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Steps to Success: Life After Graduation

Contributed to Youth Services Unit by Dr. Alexandra Bodden

Graduation is an exciting and terrifying time as you step foot into the “real world” and many of us for the first time have some very big decisions to make. But where do you start? Below are some ideas to help you make the most of your first “real world” experience and to help you get to where you want to be:

  1. Aim High – “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars” is a favourite quote at graduations.  The essence of this idea is to set the bar high, this way even if we don’t quite make it, we are likely to get further than we would have if we had set lower expectations.  The difficulty is to find the confidence to set our sights high.  We want to aim high but also give ourselves the greatest likelihood of success so take into consideration your strengths, personal goals and past experiences (good and bad) to develop measurable, achievable goals that inspire you and encourage you to continue to grow personally and professionally.  And it is okay to be scared, this is a sign that we are growing, use that energy to take your performance to the next level!

  1. Keep an Open Mind – If you keep looking in the same place, you will keep finding the same thing. While we often develop a comfort zone when it comes to school, work and relationships, it is not until we test the limits that we learn what we are really made of.  Trying something new or different is exciting and will likely shine a new light on aspects of yourself or your life that you had not seen or really considered before. You may make some new friends and may even discover a new passion in a place that you would have never expected.
  1. Seize the day – Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes so seize them as they come up! Every experience is a part of your journey; whether the experience goes well, or completely fails, you will learn from it and then can grow from it. You may be amazed at what you are capable of doing by taking a chance and going for something that you have always dreamed of.  And when the going gets tough, remember that what makes a person strong is not not falling, but how you pick yourself up after a fall. We learn the most about ourselves in the difficult times… and sometimes the risk is worth it!
  1. Find What You Love – It is a lot easier to take a risk for something that we believe in. Some of you may already know what you want to do, some of you may still be on the lookout. But take your time and explore your options. Keeping an open mind and taking advantage of opportunities that come your way will help you uncover the pieces of the puzzle for what your passion and dream will look like. And your dream may change along the way as you meet different people and encounter different experiences. Do not get disheartened if your life course waivers or takes a turn, the exciting thing about finding your passion is that it continues to grow and evolve as you do!
  1. Take it One Step at a Time – While it is important to have dreams and set goals for yourself – you also need to know how to get there. Getting out of high school, you have the world at your feet but it is often hard to know where to go from there with so many options to choose from, or perhaps we still need to identify just what our options are.  Whatever your end goal, break it down into manageable steps this will give you a clear plan of how you will achieve it and helps to keep faith and focus through the process.  And definitely celebrate each accomplishment and success along the way! It is important to give ourselves credit for all of the work that we have put in and progress that we have made in working towards our goals, even if we are not at the end result yet.
  1. Make Sure to Have Fun – Keep your eye on your goals but remember to enjoy the journey along the way – Success is not a destination but a journey, and an attitude! Make time for yourself and doing things that you enjoy. Granted this is easier said than done when we are busy and stressed out – but when we are busy and stressed is when we need it most.  The key is to find a balance between work and play.  You will all have big decisions to make in the coming weeks, months, and years.  Exercise and spending time with friends and family are great ways to de-stress and keep a positive attitude – so stop and go for a run or call a friend or when all else fails, stop, smile and breathe, then begin again, it is amazing how things can change when we slow down for a few minutes.

Congratulations to all of the students who are graduating! Hopefully these ideas will help to shine some light on the many exciting things coming your way! For the students who are still in school – have faith, keep your head up, your time will come as well. For all of you, remember: Success is an attitude and a way of life so make sure that you keep an open mind in all that you do, take on new opportunities to find your passion and let it guide your goals, go big but enjoy the journey along the way, and whatever you do, never, never, never give up.

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