Wed. Jan 23rd, 2019

Extraordinary exuberance: Welcome to the college cocoon

Extraordinary Exuberance: a coaching column with Ellie Nolan


“Welcome to the College Cocoon”
Close your eyes. Inhale deep. Let it out slowly.

Picture yourself standing tall, taking your diploma from the hand of a smiling administrator, and considering your post-graduate future.

Hit pause and zoom in on that moment. How are you feeling? What emotions are you experiencing around this concept of “the future?” Are you excited? Thrilled? Terrified? Confident? Dreading the next step? Or, do you have faith that you can use whatever lies ahead to your ultimate advantage?

Anyone who has been in college more than a day knows there are many sirens calling for your attention (and I don’t just mean that bodacious babe sitting behind you in Biology 101): Classes, work, friends, family, romance… oh yeah, and that exercise and food thing. Oh yeah! Sleep, too.

With all those areas to make room for on your plate, it might seem absurd to spend time thinking about personal growth. After all, isn’t that what you do when you have the rest of it figured out? Not if you want to enjoy (and make the most of) the “rest of it.”

When I was a senior in high school, I received the following email. Unlike many “warning” stories or chain letter-emails, something about this story resonated deep within me.

“Once upon a time, an old, old man was dying in a hospital bed. The man knew he hadn’t much time left to live, so he motioned his young grandson to come near.

“’Grandson, when I was your age, all I wanted was to change the world. I was sure I could do it if I just tried hard enough. I was on fire at the beginning, but as the years went by, it seemed no matter what I did, it was never enough to make a real change. The solution, I thought, was to narrow my focus, to ask for less, so over the years that is exactly what I did. I settled first for simply trying to make a difference in my country, then just in my city, and as a last resort, at least with my family. But lo and behold, I could not even do that. They had their own ideas on how to live their lives, and wouldn’t take advice from someone who had never truly lived his own.” The old man sighed and looked up into his legacy’s eyes. “Grandson, I realize now that if I had only first worked to change myself, perhaps I could have one day changed the world…”

As the old man discovered in his life lesson, spending time on personal growth is like a making wise business investment, one where a little listening, planning, and application of time and intelligence can lead to major returns in financial and relational abundance alike.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what makes you tick yet, or what you want out of life. Beginning is as easy as becoming curious. Gently inquire the following of yourself over the next few days as you begin to settle into the rhythm of daily life at the University of Louisville:

Who do I want to be, standing on that stage at graduation time? What type of future self do I want to invest in? How do I want to feel the majority of the time? When do I feel that way now? What character traits, qualities, and skills do I want to use and express on a day-to-day basis?

For best results, write down what comes up for you as you reflect on these questions.

If who you want to be seems out of reach to who you are now, have no fear! Leadership is a skill. Charisma can be cultivated, organization learned. Fears, blocks, and limitations can be shifted and dissolved with the right tools, time and attention. Not even the sky is the limit anymore!

What brilliant combinations of colors we can all discover within ourselves! Your caterpillar-ing days can be over for good. College is your chance to cocoon, to let the creature that intrinsically knows how to fly begin to emerge and to bring its one-of-a-kind beauty to the world. You have all you need to transform in body, mind, and spirit…why not seize the day and take your first step today towards being your ideal future self?


Life coach Ellie Nolan is a senior, human well-being major at the University of Louisville. Dancing, coaching, meditating and nourishing relationships are a few of many things that make her come alive!

“Extraordinary Exuberance” is a column created as part of Mission: Thrive, a campus-wide movement for increasing holistic student success and happiness. Contact her at [email protected] to learn more about the mission or her coaching practice.

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