New Year’s List and the Law of Increase

The holiday season is officially over and it’s time to return to my regularly scheduled life.  Around this time, it seems like everyone is making lists, and I am no exception.  I feel compelled to make lots of lists: of things I would like to do differently, of places I would like to go, of people I want to see, of things I want to make, and all sorts of other stuff.  It’s not even a new year’s thing; I just like to make lists.  Lists make me feel like I have a plan, and crossing things off my list makes me feel like I’ve achieved something.

However, a lot of the cultivation-of-happiness work I’ve done this year makes me feel like creating another list of things to do isn’t the best course of action.  One of the lessons I learned in 2011 is that I spend far too much time thinking of the past and the future, and not enough time in the present.  So instead, I’m going to apply one of the lessons that popped up in a number of things I read this year.  Srikumar Rao calls it:

The Law of Increase
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For undergrads: a mind map to get you started

Last week I did a workshop for undergrads on some basic tips on how to get started with their career search.  I only had about 45 minutes, so I focused on framing up the career search process as Contemplating, Communicating, and Connecting.

A few days later, I realized that what may be more helpful to give them is a template to help them organize their thoughts.  I did a similar mind-mapping exercise with my boyfriend, but wanted to create a tool that had all of the questions and guidance built into it.

I built it out on Mindmeister.com, where anyone can sign up for a free account and expand on the template mind map I created.  Here’s what I came up with (click on the picture to go to the map on Mindmeister.com):

 

Putting it out there

About a month ago, my little sister came over to hang out and tell me “something big” about what she has planned for this year.

“So, how’s your job?”

“It’s great.  I’m loving my job!”

“You’re loving it?  But, aren’t you back working the same job you quit 6 months ago?”

“Yeah, but it’s a little different.  It’s always different when I come back from quitting.  They change all of the things I didn’t like about the job before I quit.”

This was the third time my sister has quit that job, and the third time she’s gone back to it.  She’s really good at her job, and her boss knows it.  I’m not sure he would know what to do if she were to quit for real.

“Ok, so what’s you’re big news?”
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The most useful concept I learned in undergrad

“So, I ask… any words of advice?”

I didn’t know what to write back.  I was excited by but also unprepared for the overwhelming response I got after my talk at UC Berkeley.  I poured out my story to a group of strangers, in hopes that they would open up and ask questions they may not have asked otherwise.  And they did ask.  But even after this one girl took a risk and poured out her own story into an email, I didn’t know how to answer her question.

I can talk about my own experience, and I can pass along advice that I’ve found helpful, but sometimes it seems like people really just want to know what they should do.

I can’t tell them. I wish I could, but it’s their decision to make.  The most that I can do is help people sort through their thoughts and help them come to a good decision, using one of the most useful concepts I learned in undergrad.

Decision analysis. I love this stuff.  According to Answers.com, decision analysis “offers individuals and organizations a methodology for making decisions.” Continue reading

What if I can’t get there right now?

Take time to find out what you want.  Make time for the things you love.

What happens now will not determine the rest of your life.

Those were the three pieces of advice I gave during my presentation to a group of undergrads last week.  And then I opened it up to Q&A.

“What if I kinda know what I want to do, but I don’t think I can get there right after I graduate?”

Excellent question.  I did a lot of talking about how important it is to figure out what you want, and told a story about how I finally got it.  It’s only natural to think that I am encouraging folks to go out and get their dream life.  I am.

It’s risky.  It can be scary.  And for an undergrad who is still building up his savings, resume, network, and life experience, it can be difficult to get to exactly where you want.  In an economy like this, it may mean just taking “a” job.  The important thing to remember is to keep moving forward somehow and guard yourself against getting stuck.

4 Steps to Staying on Course


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