If you’re inclined to answer the question of, “To gap year, or not to gap year?” with “Gap year, heck yes!” read on (if undecided on the gap year question, click here). You are committed to designing next year as a self-selected project where you build skills and enhance your opportunities for the future. You are headed towards Growth Year. You have already taken the first step by strategically identifying your goals and then defining your plan for achieving them. If you missed the planning step, get started here. Now you’re ready for Step 2: Be Realistic.
When I hear “growth year” and “realistic” in the same sentence, I immediately imagine stern faces shaking their heads, negating all of my ideas and rebuffing my ruggedly individualistic dreams. Good news! What I just described is pessimism, not realism, and it’s not what you need to get your growth year off the ground. The kind of realism that will help rather than hinder revving up your growth year is optimistic realism.
These are hallmarks of thinking and acting on optimistic realism:
- You focus on what’s good (optimism), as well as what’s factually true and what you can control in the situation (realism).
- You think clearly, accurately, and toward solutions.
Here’s why you want realistic optimism:
- When you encounter inevitable setbacks, like your grandpa insisting that it’s way too expensive for you to live in Japan on an English teacher’s stipend, you will be able to bounce back more quickly and easily.
- When you make mistakes, you will be able to learn from them more rapidly and apply what you’ve learned more effectively.
Become optimistically realistic as you set up your growth year. Ask yourself (and answer) these questions:
- Do I have all of the prerequisite resources to make my growth year happen? Consider money, social support, life skills, technical skills, etc.
- Of these resources, which of these things do I already have? Which ones am I confident I can get in time for my growth year? For which ones am I not yet sure how or when I will get them?
- For the resources that seem unattainable, what personal strengths or other resources could help me attain them? Consider your experiences, positive qualities, skills, family members, friends, classmates, organizations, etc. If you still feel stuck, ask other people. Favor opinions that are expert and/or trustworthy, such as licensed professionals, parents, and people with extensive personal experience. As a general rule, I strongly recommend that you reserve web forums as last resort or supplementary input in informing your major life decisions.
As you progress through your growth year preparations and the adventure itself, thinking and acting with optimistic realism will benefit you in every moment. Don’t deny facts, but also don’t accept, “No” or, “Not possible” as a first offer! When you feel thwarted or stuck, focus on positive truths, the resources at your disposal, and how you can solve problems and create opportunities. Optimism not only feels good, but it will help you to achieve what you want in life.
A gap year can be enriching to both your well-being and your wallet. Contact us to find out more. By practicing Steps 1 and 2 of our Growth Year blog series, you are walking the walk towards your gap year. To progress further towards your growth-year goal, stay tuned for Step 3!
[…] Were you able to effectively explain any potential concerns such as low grades, lack of extracurricular activities, or disciplinary issues? Remember that in most cases you will be living at your new college or university, so academic performance is not enough to convince them that you will add value to their community. Your Gap Year plan, whether for work, travel or some combination, will require your honest self-evaluation and realistic optimism. (Learn about realistic optimism here.) […]