Be an Active Participant in Your Own Life

Recently, I’ve been trying to take on a new mentality in my day to day life.

I was scrolling through Twitter the other day when I came across a tweet which joked about how monotonous everyday life seems to be becoming. Wake up, eat breakfast, workout, go to class, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good routine (I’ve learned that I thrive when I have a routine to follow), but it got me thinking about how easy it is to slip into the mindset of going through life passively, and there is something wrong with that. You can have a routine that you genuinely enjoy, and not lead a boring life that you feel detached from.  

I reflected on my Fall semester, and while it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in terms of hanging out with friends, partying on the weekends, and having spontaneously fun adventures, in terms of my academics I was frustrated. I’m a person who likes to feel accomplished academically and as if I’m productively learning. Instead, all semester I felt overwhelmed by obligations that didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere, and instead I viewed them as tasks to be checked off a list. I felt like my life was full of busy work that took hours to complete and that I wasn’t reaping any of the intellectual benefits because I had so much to do and such an intense schedule. It was honestly the heaviest academic workload of my life, all of which was in the same subject, which made the topics I’m typically passionate about become a chore. I wasn’t actively learning, I was passively getting things done as quickly as possible. In addition to this, the sheer amount of work that I had to get done within a small amount of time left me very little energy to dedicate to other things that I love such as running, writing for fun, volunteering, and being actively involved in my school community. I was running on very little sleep and generally not taking care of myself in the way that I should have been which had me feeling exhausted at all times. It wasn’t rare for me to fall asleep while trying to get work done and wake up an hour or two later, stressed and frustrated. I never want to see a day as something I just have to “get through.” Life is simply too short to be wasting it away like that.

To avoid going back to that feeling, I’ve tried to adopt a new perspective. It doesn’t involve a complete lifestyle change, but rather, a small shift in the way I choose to think. Every morning when I wake up, I resolve to do everything with purpose and to take an active role in my life instead of being dragged through it. I’ve learned that instead of “getting through” things, it’s much more enjoyable to actively participate, and so much more rewarding. By actively participating I mean being invested and present in whatever you’re doing at the moment. For example, I could be taking a class I absolutely hate, but by committing myself to being present and involved for that period of time, it makes it more enjoyable. I give my opinions more, I take on leadership roles, and I form meaningful relationships with those around me. If I’m in the middle of a tough run, or at a meeting for an extracurricular, I am all there and all in. At that moment, whatever I’m doing is my priority. And being purposeful with exactly what I prioritize is extremely important as well, because (whenever possible) I want to spend time doing things I truly care about. I now know that this small change in mindset can work wonders for my own mental health, productivity, and attitude. Once you commit to taking an active role in your own life and take control of things that matter to you, it’s hard not to see at least some type of positive change take place. It’s a matter of quality over quantity and wellbeing over workload.

Ellen Arvidson

Originally from Connecticut, Ellen is an English major at Saint Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont. She loves running, skiing, and anything to do with Broadway musicals.

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