When describing my philosophy for young adults’ academic and social engagement, I find that the analogy of a plate of food works best. Essentially, students start out on their developmental path with empty plates, looking to fill them with food that is both tasty and nourishing. In an ideal world, the student would take their plate to the buffet and, with the assistance of a chef to help them understand the ingredients and nutritional benefits of each item, they would choose the food that best fits their tastes and needs.
Naturally, if the student eats a plate full of food that is both delicious and nutritionally valuable, they stand to feel happy, healthy and energized. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students today fill their plates with food that is recommended to them by others, on the assumption that it is nutritionally valuable, but without adequate consideration for the taste or nutritional needs of the individual. The problem, as I see it, is not that students have too much on their plates, it’s that they didn’t choose the food based on their own tastes.
I don’t believe it a coincidence that the happiest people I know also tend to be the busiest. One of the most popular explanations we hear when someone is feeling stress at work is that they are too busy. However, those who have passion for their work often seem to benefit from boundless energy, even when working extremely long hours. Research in Positive Psychology has shown that being intrinsically motivated by the work we do makes us 30% more productive, increases our energy levels and improves our mood. My own personal and professional experience has shown me the importance of passion in one’s endeavours.
I have felt the draining emotional toll of working jobs in organizations or fields where the culture or philosophy did not align with my own, or where I spent the majority of my time performing tasks that did not make good use of my strengths or engage my intrinsic motivations. I have also felt the empowerment and incredible energy that comes from combining the best of my talents, beliefs and motivations in the pursuit of an objective born out of passion.
Therefore, my advice to young adults everywhere is as follows: grab your plate and head to the buffet. Fill it with academic, athletic, artistic and social endeavours that are both wholesome and exciting to you, and don’t be concerned when your plate starts to fill up. Challenge yourself to eat things that you have never eaten before, but make sure you eat them because they pique your curiosity, and not simply because someone told you that they are good for you. You will see that the energy you gain from these endeavours will mean that you can not only handle them, but that you will be stronger, fitter and happier because of them. Bon appetit!