I read an interesting piece of writing, a manifesto almost, by Harvard Professor Harry R Lewis. In it, he encourages new students to get more out of their time at Harvard by doing less.
The whole piece is worth a read, but here are a few of the nuggets I drew from it that made me think about my own approach to my life:
- – You may succeed more fully at the things that are most important to you if you have an open mind about the possibilities available to you, but gradually spend more of your time on fewer things you discover you truly love.
- – You may balance your life better if you participate in some activities purely for fun.
- – You are more likely to sustain the intense effort needed to accomplish first-rate work in one area if you allow yourself some leisure time, some recreation, some time for solitude.
- – Don’t think you’re doing something strange or wrong if you take some time off. If your motivation is flagging, or you lose interest, take some time off to refresh yourself and get your focus back. People who are struggling almost always do better after some time off.
- – Leave something for later in life. Do not feel that you need to achieve EVERYTHING, right NOW.
- – Look inside yourself for the question you are really asking. What do you REALLY want to do with your life? What are your REAL ambitions?
- – Don’t ignore your health, physical or emotional. It is characteristic to confuse enormous energy and the capacity for extraordinary efforts with something more like immortality. Your mind and body will break down if you don’t relax, exercise, eat well, and most of all, sleep. Give yourself a break. Sit outside and read a novel. Hang out with your friends, play frisbee, keep up the dining hall conversation till everyone else has left. It won’t hurt, and will probably only help, your performance.
- – Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. You’ve probably already accomplished a lot, but life is complicated and every failure offers constructive lessons about yourself. Find things you are happy doing, even if you are not going to be the best in the world at them. Do the things that matter most to you as well as you can possibly do them, but don’t be hard on yourself if your best at many things is not as good as someone else’s best.
- – Finally, don’t treat my advice -or anyone else’s- as rules you must follow! What matters is that you come to understand what you want; the challenge is to give yourself enough breathing room to discover your own loves and how to pursue them, your own ambitions and how to achieve them.
It’s your life. Enjoy it.