If any student were asked to reflect on their university journey, they probably would say that they have experienced ups and downs. From deadlines that creep up on you, to actually just having days where you ask yourself ‘‘is all this worth completing.’’ The art of resilience is never properly talked about, as students we need to understand how to stay motivated throughout our studies in order to gain the knowledge and acquire skills they need to progress.
Realising something was wrong
I initially found university straightforward. I excelled throughout my first and second year. However, halfway through the first semester of my second year I quickly became extremely tired leaving me to start to lose my way. It didn’t take long until I wasn’t fit to even get out of bed which left me starting to fall behind on deadlines and, as expected, my classmates started to become frustrated with me. Since they assumed that I didn’t care, I started to think what was the point and my motivation dropped further still.
My mood and attitude towards my studies decreased again as my health worsened. I just slept round the clock and found myself only attending university when I had to. Over the Christmas break I thought that I would quickly become normal again, but realisation soon set in and I knew that wasn’t as easy as I thought. Constant doctors visits confirmed that this wasn’t just me being tired that there was actually something wrong. I lowered my hours in my part time job and rested as much as possible, trying to get my body back to normal. Unfortunately, this was a vicious cycle and the more I rested, the more I just felt empty and didn’t want to do anything at all. I had always prided myself in being very focused in terms of my life and being a happy person, but I just wasn’t anymore. At that moment I just remembered feeling stuck in a rut.
At that moment I just remembered feeling stuck in a rut.
Over the coming week before I returned back to university I sat down to apply for placement opportunities as I had always wanted the year abroad and leave home. The idea of securing a placement opportunity led me to become a bit more motivated; I spent all the energy I had to be productive tailoring CV’s and completing applications forms. Fast-forward a few weeks and I was getting initial interviews and online tests, which led to rejections. The combination of being ill and then getting rejected added to my sense of helplessness and the value of my degree began to diminish.
I couldn’t socialise which left me to begin losing friends as they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t ‘’bothering’’ to make time for them. My university experience as a whole was starting to crumble beneath me and I couldn’t cope with everything that was going on in my personal life which was impacting so much on my studies.
To make matters worse I got to the interview stages of Airbus, which I couldn’t believe and was so excited at the opportunity to interview. Alas, like everything else I was unable to travel over as my doctor advised that I was not fit to participate in a two day assessment centre; leaving me distraught.
The rejection and my health situation lowered my confidence and left me feeling useless. I couldn’t celebrate any ups in my life because I knew that they were never going to stay and soon enough I would return to this lack of hope feeling. The smallest stress would set me off and I started to become depressed but I hid this feeling from everyone else I just thought it was easier to not let anyone in and to know that I was unhappy because I couldn’t control some aspects of my life. I think everyone takes for granted their health and issues like mental health aren’t always a safe point to talk about. I didn’t want to be vulnerable in front of people. I didn’t want them to see me lose my way and ultimately I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was not okay.
It wasn’t until my course director offered me the chance to take a leave of absence that something clicked: I didn’t want to take time off; from that moment on I remember starting to come around. Finding motivation is a funny thing: it took me to be at my lowest point and being sick of feeling sorry for myself before I started to feel inspired again. I didn’t want to be negative anymore and true, my situation wasn’t ideal but I was able to continue.
On reflection I think we’re all too hard on ourselves, especially in university. I couldn’t see that I was actually doing a good job and was more focused on everything I was struggling with. Even though my situation affected me both mentally and physically, everyone goes through challenges in life. The main lesson I learnt is that being motivated is exploring what you’re passionate about and by finding a degree programme that you love you will become more proactive. It is definitely true that emotion drives motion and by keeping positive and preparing your work you will ensure that you won’t become stressed which can tamper with your attitude towards your work.
It is definitely true that emotion drives motion.
In addition, reflection and self-awareness are essential as you will be able to pick out your strengths. By knowing these you will become more motivated as you will be playing to your strong attributes. Students should sit down and decide where they want to be and by having this clearly mapped out; it will lead to students working harder and keeping in line with their future goals. I constantly talked my goals and queries with my Course Director as without her I would not have been able to continue with my degree programme. She gave me the reassurance that whatever struggles I had, the university fully supported me with; and by having that security I had one less thing to worry about.
It’s okay to not be okay
I needed to understand that it’s okay to not be okay and sometimes you have to feel low in order to appreciate what opportunities you have. I could see a change whenever I started to get excited about my work and by having people appreciate my achievements, I started to have a better outlook in my life.
I couldn’t maintain having too many goals and aspirations that I wanted to achieve; and the times I was struggling the most arose because I put too much pressure on myself to succeed. By doing this instead of achieving unrealistic goals I felt as if I was in a slump again. So I discovered that it’s best to focus on one or two goals and strive to accomplish these first before adding something else to your workload.
It’s best to focus on one or two goals and strive to accomplish these first before adding something else to your workload.
By first taking a step back and outlining the tasks I needed to complete I was able to start small. I could pick out the smallest tasks that I knew I could complete and this started to build up my motivation again. In a quick time frame I achieved all the tasks that were small and I started to feel successful; which brought up my mood as I watched myself achieving something. I felt important… I began to see that my contribution to projects where starting to pay off and by having this new mindset I started to increase my workload as my resilience increased. Since I am someone who gets motivated by achievements and doing well; by overcoming the initial hurdles I became determined to finish all the bigger tasks that I had left.
Changing my mind
Quickly, I noticed how by taking myself out of a negative mindset that my productivity grew. I don’t think many people talk about how negative attitudes; whether it be your own or others around you has detrimental affects on your own mood and work ethic. As humans, we are very fast to judge other people and their achievements. However, as in my own case, nobody knew what was going on that altered my attitude. Instead of letting other people or ourselves put us down we need to become self-aware of negative thoughts and not respond to them.
Whenever challenges and struggles occur we need to be in a positive mind frame to turn around and say “I can do this’’ and by doing this you will think about the benefits instead of the difficulties of that challenge. Thus, the benefits of overcoming that challenge will actually make you more determined and motivated.
Even though I experienced struggles and rejection, I needed those to become stronger personally and professionally. I never once thought that I could be where I am now in terms of my placement and constantly seeking new opportunities means I can constantly challenge myself. I needed to learn how to cope with personal issues and lack of motivation; as whenever I am in a working environment you have to continue no matter what is going on externally.
The art of resilience
The art of resilience makes you more employable as you need to leave university equipped for the working world. I discovered that once I mastered this I was able to sustain motivation and enjoy my work/ personal life so much more.
I still struggle everyday with my personal health and by having an improved mood I can start living my life again. I now have the motivation to succeed in work academically and professionally and also have a social life; whereas last year it had seemed impossible. By asking for support when needed I was able to not look vulnerable which was what I had feared but have a network of people round me that took some of the worry off me. No matter what any of us are going through we aren’t alone and by accepting that difficult times are only temporary and not permanent, we ensure that we can continue being motivated and resilient through university and beyond.