The Edinburgh Award
On the first day of February, the second Edinburgh Award session was held in the auditorium at the Business School. When I came into the room, I was so moved to see everyone sitting there with their clear and shining eyes, ready to share the progress they have made with fellow students. It was inspiring to listen to each person’s story and discover how they had approached their goals and dreams over the past several months. During these months, I had also been working hard to build a ‘better me’. That is what the Edinburgh Award is all about.
Thinking back to the first Edinburgh Award session, I remember feeling inspired by a video we had watched that defined a goal as a dream with a deadline. My understanding is that initially we need a goal to direct our actions. Moreover, the goal should be challenging. Therefore, when we were directed to write about our ideal self, I wrote that in the next nine months I’d be more confident, particularly when it comes to talking to others, and become more extrovert.
I still remember writing down these sentences as it was a difficult time for me. I had spent a whole month hating myself and wishing to be my ‘ideal self’. At that time, this version of an ‘ideal self’ was not actually myself, but some perfect other.
Thanks to the Strengths Session, which is part of the Edinburgh Award, I learned not to concentrate so heavily on my weaknesses, but to also acknowledge my strengths. This encouraged me to explore my traits further. Personally, I have always been an introvert, which can present challenges in terms of networking or job interviews. So, I have always wanted to be more extrovert and hated my shy personality.
Luckily, after participating in this session, I realised that I also have certain strengths alongside my introvert personality, such as empathy and intellect etc. It may be true that some introverts experience more difficulties when it comes to job hunting or network building, so I decided that I needed to step slightly out of my comfort zone. My aim is not to completely change myself anymore. It is just about transferring those “can’t do” feelings into “can do” goals, rather than trying to change the inborn attributes that make me, me – which is impossible to do. So, although I don’t like talking to strangers (due to my introvert personality), I can talk.
30 cups of coffee campaign
To encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone, I established my #30-Cup Coffee Campaign#, which is about challenging myself to talk to 30 strangers for at least 30 minutes. Simultaneously, I wanted to develop my interpersonal communication as well and this seemed like a great opportunity. So I remembered what my coach, Tina, said. (Students who participate in the Edinburgh Award may be assigned a coach as part of a trial, who will help the student to find a better way to achieve their goals.) She encouraged me to find someone with similar interests, so that it would be easier for me to initiate a conversation. As I like behavioural thinking, especially relating to topics of introvert vs extrovert, perfectionism, time management, the building of good habits, the development of personality, etc., I posted these topics under my campaign on Facebook.
Learning about different people
Surprisingly, many people were interested in my campaign and wanted to participate and support me! Currently, I have already had my eighth coffee talk within two weeks. Previously, I could not have imagined what it would be like to talk to 30 strangers, but now, I have gained more confidence in my communication abilities. I realised that interpersonal communication is not about learning tips or skills; it is about taking a real interests in others. What I mean is that when I talked to others, I was interested in their stories and their thoughts, and their thoughts also got me thinking. And so the conversation continued.
To encourage myself to keep stepping out of my comfort zone, I have been noting down my every tiny progress or change that I have noticed, and the challenges that I have overcome. Looking back through my notebook, I was so moved at how these tiny changes have helped me to develop. With the help of Edinburgh Award and the company of other students who participated, becoming an improved self has been much easier.
Over the next few months, I’ll keep moving forward and looking forward to a better me at the end of the year. I also look forward to seeing how others on the award are achieving their goals.