As an advisor, the best part of my job is guiding students toward that coveted nexus of skill, passion, and focus. When it happens, it’s hard to miss. All the pieces fit. The puzzle is solved. Magic abounds.
But there are also days when things don’t go as planned. In fact, there are days when things completely fall apart. Applications get rejected. Closed classes don’t get overrides. PNMs don’t get bids.
And truth be told, it’s easy to dwell on the bad stuff. It’s easy to turn one failure into “I’m a failure.” And maybe that’s because we define ourselves by what we accomplish. Instead of congratulating and rewarding ourselves for the plaques and trophies that adorn our rooms and offices, we stare at said paraphernalia and think, “I’m only worth something because I have these. Without them, I have no value.”
But this is when I like to remind students that what they accomplish is not indicative of their self-worth. Just because someone Christmas-trees an exam and scores a B+ does not mean that person is a great test-taker. Just because someone accomplishes 300+ hours of community service does not mean they’re a servant-leader at heart. Just because someone studies endlessly and only receives a C does not mean they are a mediocre student. Circumstances are always at play, and often times, they’re beyond our control. What’s always in our control, however, is our perspective. We can always choose to see the silver lining, no matter how small it may be.
- A D+ is disappointing, but learning how to prepare for that professor’s exams is a lesson worth its weight in gold
- Not getting accepted into that fellow’s program feels awful, but application and interviewing practice is invaluable for future pursuits
- It’s hard to not join your friends for a night out, but the relief you’ll feel after submitting that assignment will make up for it
- When things don’t go as planned, it can be devastating. But now you’re a more flexible and creative problem-solver
Granted, gaining and keeping perspective is not so easy, and some students are determined to dwell in the darkness. However, as their advisor, I feel it’s my obligation to show them the light. Every mistake is a learning experience, and it’s only by learning that we adapt and become more capable, more successful, and more fulfilled.