Black History Month has brought a wonderful range of activities and art to campus (thanks to the African Business and Culture Society) and is a timely reminder to those not embracing diversity and inclusivity that we are all cut from the same cloth and all share some mitochondrial DNA. By the time this is published, I expect you will be choosing your Spring courses. Don’t forget to talk to your Academic Advisor and make sure you take the electives you are passionate about – things that truly interest you – not those that simply tick the box.

Because passion is such a core, fundamental part of motivation…doing things because you want to rather than you have to. As new students will remember from Orientation in September, you should ask yourself if you are ‘Extrinsically Motivated’ or ‘Intrinsically Motivated’. The difference is simple: are you driven by the desire to get wealth and external recognition of your achievements (for example, through a fancy job title) or are you more interested in finding your own purpose in life? Finding your purpose, your path, your goal, is important not just because it will hopefully lead you to consider your impact on your fellow humans and the planet as you navigate your way through the decades, but because research shows that you will have lower levels of anxiety and depression later on in life and greater levels of self-esteem and personal happiness than those who only did it for the bling and the fancy car. Be passionate about the right things and you will often find the others come your way anyway – you can still be externally successful if you are Intrinsically Motivated, the difference is in what drove you there: a Ferrari or a goal (and no, having a goal of buying a Ferrari does not count)?

And as I mentioned in last month’s edition of The Courage, these are trying times. As London imposes stricter restrictions on what you can and cannot do outside the classroom, how many people you can have fun with, how late you can have fun, we need to think about how we will look back at this time. It is easy to look at the restrictions and only focus on the fun that you are being denied. Alternatively, you could look at the opportunities that this era offers. I’m not referring to the opportunity of exploiting shortages and charging ten times the usual price for face-masks, but the opportunities you have with the restricted freedoms during the pandemic. The opportunities to focus on other things. The opportunity to learn how to cook, properly (that will help you for the rest of your life!). The opportunity to spend more time at your desk, studying. Imagine how well you would do if you actually did all the reading for class you were supposed to and then read more independently. The opportunity to take up a creative pastime, from writing to learning an instrument, from painting and drawing to learning video-editing skills on your laptop. The opportunity to read for pleasure, not because your professor has told you to!

When you look out the window of your bedroom, whether you are in London or in your parents’ house when you see the autumnal rains and wind when you realise the local bars, cafes and cinemas are closed to you, this is not a time to get down. This is a time to embrace those opportunities to refocus, to think about yourself, to learn about new things and to find a purpose. The purpose will last long after the pandemic, long after your degree and will help drive you to an amazing future.

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