I remember being a college student not too long ago, and I thought I was busy running around being involved and keeping my grades up, but I had nothing on today’s college student. Their email signatures read more like the preface of a novel, with a checklist of leadership roles, organization involvement, honors and accolades.
In a day and age when we encourage students to get involved and to try everything, I think we’ve done a disservice. We’ve encouraged students to get their feet so wet with everything that they never really try to dive deep with anything.
When you go to the pool you tend to dip your toes in the water to see what the temperature is like. And if it feels good, maybe you cannonball into that thing like there’s no tomorrow. Maybe you ease your way in via the stairs and incredibly hot metal hand bar. I’m willing to bet at some point you go all the way in – truly immersing yourself in the water.
The same is true in organization involvement. When you come to campus most students are bombarded at an organization fair of some sort, receiving countless of flyers and signing up for interest lists of hundreds of organizations. It’s overwhelming – an extroverts dream and an introverts nightmare. From the get-go we show students all of their possibilities without talking about any sense of time management or specific values or interests first.
Because we, the college campus, have told them to try everything and get involved so you feel like you belong. We created the ball of stress and turned it loose upon the unsuspecting kittens. But what we haven’t done is given students the freedom to fail, or given them the permission to not be perfect, or given them the permission to simply be truly involved and engaged in one or two organizations. We, the college campus, often lift up the same dozen student leaders as beacons and examples of leadership. We’ve set up everyone to keep up with the Jones’s, when in fact the Jones’s would like to scale back, but feel like they have to keep up with you.
What if, when you wade in the water of involvement for just a little bit to see if you like the temperature, you chose one or two things you’d like to truly dive deep and immerse yourself? Rather than doing laps around people who aren’t even trying to race, what it you appreciated who you’re with and what you’re doing? Slow down. Look around. Focus. Do you like what you see, who you’re with, what you’re doing? Are you taking up too much space in the shallow water? What if you dive into the deep end, picking the perfect spot to do so?