“It gets late early out here” baseball player Yogi Berra once famously stated. While he was talking about his experience in a rival team’s town, the same could be said for the average semester at college. One minute, you’re packing up your bags at home, getting ready to embark on another ride on the collegiate roller coaster. Then all of the sudden, you look up and realize you’re a couple weeks in, with midterms bearing down. How did that happen already?!
These early days at the start of the year are precious and fly by quickly. It’s important to take advantage of the flexibility offered during this time, because once it’s gone, you don’t get it back.
Here’s a few tips on how to capitalize on these early days and get out ahead of your calendar. These things will help you from feeling overwhelmed as the responsibilities pick up in the upcoming weeks.
Begin in December
In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the key habits Covey outlines is the practice of personal vision casting. The idea is pretty simple. Make a list of what you’d like to be true about your life when you reach your destination. These goals act as landmarks on the horizon of your semester. Keeping them in your line of sight will help you move towards the direction you want to go. Having fixed and pre-established goals is one of the most important steps in seeing personal growth and accomplishing difficult tasks. It’s far easier to set goals at the onset of the semester than half-way through. For example, if you want your relationship with God to be deeper in December than it is today, what practices do you need to apply to your daily schedule that will allow for this to happen. People don’t magically fall into becoming men and women of character and depth. They intentionally make time for it, even during the fast-paced seasons of life. Think through who you want to be in December, and then allow those attributes to inform your weekly calendar starting today!
Walking up and down your campus’ main thoroughfare at the beginning of the year can be a little overwhelming. Students are presented with opportunities for everything, from adventure associations to zoology clubs, with everything in-between. Even if you’re not in the market for adding on new organizations, your typical weekly schedule will soon be packed with tasks and engagements. If you are not intentional about adding the most important things into your schedule, chances are high that they’ll slip through the cracks. Few intentionally choose to avoid exercising for weeks at a time, but often this will happen. The trick is to make the decision to do the important things before the pressure hits. If you want to get up early and spend time with God, you are far more likely to succeed in this if you decide the day before as opposed to when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. As you think about your semester, ask yourself this question? What are my highest priorities? A great help in answering that question is to look at your relationships. How do you want to grow as a son or daughter? What kind of friend do you want to be? How will you approach your relationship with God? Yourself and your health?
Little Things Add Up
Authentic character is never built in a microwave. The little things you do on a consistent basis eventually add up and become the core of who you are. My kids love playing with Legos. (Who doesn’t!) Whenever they are building a house, they first begin with the painstaking process of sorting through all the pieces. After finding all of the same color segments, they secure them to the base, one at a time, until they’ve established the perimeter of the wall. After the first level is complete, they add the second, then the third, and so on, until finally, they have built their pride and joy. While one single piece in the perimeter of the wall does not necessarily stand out, that single piece is still essential for the wall to be standing. The same is true for our relationship with God and the development of our character. We want the finished product now, but the reality is, we don’t get there without the daily effort in the small things. This is why it’s so helpful to develop a daily habit of spending time reading the Bible. It’s not because it makes God love you more. Rather, it slowly but surely grounds your heart in God’s, and over time, it builds and builds into something formidable. The little things add up. Today’s seemingly small decisions are shaping the person you’re becoming.
Surround Yourself with Giants
My college discipler Jay used to say something I’m sure he had picked up somewhere along the line, but since I first heard it from him, I’ll give him the credit. He said, “Surround yourself with the people and books you want to be like in 5 years.” We are far more easily influenced by those with whom we associate than we care to admit. While we’ve often heard lectures on the negative side of those relationships, there is also a great positive to this as well! Positioning yourself around others you respect and admire can give you an incredible boost in helping you get to where you want to go. New York Times columnist David Brooks said this about positive examples. “Moral improvement occurs most reliably when the heart is warmed, when we come into contact with people we admire and love and we consciously and unconsciously bend our lives to mimic theirs.” If you want to become someone who consistently radiates God’s love to others, one of the shortest paths to seeing personal growth in that area is to surround yourself with people who live this out.
Take a Risk or Two
Each school year has enough to keep you busy without adding anything else to your schedule. Your professors and grad assistants will gladly fill your calendar if you let them. And for the most part, you should! Bringing God glory through your life as a college student means giving your best effort to your studies. Your investment in your classes is a tangible way of honoring God. However, life is more than just work. It’s also about relationships. And investing in relationships is always going to require some risk. It’s risky to plan a get-away camping weekend with your friends, because it’ll cost some study hours, a few dollars, and maybe even a home football game. But the payoff would be a lifetime of crazy memories. It’s risky to share your faith with your friends who don’t understand why you love Jesus. It’s risky to share your personal story at a weekly meeting of how you have seen God work in your life. It’s risky to give up a weekend to go to Fall Retreat. But the greatest risk of all would be to never open up, to never allow others to see what’s inside your heart, to never venture out into the unknown adventure God has in store for you.
“It gets late early out here.” From all of us at Cru, we sincerely hope and pray that this school year is an incredible one, marked by joy, depth, laughter, and the experience of the love of God flowing in and through your heart to those around you. Welcome back! You got this!