When I was in college, I joined a sorority the fall of my first year. Trust me, I never saw myself as being someone who would go Greek, based on what I’d seen in movies and TV shows. But something interesting happened: A few of the girls befriended me right away and I found that I was spending most of my free time with them so pledging made sense.
I don’t regret that decision one bit and many of those people are still my closest friends today, almost 20 years later. What I do regret is how little I put into the entire experience. Sure, I held a couple of chairs, as minor as they were (publicity and sisterhood). What I didn’t recognize until after graduation was how much more I could have gotten out of my time in the house.
One of the benefits of a sorority is that you have the opportunity to gain lots of leadership experience, as well as many chances to participate in various events (e.g. volunteering, formals, etc.). The sorority I was in had minimum requirements, in that you had to fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours, attend sisterhood and pledge events, and that sort of thing. While I’m not the only person guilty of this, I found myself doing the bare minimum year after year. Life was busy, after all, and something had to give.
As I was adjusting to a life of working full-time after graduating, I quickly saw the error in my ways and realized how many opportunities I missed. All the chances to learn and strengthen my leadership skills, all the events I could have enjoyed, all the ways that I could have made more of a difference in the community. I remember talking to a friend who’s a year younger and telling her that if there’s one lesson I could pass on to those younger than me it would be this: You get out of it what you put in.
I try to remember this whenever I find myself bored at work. It drives me to seek out more challenging projects or ways to work on my development. If I have to spend my time there, I may as well get as much out of it as I can, even in my downtime.
So often life gets busy and we’re doing the best we can just to get through the day. We don’t bother to see the potential and opportunities within our lives. Instead we go through the motions but end up getting very little from it.
Is there anything in your life where you’ve noticed that you’re just trudging through, rather than making the most of it?