The Joy of Slowing Down
When I think back to what made the biggest difference over my time at Stern, I believe it was learning to stop and smell the flowers. Stern is an environment filled with highly motivated peers and a wide array of opportunities to gain professional experience in one of the most fast paced cities in the world. In such a high octane environment, it can often feel difficult to take a breather. These small breathers, however, make the biggest differences in our academic experience.
I found my desire to slow down after hitting a wall. During my first semester, I was driven to hit the ground running – putting in my hours in the 3rd floor quiet study lounge and shooting applications for as many clubs as I could think of. Rather than hit the ground running, however, I tripped over my feet and fell on my face. I started getting midterms with grades that were much lower than I expected. I didn’t get into the pre-professional clubs I wanted to. I was running into more than a few bumps in my quest to succeed.
I soon realized that my focus was my fatal flaw. I was so fixated on getting good grades and racking up resume points that I had a completely myopic view of what learning should look like. As I looked at the remainder of the semester, I decided I wanted to apply a different lens to my learning – one that was slower and more deliberate. I realized that I needed to change my mind set to be more intentional – going from focusing on a breadth of experience to more of a depth of experience. As I approach the end of my time here at Stern, I wanted to share how this change in perspective shaped my experience.
The first place where this intentionality manifested itself was in the courses I was taking. Prior to starting college, I thought course selection boiled down to some combination of courses that will (a) look good on paper and (b) make my GPA look good. The Achilles heel of this approach, however, is that more often than not one’s courses feel like a burden (as opposed to the adventure they could be). This tediousness can in turn lead to a loss of engagement – potentially worsening outcomes in the classroom.
I have found that my favorite classes have been classes where I felt like I was truly passionate about what I was learning. Even when I had a hard time with the content, the intrinsic motivation to learn made the experience significantly better. What stood out to me, however, was that regardless of whether I did well in the class, I genuinely walked away having learned something.
The second place is the quality of learning that one gets from their experiences. The idea that we need to be consistently working on courses and multiple clubs to succeed is inaccurate. Rather than having a long resume with a few substantial things to talk about, it is arguably more fulfilling to dive deep into the specific things one does. The greater the time given to an individual course or work experience, the more time you can spend gathering valuable insights and learning to perfect the quality of work you produce.
What is arguably the most important aspect of slowing down however, is the life beyond school that one enjoys. Carving out the time to go running and to read regularly helped me become a lot more grounded in what I did and allowed me to grow both inside and outside the classroom. When I started interning, having the perspective of balance also allowed me to focus on work without sacrificing my personal interests.
The journey we go on in college is pivotal in our lives. The experiences we have can have lasting effects on our careers and our growth as individuals. On that end, we should all endeavor to slow down and be intentional with what we choose to do with our time. College is perhaps the best time in life to stop and smell the flowers.
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