, but they know themselves and what they do well. Plus, they don’t burn any bridges like Option B students tend to do as they enter into their student leadership coma.
Will my involvement be mutually beneficial?
You’ll feel most fulfilled as a student leader when you can learn something from your group and they can learn something from you. Don’t plateau as a student leader – continue to challenge yourself and you will continue to ascend. If you don’t think a particular position will encourage you to grow as an individual, you should figure out how to add some substance to the position or consider finding a replacement.
Is there someone else who would be better suited for this leadership position?
Speaking of replacements, we should talk about competing with student leaders. You might have the time and the passion, but if you really care about your campus and student group, you will take a look around to see if there is anyone who is more capable and has a better vision for the organization. Don’t seek the glory of a title if there is someone who can lead the group more effectively.
If everyone had the same passions and gifts, our campuses would be rather dull places. What makes college life interesting is watching how all of your peers can contribute their piece to the larger mosaic of campus life.
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