We are all credit seekers in one way or another; college students can be especially intense about finding ways to get recognition for what we do; but with New Year’s resolutions still on the mind, now is a good chance to consider, too, the worthwhile activities for which credit may not be given. When time is tight, priority usually falls to the narrower set of efforts that are going to get us something: we receive credit for the classes we take, we find experiences for our resumes, we strive for rewards for our achievements. But there are other meaningful, less-visible things that need our time, and even when these pursuits are worth the time, they can fall by the wayside. So, a suggested (late) resolution: in the new year, don’t seek out credit to the detriment of activities that are rewarding but not rewarded.
There are a lot of ways to keep this resolution, and here are just a few:
Take a class in a subject you are not good at, and do it for the sake of learning something even if you aren’t conventionally good at learning it.
Volunteer your time in the service of someone who needs it, and do it not for validation from friends or to list in an application but because someone who is not you is truly in need.
Call your relatives and check in with them, and instead of talking about yourself, listen to what is going on in their lives.
Get to know your family history so you may one day pass it on, even if you are not the hero of the story.
Exercise and eat well in the full knowledge that you probably won’t lose weight or clear up your skin.
Take up a hobby, old or new, that you will enjoy even if no one knows you do it.
Read, and read a lot, not to look smarter but to be smarter.
Remember, also, when you do something that will get you recognition or credit to do it because it really interests you or because you think that the lives of others will be better for it. To only put time towards goals and not also towards values is to narrow a long list of opportunities. Also remember that acts of selflessness or personal curiosity can be rewarding in their own way. In the spirit of New Year’s and reflecting on our priorities, consider what will motivate the things you do, not what you will get from being good at them.