The life of a student can be very demanding. You are learning to balance your classes, your relationships, your workload, and your free time. On top of all that, you became a student leader.
In the midst of the demands, it’s easy to begin to live from event to event…from one task to the next. When that happens, you will find yourself trying to play catch-up all year. You may miss out on what can be a great experience for you. A school year is demanding, both mentally and physically. Those intense weeks of learning, reading, and studying – coupled with your other involvements and responsibilities – can be draining.
My hope is that you will start off your student leadership year the right way. Before you become overwhelmed, I want you to think about how to implement each of these four strategies. This is simple advice for student leaders (or most any student) who want to get the M.O.S.T. out of the opportunities they’ll encounter during their student leadership year.
Manage your year
Each year you make some commitments. Those commitments are based on your academic schedule, your extra-curricular involvements, your friendships, and your other responsibilities. You’ve even made some commitments to yourself. Now it’s time to manage those commitments.
Get out your calendar and write everything down on it. Look at it every week to give yourself an idea of what lies ahead. Look at it every day to remind yourself of what’s expected of you and to reflect on what you just experienced. Keep a calendar as your constant companion and make sure you make time for what’s most important.
Managing what’s most important is called prioritizing. Every commitment is not on equal footing. Keeping some sense of balance in your life requires constant correction. Spread yourself too thin and you’ll find that you don’t have the energy for excellence or the time to be terrific at anything.
That’s right – getting the MOST out of your semester isn’t all about you. In fact, the most rewarding experiences you have during your semester will involve doing things for others. As Zig Ziglar says, “If you help enough other people get what they want, then you’ll discover you get what you want.” Listen to others. Help others. Serve others.
It’s easy to get busy and start living from event to event, project to project. When you do that, the focus tends to be on yourself and everything you’re experiencing. But if you widen your perspective and include others in your area of concern, you’ll find you’re less worried, less stressed, and more connected to the life of your campus.
Offer Strong Leadership
Most of the students reading this are student leaders. So I invite you to do the thing that you’ve signed up for – I invite you to lead and to lead well.
If you can focus on being excellent in the first two areas above (manage your year and be others-focused) you will already have gone a long way in laying the foundation for your leadership. There will be some obstacles you and your team will face this year. This is why leadership is necessary. You were elected or selected to help your team solve problems and move the group forward. There will be people who need your inspiration and motivation. You will need to hold people accountable and encourage them to reach their potential. We don’t just need leadership, we need strong leadership.
Start strong, work hard in the middle and finish strong. It might be easy to simply pull back at some point and go through the motions. Is that how you want to be remembered? The legacy you leave behind is determined by the leadership you live right now.
The beauty of being a “student leader” is the student part of it. You’re learning. That means you get to try some things and figure out your own unique style of leadership. You get to fail and discover that it won’t kill you (in fact, I hope you learn the most from those mistakes).
But learning from your leadership opportunity doesn’t happen unless you have that one special ingredient: teachability.
You don’t get to choose all the experiences you have, but you do get to choose what to do with them. I challenge you to make everyday an opportunity to learn. Move outside of your comfort zones and transform your experiences into new lessons. This will make each day an opportunity for lifelong growth.
I wish you all the best as you embark on your student leadership year. I’ve watched thousands of students walk through this process. Time and again the following is true:
Those who make the MOST out of their student leadership year will be the ones who get the MOST out of it.