Goals define college years

In the world of education, September marks not the end of energetic golden days, but a new beginning. Starting a new school year is challenging for parents, students and educators alike. But perhaps the greatest challenge is the siren song of September that the new college student hears when embarking on a lifequest for fulfillment. How does a person achieve this quest? What do the wisdom of the ages and the application of common sense have to offer as guides? How do you begin the September journey?

VISION Each of us must have a personal vision, for this clarifies dreams. In simple terms, a vision is a goal, a statement about what you want your life to be like. But it is also a panorama that includes the individual in time and space, filled with people and institutions that constitute an environment. In this vast picture, the unspoken question of vision is “Where am I?” Knowing the answer enables you to clarify your own vision. Thus all your studies, past and continuing, formal and informal, are part of the knowledge that informs you about how your vision may be realized. Visions come in all shapes and sizes. Most are not grandiose (like wanting to be president); rather they are grounded in aspirations of personal excellence.

PASSION The most important element to carry on the quest for fulfillment is passion. You must have an overriding desire to “be” or to “do” what will fulfill you. This passion is as strong as any emotion; it is continuous and often painfully consuming of your energies. Passion for your vision propels your quest; it is the motor force. Nothing of lasting importance will ever be achieved without passion. Admittedly, great passion is risky and exhausting and in short supply in our world. Without it, however, all your efforts will be third-rate at best. When students ask me how they might develop this passion, I reply with the Socratic dictum: “Know Thyself.” Discovering who and what you are will nurture the energy of passion, which is intensely personal. PREPARATION I use this term instead of ability or talent because these imply some restrictions. Not everyone has the ability to hit a baseball well or the talent to sing beautifully. But anyone and everyone can be prepared for their endeavors. How to prepare calls upon previous education, specialized knowledge, and openness to new knowledge, new people and new ideas. Being prepared means you know what you are doing. Being prepared also enables you to take advantage of all options and unexpected opportunities because it means that you are actively searching for your goal.

SELF-CONFIDENCE If you are really good at what you do, if your passionate vision has been made real through proper preparation, you will have the confidence to show (not flaunt) your accomplishments. You will not fear evaluation by others. Self-confidence enables you to persevere through early failures, rejections, and misfortunes to become better, to achieve success. In this regard, you will remember Paul Hamm’s stirring Olympic achievement. LUCK Hamm’s Olympic fate is also illustrative of the role of luck. We won’t all have good luck. The changing face of fortune must keep you ever alert. Good luck makes things easy. Making your own luck by being prepared is a worthy American ideal. But triumphing over bad luck is certainly the highest mark of excellence anyone attains in the service of a vision. That is how you fulfill your quest.

ETHICS Whether informed by religion or other systems of belief, one must have a code to light the way while searching the darkness. As a young college student, much of your ethical character is developing. You will benefit from your further understanding of your role in helping others and in contributing to families, groups, and communities. Finally, remember this: the quest is your very own and it is a life-long journey. It is about being as much of yourself as you can possibly dare. May your cup runneth over.