Think back to when you were a little kid. If you were like me, you didn’t care what anyone thought or said. You weren’t afraid to dream big or shoot for the stars. You had no problem telling anyone who’d listen what you were going to be when you grew up:
“I want to be a firetruck!”
“I want to be bull fighter!”
“I want to be a Spice Girl!”
“I want to be a superhero!”
These were all things that I actually told my parents. Granted, I wasn’t born a Transformer so the firetruck idea was off the table from the get-go, but it was the principle of the thing. Imagination! An unbridled belief that you could be whatever you wanted to be! Those were the days.
While I may have developed a more a realistic approach to my career goals, I still try to maintain some of the excitement and spirit of my childhood self. I may not fly around the city in tights and a cape combatting villains and enforcing justice, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a superhero.
How am I qualified to be a superhero, you might ask? Well, superheroes is fantastic hair. I have fantastic hair. Superheroes help people. My passion lies in not-for-profits. Therefore, I meet two of the basic requirements. The thing is, being a superhero isn’t actually as impossible as you might think—it’s a matter of perception. Just imagine your life as a video game and follow these five simple steps to achieve superhero status:
Note: This exercise can help you gain perspective, start a mind map, or establish focus and direction when you feel lost. So ask yourself: what did you want to be when you were a kid? How does that thing relate to what you do now, or dream about doing? What does being a superhero mean to you?
Step 1: Choose your character
Whenever I played Mario Kart I was always Yoshi or Toad. The point of this first step is that only you get to decide who you want to be. There are far too many people that struggle with self-image issues, depression, and anxiety as a result of other people’s expectations. I know this firsthand: I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone. One of the best things about growing up is that you get to stop being who everyone expects you to be and instead focus on who you want to be.
Growing up my Mom would say things like: “Shannon, that isn’t very lady like, that’s not how a girl should act.” My family’s expectations meant that, much to my displeasure, I wore a dress to my high school grad, had long hair, wore makeup, and took a boy as my date. As soon as I moved out of my parents’ house I cut my hair into a Mohawk and I haven’t worn a dress or dated a boy since. My house, my rules right?
As I get older I’m able to distance myself from that person everyone else expected me to be and and instead focus on figuring out who I really am. Today my mom is one of my best friends. She doesn’t love me any less because I “dress like a boy” and date girls. People are dynamic, always changing—I’m not the same person I was five years ago, and that’s okay.
Step 2: Choose your mission
What fun would a video game be without a purpose, a goal, or a level to beat?. How do you figure out what your version of leveling up is? Ask yourself what you want to accomplish; perhaps you want to graduate high school, pass math, get a good grade on a test, find a pair of shoes that fit, pee standing up. You just found your mission.
A word about reasonable goal setting: goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. You can have both long term goals (big dreams and major milestones) and short term goals (these have a specific purpose and can be achieved relatively quickly). Don’t be afraid to dream big but try to keep your goals achievable and realistic so you won’t be disappointed. Also remember that you can always re-evaluate and change your goals.
Step 3: Identify your objectives
Just like playing Zelda, Mario, or Donkey Kong, you need to complete specific tasks like beating bosses in order to level up. So ask yourself, what do you need to do in order to achieve your goals? You can probably come up with a list of objectives, or steps, you need to take to get to where you want to be. Maybe your objectives are a list of short term goals you need to achieve in order to reach a long term goal.
Step 4: Identify your resources
Resources are anything that can help you to succeed in your mission, achieve your goals, and level up. They aren’t always obvious. Resources might be people: Donkey Kong has Ditty, Link has Navi, Mario has Toad, Sonic has Tails, Batman has Robin, you get the picture. Think about your network—the people you are connected to—and how they can help you: friends, parents, teachers, librarians, councillors, your boss, your best friend’s dad.
There are also programs designed to help students reach specific goals, like the RAP program that helps high school students who want to become apprentices in a trade. Did you know if you combine participating in the RAP program with CTS courses you can graduate with the first year of your apprenticeship done!
Resources can also be things like jobs, hobbies, sports, books, or even the internet. When it comes to post-secondary, campuses have tons of resources to help students succeed. Check out academic advisors, student funding, and the career and counselling centre.
Step 5: Make it happen
The last step is to make it happen! Actually take the steps you’ve identified to reach your goals. And when you finally level up, get right back to the drawing board and find your next mission. You are never done learning, growing, changing, experiencing, so keep going!
The takeaway is this: you can absolutely be anything you want to be. Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective, a little planning, and the willingness to believe in yourself. If you change your point of view like I did with this exercise, you’ll see that being a superhero is not an unachievable goal. So never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Go be your own superhero!
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