Emotional Readiness and How to Obtain It
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In a recent New York Times article, Alina Tugend spotlights the term “emotional readiness.” Students who possess emotional readiness will be well-prepared for success in college. Those who don’t may face issues in college that “can lead to students’ lives’ unraveling.”
In a nutshell, emotional readiness encompasses those fundamental, foundational emotional skills that will help a student flourish in college and beyond. This skill set is often collectively referred to as resilience, a.k.a. the ability to handle life’s challenges and still find ways to thrive.
Emotional readiness also means learning how to fail, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and taking care of your own well being. One of the most common reasons that students cite for dropping out of college is lack of preparedness, and while this refers in large part to a lack of academic preparedness, emotional readiness is also a critical part of academic success.
It can be difficult to concretely pinpoint what this term will mean for you or your student. Emotional readiness encompasses a wide range of seemingly contradictory soft skills, including communication, humility, confidence, empathy, and general maturity.
Despite this, there is a basic process for understanding what you might need to build emotional resilience and cultivating the necessary skills. Read on to learn more about the process and ways to make it a part of your life.
How Do You Develop Emotional Readiness?
The first step in developing emotional readiness is self-awareness. A true understanding of yourself means knowing and embracing both the positive and negative aspects of your personality.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What am I good at?
- What is challenging for me?
- What do I hate, and why?
- When people give me feedback, what is a common criticism?
- Where/when do I feel the most at home and at ease?
- Where/when do I feel unhappy or miserable?
- Are there times in which I feel I’m making the same mistakes over and over?
- Do I feel unfulfilled in a part of my life? Why?
- What aspects in my life can I control? What can’t I control and must accept as a given?
If this process feels uncomfortable, that’s okay. It’s rarely a fun experience to highlight your own failures and mistakes. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Every single person has strengths and weaknesses, and being at peace with oneself, flaws and all, is a critical aspect of emotional readiness.
Once you understand the answers to these questions, pinpoint a few aspects that seem particularly challenging for you. What scares you the most? What do you want to run away from? Often, it will be a feeling that causes stress and pain: failure, disappointment, imperfection, powerlessness, and conflict are common worries for students and adults alike.
Ironically, the most effective way of overcoming these fears is leaning into them. Once you’ve found what’s most frightening to you, boil it down to a couple of words and then find ways to practice it in a way that pushes you without sacrificing your own safety.
The skills you need depend on the person you are. If you fear failure, your challenge will be to embrace failure by practicing it. If you fear judgment, you will have to learn how to hear criticism without falling apart.
It’s also important to remember self-love all throughout this process. You’ll face challenges and weaknesses, but you have skills and talents that are unique to you that will help you succeed in college and beyond. If you’re interested in identifying and capitalizing on your strengths, books like StrengthsFinder 2.0 can be a critically important resource.
Opportunities to Develop Emotional Readiness
Once you know what you need to develop emotional readiness, how do you get there? You’ll need to start small. Since we’re talking about big, fundamental fears, incremental steps will be much easier than throwing yourself into situations that terrify you. Below are some examples of ways to build up a tolerance for common challenges and work your way up to full emotional readiness.
If you fear failure and imperfection:
- Go back to a test or assignment that didn’t go well and pinpoint what you failed to do correctly.
- Ask a teacher or friend that you trust to highlight a time in which you failed, and what happened to cause the failure. Learn to tolerate the painful feelings this exercise brings up and explain to yourself that it’s not the end of the world. Write down your impressions and takeaways.
- Come up with a list of instances in which you might face failure. Then, try to list reasons why this might be a good thing. Example: You might fail to become friends with your college roommate freshman year — but this just means you might have a personality mismatch. Now you know what kind of person you are best able to interact closely with on a regular basis.
- Communicate your fears openly. Tell your parents and close friends what makes you scared, and ask them to tell you about times that they failed. With time, you’ll learn that not only is failure normal, but it is also essential to learn and experience life fully.
If you fear conflict or disappointment from others:
- Remember a time in which someone criticized you. What happened? What could you have done differently? What was out of your control?
- Speak to someone you trust who has expressed disappointment in or frustration with you. Explain that you’d like to learn from the experience, and ask them to go over with you gently how they came to their conclusion and what they hoped you might take away from it.
- Practice conflict with others you trust. This could mean working explicitly with a friend to have a difficult conversation, going slowly and acknowledging clumsiness. Make sure to acknowledge how you feel and practice tolerating that feeling.
- Make a list of times when conflict might be necessary and beneficial. When done correctly, conflict is a necessary aspect of relationship-building. Conflict and disagreement will help you understand yourself and others better, which will lead to more positive interactions in the long run.
If you fear being powerlessness and being overwhelmed:
- Take a look at what’s making you fall behind. Are you taking on too much? Are you feeling overcome with everything you have going on in your life? To help identify this, check out The Dangers of Overcommitting: How Taking on Too Much Can Hurt Your Applications.
- Write down a list of the things that worry you. Under each one, write down what you can control, and what’s out of your hands. You can control how much you study for a test, but you can’t control the questions on the test. Once you know what’s in your grasp, move forward with those aspects.
- Experiment with ways you can help yourself feel more powerful. Go to a teacher in a subject that you find challenging and ask to be tutored. Research ways to keep yourself organized that feel right for you. Find ways to maximize opportunities to do activities and subjects you love.
- Ask your parents to help you find ways to build up your autonomy and independent thinking. Tell them when you’re overwhelmed and when you might need a break.
If you’re looking for more examples of general tips that will better prepare you for the challenges and stresses of college, check out 4 Things You Can Start Doing in High School to Make College Easier and 6 Techniques for Dealing with Stress in High School.
Maximizing Emotional Readiness for College and Beyond
In preparing for college, emotional readiness is the key to success. It comes during a fraught time for young adults — students are working to prep themselves to be attractive to colleges while simultaneously developing their maturity and a sense of themselves.
With so much going on, students can fall into a pattern of simply avoiding what they hate. But avoidance won’t work forever, and learning how to work through difficulties is critical for becoming a functioning college student.
Emotional readiness won’t just be helpful in college. Once it’s a key part of life, these skills will continue to be relevant in the working world and navigating challenges as an adult.
Exposure to difficulties during high school, learning to live with the unknown, and acknowledging strengths and weaknesses will help students know themselves better and begin to develop the emotional independence they need.
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