People go to college for all sorts of reasons. The degree sure doesn’t hurt. The parties are undeniably likely to be part of the equation. It may even be the case that you actually, generally like the idea of getting educated and expanding your knowledge on a given topic. Then, obviously, there’s the fact that you’ll be living on your own terms, and surrounded by a bunch of other people your age — and some of them are likely to be pretty attractive.

All in all, your college years are the dawn of your adult life, and they play the role of a coming of age ceremony for many people in Western societies today, where more traditional rituals that once served that role have now been phased out or fallen by the wayside.

The dream is that, if all goes well, college will start you off on a path of success, adventure, fun, and self-discovery, which continues throughout your 20s and into the rest of your life, like some kind of great tidal wave that has the power to turn everything it comes into contact with to gold.

Of course, that’s a great thing to aspire to — and it’s certainly possible that you can turn your college years into that kind of life-affirming burst of forward momentum.

But, unfortunately, it’s all too common for things not to turn out that way, and for people to instead use their student years for nothing more than wild and decadent living, before resigning themselves to careers and lifestyles that fail to fulfil them or to resonate with their true desires for life.

If you want college to be the start of a great future, you’ve got to take steps to make it turn out that way. Here are some tips and examples of things you should get in order, to make that happen.

Practice the art of being self-disciplined and structured, again and again

Self-discipline isn’t such a cool or sexy term to talk about, these days. Instead, the hot new trends all have to do with working smart instead of working hard, and with leveraging the power of your habits so that you automatically act in the best possible way, without feeling that it costs you much, if anything, in terms of self-discipline at all.

The bottom line, though, is that in order to achieve your dreams and move your life consciously in the direction you want it to move in, you’ve got to be able to force yourself to do the right things, at the right time, and to refrain from doing the wrong things, and the wrong time. And this is especially important when you don’t feel like behaving in the way you know you should.

You can give that process whatever name you like. You could call it optimising your lifestyle habits, or you could describe it in terms of implementing the right collection of smart systems, but the term “self-discipline” seems to work as well as anything else.

The point is that this is a skill, and you’ve got to start practicing and mastering it as soon as possible. If you’re in college, the best thing you can do, for starters, is to impose a certain kind of structure on your life, and ensure that you stick to it come rain or shine.

A great place to start is by waking up at the same time every day (yes, even if you were out all night partying. You can always schedule yourself in some nap time later in the day if you need it), eating meals at the same time every day, and scheduling your days in advance, either on a piece of paper, or on a calendar app.

If you can get this skill down, then you will already be a force to be reckoned with within a few days of graduating. In fact, you’ll be a force to reckon with in college, itself.

Take serious steps — with help if needed — to avoid and treat any self-destructive behavioural patterns

The world is full of challenges — chock full of them — and if you want to have any real hope of facing them all head on, and carving yourself out a place in the world where your dreams can come true, and where everything can fall into line just as you’ve always dreamed, then you simply can’t afford to be carrying any major self-destructive behavioural patterns along with you.

Anything you can do to tackle these kinds of issues at the earliest possible stage — ideally, while you’re still in college, if not sooner — will prove a godsend over time when it comes to clearing the path for you to live up to the full scope of your potential, and to live the kind of life that you can really enjoy and feel proud of.

Keep in mind that, whatever your particular self-destructive behaviours, there are counsellors, techniques, programs, and lots of options for rehab available, and you really can overcome your demons and put them in their place if you approach them with determination, courage, and faith in your ability to move on to bigger and better things.

Take Extreme Ownership for yourself and your life, and work to become more autonomous day by day

The retired US Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, along with retired SEAL Leif Babin, have been growing in popularity in business and overall productivity circles for some time now, thanks in large part to their joint book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” and their consulting work with business clients.

One of the core messages that the two SEALs promote, is what they refer to as “Extreme Ownership” — which is a stance towards the world which involves accepting complete accountability for everything that happens in your personal and professional life, rather than passing the buck and making excuses.

Jack Canfield has, in the past, advocated the same idea in his book “How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”.

This is a pretty tough mindset to take on, and some of the implications are pretty hard to swallow. For one thing, it is absolutely the case that other people are sometimes responsible for the bad things that happen to you, and that it would be unfair for you to take the blame for those things.

Looked at from a different perspective, however, this mindset would not have to mean that you excuse people who do wrong towards you. But it would mean that you would have to look at every situation from the stance of “what could I have done to have avoided this, and what could I do in future to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?”

Adopting this kind of Navy SEAL “life hack” in your college years might result in a truly tremendous impact, not just for your grades, but also for your life down the line.

With an Extreme Ownership mindset, you just don’t get the luxury of saying “ah, well, my business failed, but it couldn’t be helped. It’s all the market, and scammers, and a poor internet connection”. Instead, you have to say, “I let my business fail — so I need to do better next time. What could I have done differently, and what lessons can I learn for next time?”

That’s not necessarily a fun way of looking at things, but the trick is that it empowers you and holds you accountable in a way that almost guarantees you stay on an uphill trajectory. Excuses are just too easy. Get in the habit of making them, and you can fall into a deeply negative spiral.

Work on understanding and sorting out your values — what really matters to you, in the big sense?

Young, college-age people tend to have a pretty short-term and materialistic view on what matters in life. You might be adamant that this doesn’t apply to you, but if it doesn’t, then look around at all of your friends and classmates and try to say with a straight face that it doesn’t apply to a good few of them.

In order to live a truly fulfilling life, however, it’s not enough to earn a lot of money and be able to buy a yacht. You need to have your values worked out, so that you can truly take pride in the way you act, and feel like someone who is worthy of self-respect.

This is something you need to figure out on your own, but you really do need to figure it out, and the sooner you get started on it, the better. In fact, aside from letting your wild side out with parties, writing essays and getting your education, this should be one of the premier things that you emphasise in your college experience.

“How could I act in a way that would make me like myself and feel proud, even if things weren’t going well?” Answer that question, and you’ll be well on the right track.

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