College is a unique time.
It’s the first time most of us become independent. We make the decisions. Mom and Dad aren’t in our ear, telling us what to do. High school cliques? Gone. We have a clean slate.
But there’s a lot more pressure. With independence, comes accountability. Each decision is on us. Pressure to get good grades. Pressure to go to parties. Pressure to take economics instead of creative writing because it looks better to employers during job interviews. Pressure to network, to build new friendships with people who aren’t from your hometown.
Have you ever heard of the phrase “pressure makes diamonds”? General George S. Patton coined that phrase. As commander of the U.S. armies in the mediterranean and European theatres of World War II, Patton knew about pressure. He led the allied troops through the invasion of Normandy, one of the most important events in the allied victory of World War II.
Patton believed that high stakes created optimal environments, and opportunities, for people to rise to the occasion and perform beyond their perceived abilities. In other words, adversity creates opportunity for those willing to seize it.
Our college experience provides such an opportunity.
Amidst the “coming of age” experience, the fun, the intense studying, and the athletics…being a college student is an optimal environment to create a diamond. That diamond is YOU. You have an opportunity to begin to figure out who you are, and who you want to become.
But how do we take advantage of this opportunity? We need the right skill set to identify these opportunities when they arrive, and leverage this unique environment. Here are 3 ways we can use pressure to make diamonds in college:
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
According to Stanford professor and psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, there are two core mindsets in human beings a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that “they are who they are”, causing them to take failure personally, and to crumble when faced with challenges. Those with a growth mindset take challenges as learning experiences, and believe that failure is a part of the growth process. People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset.
The pivotal part of Dweck’s research is this: those with a fixed mindset can develop a growth mindset. We control how we respond to the challenges that come our way.
2. Respect the Process
Two-time Olympic medalist, and 5 time world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan was once asked a question prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four years earlier, she was the favorite to win the 1998 Gold medal, and was narrowly beaten by underdog Tara Lipinski. The reporter asked “Are you returning to win the gold at these Olympic Games?”. Kwan quickly corrected the reporter, “I’m staying in to try to win the Olympics”.
Try. That word is key. The highest performers in multiple fields refuse to focus on the outcome. Success is all about respect for the process. Look at adversity as a part of the journey, as an essential piece of clay that is part of molding you into a beautiful sculpture.
3. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Take a moment to think about your family. Think about one person in your family that you look up to. Do some research to understand how they grew up, their accomplishments (or even lack thereof) and what they went through.
You have an opportunity that many in your family didn’t have. It is your responsibility to make the most of it, out of respect to your family and the people who forged the path for you. Appreciate the sacrifices, the struggle, and the failure they experienced. Learn from those experiences.
The more time you take to be grateful for the opportunity you have, the more perspective you’ll gain. With perspective comes poise, confidence, and improved performance.
Each time you find yourself stressed…refer back to that family member you respect, and what they went through. Believe me, your troubles will seem much less important.
Nick DiNardo is an entrepreneur, consultant, and public speaker focused on adversity, personal growth, and education. He is the author of The Game of Adversity: 8 Practices To Turn Life’s Toughest Moments Into Your Greatest Opportunities. Nick has interviewed hundreds of experts on overcoming adversity, dealing with trauma and stress, and the crucial role that it plays in our cognitive development and education. Nick is a graduate of Wesleyan University.