If you’re wondering how to change your life, you may think that the best road to self-improvement is through higher education. However, in the wake of all of the college admission scandals, it can feel utterly defeating to try and accomplish personal growth when so many others make the path almost impossible to follow.
But if you want to be your best authentic self, there are other ways to self-improvement — beyond going back to school.
Happiness comes in many shapes and forms, after all.
The principle of education is supposed to be pure and straightforward: To provide students with greater knowledge. The image of education is aligned with the underpinnings of order, structure, and consistency.
Students are disciplined to the highest degree for remotely even attempting to plagiarize papers. Schools and educational institutions stress the importance of the organic, original idea (or at least acknowledging its origin).
Personally, I have multiple connections with the world of education: My family harps on the value of a good education and works within the collegial system, I am an adjunct faculty within higher education as well as a full-time staff member in the K-12 system. You could probably say that this whole college admissions news has hit me from all angles.
According to my psychotherapist colleagues, it’s even shown up as a presenting concern for those seeking professional help.
And undoubtedly so: The stories of dishonesty, scheming, and cutting corners are certainly not what anyone wants to associate with the pillars of our educational system. In fact, it probably goes against all of the facets of education we have come to expect.
Beyond education, it hits a deeper nerve for some and leads to questions about who you are and your motives for self-improvement. Perhaps even the definition of self-improvement. I believe this news within the educational realm also encourages you to embrace what is genuine within yourself and take a good, hard look at what your goals truly are. Formal education is not the only vehicle to propel you to your higher self.
After all, many psychotherapists complete hours and hours of school and practice and then decide the profession isn’t for them … because they have to be scholars of life in general, in addition to knowing theories of development in order to truly connect and understand the experiences of others.
Indeed, it would be amazing to wake up after manifesting your dreams overnight, just like the last Instagram inspirational quote you saw before going to bed, and say, “I made it to the top!” But usually, the “real world” does not work that way. Social media has allowed many people to “live their best lives” — seemingly — for all to see.
But are they really doing just that? Are they really being genuine and authentic about who they are in life and where they are, or are they hiding other facets of their life in fear of being raw and genuine?
You rarely hear of the struggles others face, and it can be easy to be caught in the trap of, “If I only get this degree or that job, then my life will be complete.”
Sometimes, maybe that’s enough, but if only for a moment. Humans are, after all, social creatures. You want to connect to other like-minded individuals, but you also want others to understand your experiences.
Here are 5 self-improvement tips for how to change your life and achieve authentic personal growth — without going back to school.
1. Stay present.
There are many distractions in life to pull you away from where you are in the moment, but the present moment is a gift for a reason: You only have it while it’s there, so use it wisely. Every moment you experience soon becomes the past.
2. Step away.
Unplug from technology. Spend some time in nature. Get back to your roots.
Plan a trip somewhere that is relaxing for you. It doesn’t even have to be somewhere far away, just even a night away in another town can give you the time to be clear about who you are right now and what your intentions are.
3. Check in with yourself.
I often ask myself what I need and sit and wait for a response (it usually comes and says, you need to rest, sleep, eat, etc.).
Do you need growth? Do you need to rearrange your home office to have a better headspace? Let your imagination go as you continue to have frequent check-ins with yourself to realign your priorities.
4. Speak your truth.
Speak up if something doesn’t sit well with you. It’s not to imply that bulldozing your opinion over that of others is acceptable, but don’t let other people try to talk you into things that you truly don’t want to do.
This will be easier if you complete the aforementioned steps on a regular basis because it will ultimately help you to set better boundaries with others if you first set clear ones with yourself.
5. Constantly re-evaluate.
Just as instructors utilize exams and projects to gauge a student’s progress, it’s important that you set parameters along the way to really see if relationships, goals, and your career is fulfilling you or not.
If so, great! How could you improve even if you are happy with where you are? And if not, and you feel stuck in a rut you feel like you just can’t get out of, maybe that’s the time to consult a professional for some additional guidance.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of how to become more of your authentic self, or perhaps how to hone your self-improvement skills, but at the same time, you have to start somewhere. If nothing else, the college admissions scandals have made some people feel the need to be content and aligned with who you are and where you are in the present moment.
It re-emphasizes the fact that there are many life lessons taught beyond the realm of the classroom. How many people have really utilized the questions posed on a college entrance exam in their daily lives or even in their future careers? Where does the assessment of one’s character fit into whether they will be a suitable student of life within, and beyond, the college experience?
Living a life that is truly authentic and genuine involves no fake personas. No need to pretend to be someone you’re not just to have the say-so that you did or went somewhere that was supposedly prestigious or held a fancy title.
Going to college is a big decision, just as carving out your life is a choice not to be taken lightly. Isn’t it time that you allowed yourself to be OK with the choices you make because they were the right ones at the time for you, rather than because you wanted to impress someone else?