This week marked the end of my exams! I’ll be honest, it’s been a long time coming. And yet, the last few days have been OK – they haven’t been euphoric. No, they haven’t been constant celebration and no, I haven’t actually felt much more free than I felt with my head in a textbook.
Suddenly exams come to a halt and so does revision and, if you’re not careful, goals.
It’s made me realise the importance of continuously having goals. That’s not to say we should go overkill and each week bury ourselves under the weight of a strict deadline – I’ve had my fair share of those during exam season and need some down time – but having something to work towards every day is invaluable. Have nothing to aim for and it’s natural that you’re probably going to default into couch potato mode if you’re anything like me.
You have to find a middle-ground.
It’s a little surreal to me that I’m now on my gap year. I suppose I had specific hopes for the person I would have become by now and for how I would feel upon starting my gap year, but I don’t precisely fit that mould of expectations as of yet.
I no longer have the same 5- or 10-year life plan I dreamt up when I was 16 – in fact, I no longer really have one at all. I have been setting myself some goals, such as figuring out travel plans, completing an online short-course in biochemistry and getting my Italian up to scratch, but the issue is that I need a bigger purpose behind such goals. I feel the need for a destination; an ultimate dream towards which these smaller goals will pose promisingly as stepping stones.
Take the plunge or build your confidence.
There are two ways to achieve goals that your comfort zone hasn’t yet expanded to. Imagine a scenario where there are two different people wanting to try solo travel, but whose fear has startled them and almost stopped them in their tracks. One person decides they need to stop overthinking and over-planning and books their flight to SE Asia before they change their mind. The other decides to do it in small steps: firstly travelling with someone else and tagging a couple days of solo travel onto the end of it, and then solo travelling to a couples of cities not too far from them for long weekends, before they take that step to travel solo to SE Asia.
They both got to where they wanted in the end and they both achieved their goal.
The difference is that the first person took one giant leap of faith, far out of their comfort zone. Perhaps this caused them a lot of anxiousness at first until they naturally adapted to the solo travel lifestyle, but because they had managed to muster up sufficient courage, they achieved their goal fast and with minimal hesitation.
The second person took a number of more manageable steps first, stretching & growing their comfort zone with each one, so that once the time came to jet off on the big solo trip, though still nerve-wracking, it was not miles out of their comfort zone like it would have been initially, so appeared less daunting.
So it won’t really matter if we step or if we leap; the key is that we don’t allow ourselves to get paralysed by the fear. Instead, we acknowledge the fear and move forward despite it.