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Resource CenterCollege LifeCareer PlanningAre You Swimming Upstream?

Are You Swimming Upstream?

Have you ever considered why salmon is so valuable? It’s because of the journey it has to take to be successful. (In salmon life, that means reproducing). Not only is the trip upstream against the current, but it also involves fighting off natural obstacles like rocks and branches and bears. Oh my!

Just like the salmon, you too have been thrown into the rushing waters of life and are swimming upstream in pursuit of your independence. As you work your way through classes, projects and jobs, you also have stuff getting in your way. Often, it might even feel like bears are clawing at you, as if you, too, are swimming upstream.

Student stress is such a big issue that researchers have even come up with a way of measuring it. The Student Stress Scale (by Holmes & Rahe) is a simple scoring system that highlights the most stressful events based on the “amount of readjustment a person has to make in life as a result of that change.” At the top of the list, with a full 100 Life Changing Units, is the death of a close family member. At the bottom, with 20 points, is a minor traffic violation. Here are a few other challenges that might sound familiar:

Divorce of parents 65
Being fired from a job 50
Failing an important course 47
First quarter/semester in college 35
Change of financial status 39
Change in living conditions 31
Change of college 24

Getting a solid education and being successful is not an easy journey. Rack up enough points, according to this scale, and you could be risking your health. If you’re an ambitious student, a young professional or an entrepreneur, you get bumped and bruised a lot, but you’re also among the most coveted fish with more potential and value because of your dedication to achievement. Don’t forget that.

So when the current gets too strong, and the stresses start piling up, you’re going to need some coping tactics to make it through. Here are a few tips to keep you focused on getting to your next big milestones:
1.Some opportunities fall into your lap, while others you have to fight for. Going with the current is easier and will keep you on par with your peers, but that also makes you similar to lots of others. That means less unique, less valuable. Going against the current, fighting for something most others don’t, opens you up to a whole new range of options and successes.
2.If you’re not up to fighting the treacherous waters (eg: exams and sports or volunteering), think about your ultimate goal and focus on that. Be strategic with how and when you spend your energy. Sometimes you need to conserve it so you have the strength to give your all to what’s most important.
3.Swim with friends and family (close contacts, advisors, invested others) close by. They’ll help keep you motivated and even throw you a tree branch when you need it most.
4.Don’t let fear get in your way. Let’s face it, you probably won’t drown – you are a fish, after all. You’re strong, resourceful and ambitious, and that will take you a long way. Worst case, you’ll end up downstream and have to start over. No big deal. Give it as many shots as you can. Tenacity pays off.
5.Remember, the most successful people just keep swimming when all else fails. They never lose sight of their goals and what they’re trying to accomplish. Be like them.

Jennifer Kushell (@ysnjen) is author of the NY Times Bestseller Secrets of the Young & Successful and has been called “The Career Doctor” by Cosmopolitan.

As founder of Young & Successful Media, she created – a leading destination for career exploration, tools and resources for students and young professionals around the world.


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Don Munce