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“There’s a bigger picture… focus on that.”

My first half of second year was weird. After receiving a good first year result the obvious plan was to build on that, but for some reason the first semester was more of a mental challenge than first year ever was. At times I just got tired and although there was never a doubt that I still wanted to finish my degree, there were moments where it was hard to get myself going.

Something that seemed to be common amongst myself and many of my peers was a dip in or lack of motivation and at some point I realised that I’d lost my hunger. Fortunately, I made it through my January exams and mentally I feel in a better position now but at some point during this period I had a conversation with myself and this is what I gathered from it.

All of us are at university or anything of the like for our own different reasons. Whether that’s to fulfil our parents’ wishes for us or to make them happy, to fulfil our own wishes for ourselves or because it’s a step in a path to a lucrative career, we have our reasons. Sometimes it’s difficult to envisage ourselves completing our bigger pictures when we find ourselves stumbling trying to complete one small detail. In these moments we must remember that a whole painting cannot be completed in one stroke, so when we get tired, or lose focus, or hit a setback, it’s important to remember these reasons and to keep the bigger picture in mind.

As I’ve written before, I believe that “motivation doesn’t do anything for you in the long term, habits and goals do“. I’ve talked about the importance of being hungry for what you want before, but I do believe that no matter how much hunger you have, it’s normal for your appetite to dwindle at times. I don’t want to be misunderstood, motivation is important, but it can only do so much and is only half of the story. At the times when we have none or when our appetite has weakened, we must look at our goals, our bigger picture and regain that hunger and/or motivation.

I always say that if you once believed you could accomplish something you will always be able to. It doesn’t matter if doubt has begun to cloud that belief, there was a reason why you once believed in yourself and what matters is that you saw yourself doing it. Setbacks can avert our focus and lead us to harbour doubt but we must be able to feed off these challenges and embrace the struggle. Any worthwhile achievement we will ever make in life will come from some degree of hard work. I’m sure we’d all love to be able to get what we want by doing nothing at all, but more times than not what we really want is what requires the most work. I know I want my degree and I’d love if I could get it without having to study for it but that’s not realistic at all.

University is a marathon and just like any, you cannot sprint from beginning to end. It takes time and consistency and you cannot be too surprised if you find yourself drifting between first and fifth place occasionally, as long as you win your race at the end of the distance.

This is a message to myself that I want to share because I feel that anyone can relate to it. Life is a cycle of cycles and we’ll only ever have as many ups as we’ll have downs, as many positives as we’ll have negatives and as many wins as we’ll have losses. Nothing will ever be constant. As humans, we get tired and our feelings change sometimes but our hunger is what will remind us to come back to our canvasses. Our motivation is what will put our paintbrushes back in our hands and our habits and goals are what will allow us to continue painting. In all of this, the most important thing is to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Whether you’re at university, building a career or trying to create your own lane to success, remember not to ever throw away your canvas. There’s a bigger picture… focus on that.

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