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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Expand Your Comfort Zone


(This is by far my most viewed post. I now revise and expand it. - DaBear, 12/27/16)

For several years now I have challenged my students to expand their comfort zones.

In this post I first describe the importance of stepping outside of one's comfort zone. Then I describe the concept of the “comfort zone.” I then detail the assignment provided to my college students. Thereafter follows a sampling of the student responses.


I suggest you watch this short video: Measuring Your Comfort Zone (Marcus Taylor at TedX / Melbourne) (5:50). As seen, continually expanding your own comfort zone leads simply to this - success, in all aspects of your life.

Here are some comments from my students who undertook these "Expand Your Comfort Zone" activities:
  • “Some students don’t really understand the point of these exercises. But, it’s teaching the confidence that you need to survive in the business world.”
  • “I never realized how much you could be missing out on when you stay within your safe day-to-day routine. Although not every experience was a pleasant one I still enjoyed all of these exercises.”
  • “I feel that doing things which are uncomfortable can make life more worthwhile.”
  • “I know some of these tasks might come by easy to some people, but they were hard ones for me. I realize that stepping outside your comfort zone not only builds strength, but it also helps you realize things about yourself you would have never known if you didn’t do the unusual.”
  • “I would do this project one hundred times over again.”
Here's a more immediate reason to tackle these challenges - for college students. Become an attractive graduate to potential employers! Strengthen your interpersonal skills – so that you will be more successful in securing jobs and internships, and more successful in your career (and in life, generally).

Taking action to step outside of your comfort zone distinguishes between those individuals that continually learn, develop and stretch themselves, ultimately leading to a more successful and fulfilling life, in comparison to those that don’t. Realize that college is not just about acquiring knowledge. Rather, college is also a time to learn or enhance social skills, overcome artificial barriers, obtain confidence, and learn to embrace all that life has to offer.

In summary, you will become a better person as a result of these activities; you will learn skills and adopt traits that will propel you to success in all aspects of your life.

A person’s “comfort zone” is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. Highly successful persons often routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish.
Yet, for many persons, their own “comfort zone” serves as a limitation on experiencing all that life, and relationships, have to offer. Indeed, a comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and observe various mental boundaries. Such boundaries create a sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it.
To step outside a comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within their environment. Those that expand their comfort zones grow as persons to fill out the new boundaries of their expanded comfort zone.
Persons who possess a larger comfort zone, and who continue to “push out” the edges of their comfort zone, really do enjoy life more and they grow as an individual. They have more experiences, undertake more learning, possess deeper relationships with others, and acquire more wisdom.

I request that each of my students choose several activities that "expand their comfort zone.”   Students are asked to complete one activity every other week during the semester.
Each student then posts their results to a Discussion Board via a short essay that answers these questions:
  1. What activity did you do?
  2. How did you feel about the chosen activity, before you undertook it?
  3. What was the result of the activity? And, did the activity truly challenge you?
  4. How did you feel about the activity, after you undertook it?
  5. Would your recommend the activity to others?
  6. Is there anything you would do to change the activity?
Students also are required to comment upon (in a supportive or constructive manner) another student's Discussion Board post. Because we learn not to judge others, but rather to support each other as we tackle these challenges.


Over time, new activities have been suggested by students, and as a result the list has expanded from its original 20 activities. Here's the current list:

1. Create Your Own “EYCZ” Activity. It must be an activity that scares you. (It does not matter if the activity is something that would not scare anyone else.)
  • For example: Some students have never driven on the interstate highway before, or driven on a highway in a large city (such as Nashville); they accept the challenge to overcome that fear.

2. Attend the PEAK “Etiquette Dinner.”  Students really, really enjoyed this, last semester. It’s a fun time, and you’ll learn important skills that will give you confidence when a future employer asks you out to lunch or dinner. Usually held in April of each year.

3. Attend the PEAK “Perfect Your Interview” Program. Professionals from the Bowling Green community will come to campus to conduct mock interview sessions, providing feedback on your answers as well as nonverbal behaviors. Students will need to make appointments for the 30-minute sessions.
4. Undertake to Possess a “PERFECT” Resume.  Have 10 family members or friends review it. Then schedule an appointment (30 minutes) to have it reviewed by the Gordon Ford College of Business Professional Development Specialist. Then submit your “Perfect” resume to Dr. Rhoades (and also do a blog post about this activity, and comment on another student’s post).

5. Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Internship and/or Job Shadowing Possibilities with the Gordon Ford College of Business Internship Coordinator.

6. Attend the Gordon Ford College of Business Job Fair. 
  • Date: February 15, 2017 from 1PM to 4PM CST
  • Location: Downing Student Union 3rd Floor, WKU's Bowling Green Campus
  • Details: Students and Alumni from the College of Business will be in attendance, as well as employers
  • Dress up!
  • Have your resume with you! Preferably, have a “portfolio” (leather bound pad) with you.
  • ATTEND THE JOB FAIR EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT YET LOOKING FOR AN INTERNSHIP OR JOB. Interview employers. Find out what employers are looking for, when they come to a Job Fair. Ask them what makes candidates “stand out.” Ask them what they would recommend to college juniors/seniors, in terms of preparing for a career.
7. Review Your Career Path. Most persons do best in (and enjoy) careers for which they possess an aptitude. Each of us has different strengths. As a result, some career choices better “fit” each person.
  • FIRST: Take the free online Myers Briggs test, found at: What is your personality type (4 letters, such as “ENFP”). Now Google search for your four letters plus the word “careers.”  (Ex: ISTJ careers).  Look at several different web pages. Write down a list of various careers that you find appealing, and that match your personality type.
  • SECOND: Since no personality test is 100% accurate, it is best – especially with the important decision of choosing (or confirming) a career path – to further delve into your strengths and aptitudes. Fortunately, WKU has the free resources for you.  MyPlan is a website that helps you narrow your career options. By taking a few assessments that'll take in your preferences, personality, skills, and interests a quick and awesome list of suggestions will be the result that'll guide you to a successful career. Visit - sign in and complete the assessment, and print and review the report. 
  • NOTE: If you remain uncertain about your choice of career, you might:
    • Consult with a WKU Career Counselor. To schedule an appointment, visit
    • Speak to a professor in a major associated with one or more of your possible careers.
    • Reach out to WKU alumni, or others, who work in the fields you are interested in. Ask to interview them about their experiences, what a “day in the life” of their job is like, what they enjoy most (and least) about their jobs, and seek out advice they would have for a college student.
  • To gain points, now write a post on the Discussion Board. (See instructions, above.) And review and comment on other students’ posts.
8. Join a Club or Organization; Attend At Least One Meeting. Your goal here is to join a club or organization to which you currently don’t belong, and attend the entirety of one meeting. You are NOT required to continue membership, but if you like the club or organization you should do so. It’s a great way to make contacts, and membership in organizations helps to “complete” your résumé. For more information on student organizations, visit

9. Take a Professor to Lunch. The “Dutch Treat” rule applies – i.e., each person pays for his or her own lunch. Agree to meet at the professor’s office, and/or at a WKU eating facility.
  • Hint: Da Bear likes to eat lunch at RedZone, in the Downing Student Union. Just email him and suggest dates/times.
When scheduling a lunch meeting with a professor, have in your mind several questions to ask. For example, ask questions relating to careers, or advice on how to best find an internship or job, for example. Ask about the professor’s background.
  • Further hint: Read the professor’s bio, as posted to his/her WKU web page. For example, Also do a “Google search” about anyone you will be meeting with. This is a good tip for the business world, as well. Find out about those who you interview with, or who are prospects that you will be meeting with.
10. Establish 3-5 “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” for this Semester. After adopting them, schedule a reminder on your smart phone to record, each week, your progress toward them. Then post to the Discussion Board a brief essay about the goals you adopted, and your progress toward achieving these S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

11. Participate in a Field Trip. This might include attending an industry conference or symposium, visiting a firm (with a group of other students), or some other field trip that is sponsored by any of the Departments in the Gordon Ford College of Business. During the field trip you must have a conversation with someone you don’t know, and learn about them.

12. Apply for a Nationally Competitive Scholarship through WKU’s Office of Scholar Development (OSD). Visit You need not win, but you must undertake a good faith effort to complete and submit the application for a competitive scholarship. Describe the process of applying for the scholarship, and the assistance you received from OSD, in your essay.

13. Give at least three people compliments on any day, when you normally would not (counts as one activity). At least one compliment must be given to a person of each gender.

14. Smile at (all) strangers, and say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or “Hi” to all the people you pass by, for one entire day – and wherever you are!
  • Better yet – the Gordon Ford College of Business sponsors “Smile, Greet & Engage Days” this Spring. Participate by following the instructions for this event.
15. Get to sleep (bed) one hour earlier for four nights straight, and at the same time each night (this counts as one activity). Document how you feel each of the following days.

As a suggestion, on your smart phone schedule a reminder for your “bed time” – i.e., to remind you to begin preparation to go to bed.

Also, consider downloading a “sleep aid” app for your smart phone. Search the app store for your type of phone by just putting the word “sleep” in the search function.

16. Speak up in a class – when you normally would not. Ask a question or comment upon a statement made by another, or answer a question, voluntarily. (If you are required by your professor to answer a question, give a presentation, or if you are given an assignment that requires your participation, this does not count for points in this class. However, if you are not required to speak up or give a presentation or answer a question, this will count – even if general “class participation” points may result in your other class.)

17. Thank a friend or family member for their ongoing support. Call them up, or see them, and express gratitude for all they have done for you. Warning … this is a powerful exercise! The results will likely surprise you!

18. Tell a friend they are loved. The person you tell should be a friend, but must not be your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, or someone you hope will become one of the foregoing.

19. Let go of your self-judgment for a day. And do something others would never think you would do. Feel good about yourself. If others think ill of you – they do not matter; they are no longer part of your personal universe.

20. Perform on Karaoke night. It’s not that hard! “Just do it!”

21. Join a new organization in the Bowling Green community, and/or undertake volunteering in our community.

22. Show three friends or acquaintances a YouTube or other video (such as a TedX presentation) on some aspect of self-improvement.

23. Attend a Gordon Ford College of Business guest lecture or presentation. This should be a presentation you are not required to attend, nor are seeking credit for, in any other class. The speaker must be an “outside speaker” – i.e., not a faculty member nor anyone else employed by WKU.

24. Find someone who is sitting alone for lunch or dinner or breakfast one day, and ask to sit with him or her. Interview him or her. Find out who they are. Do they like WKU? What do they like most? What would they change, if they could? Are they involved in any organizations? (If they are not – suggest one or more organizations to them.) Also, possibly (but not required): Explain to them the “Expand Your Comfort Zone” activities. Follow-up with an email or social media post to them, with a link to a video, or an event, or just a “thank you.” Or, better yet – ask the person to join you and a group of friends in going to an event or undertaking an activity.

25. Sign up for, and participate in, WKU's Dynamic Leadership Institute. Known to many as DLI, this program is designed to teach students the interpersonal skills and knowledge needed to engage in various leadership roles on campus, within the community, and in their futures.  Each of the four phases allows the student to view leadership from different perspectives and provides opportunities to examine and enhance their skills. DLI is not for academic credit, but rather for self-exploration and personal development.  DLI is a 6-week, 1-hour per week commitment per semester. Submit your essay to the Discussion Board on Blackboard within 1 week of your completion of the DLI program, and you will receive up to the maximum extra credit for this two-week period. (Also, comment upon another person’s submission, as set forth above.)

26. Attend “Project Affect” and Join in Undertaking Community Service. The WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships and the WKU Student Activities' Leadership & Volunteerism sponsor an awareness event called Project Affect. Project Affect is a campus and community engagement fair that offers information on how to get involved through service, as well as engages visitors in hands-on activities reflective of different causes. Approximately 600 students participated last year. Visit to learn more. Choose a community organization or campus organization to participate in. After providing service, write a 250 word or greater essay about your experience.

27. Unplug your t.v. and video games for one entire week. Many, many of my students choose to undertake this activity during the semester. The results are often very, very surprising!

28. Turn off your “smart” phone for one entire day. Before doing this, let your family and friends know that you will be “disconnected” for an entire day, so that they don’t worry about you.

29. Disconnect from Facebook and all other social media for two entire days.
  • Hint: To do this well, delete your social media apps from your smart phone during this period of time.
  • Hint: Post to others that you are disconnecting from social media for two days, first!
30. Use the Writing Center on-campus (or online) for assistance in reviewing the draft of an essay or paper. Make an appointment before you go!

31. Do your math homework in the Math Lab, seeking assistance when needed.

32. See a professor, in-person or via a Skype call, for guidance on “how to do better” in a particular class, or on a particular assignment or test or exam.

33. See a professor, in-person or via a Skype call, for tips on career paths and/or “how to best network to find jobs or internships.”

34. Obtain counseling at the student health center - to talk through a problem, or to seek ideas on how to relieve stress. (If you do this and don’t want to post to the Discussion Board, just send an e-mail to Dr. Rhoades setting forth that you attended a counseling session, and just indicate whether or not the session helped you. Dr. Rhoades will then provide you with credit for this activity. You don’t need to provide any details.)

35. Apologize to someone you have done wrong to, and/or admit to another that you were wrong – in person or over the phone or via Skype.

36. Write a “personal log entry” in which you forgive someone for a wrong done to you. Let go of bitterness and anger. Let go of a grudge. (Whether you choose to communicate your forgiveness to the other person is up to you, and dependent upon the circumstances.) Warning: This can be a powerful activity!

37. Undertake a new activity to “get in shape” – for two weeks straight. For example, the activity might involve a 1-3 mile walk or run every other day, or going to the gym for 3-4 days a week.

38. Change your eating habits for the better – for one solid week.  To do this well, keep a personal log of everything you eat, each day, for seven days straight.

39. Perform three “random acts of kindness” in one day (counts as one activity). For ideas on random acts of kindness you might undertake, Google search the term “random acts of kindness.” There are many random acts of kindness you can undertake that don’t involve you spending money on someone else!

40. Change your group of friends (i.e., don’t “lie down with dogs, or you will get up with fleas”). Or disassociate yourself over time from one friend who tends to drag you down.

41. Post a “success tip” once a day, each day, on your dorm room door or another place on campus, or at your place of work, or on your social media page, for five straight days. Make certain you indicate in your identity, such as: “This success tip provided courtesy of (your name).” Describe in your essay the reactions you received, and how each posting (or the reactions to it) made you feel.

42. Say “YES” to an activity another person, or group of persons, invites you to join in. Don’t be a “no” person all of your life. Say “yes” to going to an event, or engaging in an activity, that you otherwise would not do. “JUST DO IT!” (Of course, be safe!)

43. Interview a role model. Interview an elder or role model (parent, grandparent, neighbor, professor, academic advisor, etc.) about their life at your age, the decisions and struggles they faced, key success tips that helped them to get through their challenges, what they would do differently, etc.

44. Run for an office in WKU student government.

45. Seek out a leadership role within a student organization.

46. Download a “gratitude” app, and record what you are grateful for, daily. Just five minutes daily is all it takes to rewire your brain and unleash everything great in your life – and it starts with Gratitude! By practicing awareness of the positive things in life, we fight off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for and spot the negatives. As a result, we train our brains to be more positive and thus happier. A “gratitude app” – or just keep a “gratitude journal” – can change your life! Do this for seven days straight, and see what happens!

47. Create your own … “My Book of Possibilities.”
      The Book of Possibilities is inspired by the movie "Last Holiday" starring Queen Latifah, in which the protagonist owns a "Book of Possibilities."
       The purpose of this project is to have a binder filled with one's motivations and passions. You could bring this binder to job interviews. This show of initiative and creativity brings a unique impression to potential employers.
      Elements of the book might include:
             • Your biography
             • Your vision statement. In formulating your personal vision statement, you might seek to answer the following questions.
                    o Imagine you are in an elevator, headed for the 5th floor. The person riding the elevator with you asks: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” In the space below. write down a 20-second speech that describes who you are, presently, and/or what you hope to achieve. (For more guidance as to what you might say, Google “elevator speech”.)
                   o Describe your desired last job in your career. Where will you work (geographically, type of firm or company)? What is the job’s title? What are the job’s functions? How many hours a week do you work? How many vacation days do you take each year? What do you most like about the job?
                   o Describe the job you desire to possess five to ten years after you graduate from college. Answer the same questions as above. Also, how does this job prepare you for the desired last job in your career?
                   o Imagine you just started your first job in your choice of career.  On your first day, your manager asks you, over lunch: “If we were sitting here five years from now, what would have had to occur, in both your professional and personal life, for you to have considered those five years a success?” (This is known in business circles as the “R-factor” question.)
            • Your personal characteristics and qualities - what separates you from everyone else.
            • Your own "bucket list" – a personal story that you and sets forth what you want out of life.
                   o TO ASCERTAIN YOUR OWN BUCKET LIST, ANSWER “THE FIVE-YEAR QUESTION”: “If a doctor told me that I had five years to live, and during that time I would be as healthy as I am now, what would you want to do or accomplish so that – at the end of your life – you had no regrets?”
                   o (For purposes of this question, assume – if you have or are planning to have children – that your children are fully grown, on their own, and financially stable.)

STUDENTS’ ESSAYS - EXCERPTS.  The following are quotes from real student essays about these exercises:
Attend an Event. “I went to the basketball game on campus Thursday night. I usually don’t go to games; it turned out, however, to be a lot of fun. I went with some friends and we were cheering and getting loud. It was a very good experience.”
Compliments. “I gave several people compliments. A lot of people would smile back and say thank you, and others also responded with a compliment. I’m glad that I actually gave people compliments, rather than just keeping them to myself like I usually would. I’m going to start doing it more often, because it’s a ‘win-win’ situation that makes everyone a bit happier.”
Compliments.  “This exercise made me realize that giving someone a compliment can change a person’s whole mood for the day – and mine as well.”
Eat Something Different. “I am a very picky eater, so this one was a big one for me. My friends were constantly trying to get me to eat different things, but I never did. So I let my friends pick what I had to eat for dinner one day. I ended up hating it, but I am now open to trying different things. I have agreed to let my friends pick one new food item a week that I will have to try.”
Forgive a Person for a Wrong Done to You.  “In middle school I was bullied very badly. Oddly enough I became very close friends with the girls in high school, but I never forgave them for the way they treated me. I decided to finally forgive them. I didn’t actually say anything to them, but it gave me peace knowing that I can put behind me the things they did. This is a lot of the reason I have problems with self-judgment. The fact that I have forgiven them has given me more confidence. I am very proud of myself, as I have let go of something that has been eating away at me for years.”
Forgive a Person for a Wrong Done to You. “I wrote an entry in my journal forgiving someone for doing me wrong. This was probably the hardest of the seven activities for me to do. I wrote a note to my ex-boyfriend, who completely ruined my life for a good month or so. I felt relieved once I wrote it, though. Now it is just something in the past.”
Join a Club or Organization.  “A friend asked me if I would like to be part of the Outdoor Recreational Club on campus. I have never done the things they don on their trips, so I was thinking in my head that it would be a bad idea. But then I realized that I needed to do it for exactly that reason. I am now a part of the club and I learned how to do some indoor rock climbing. Although I am not extremely good at it, I am glad that I went out of my comfort zone. I am going to get to experience some great trips with a great group of people and I am very excited.”
Karaoke.  “On Wednesday night my girlfriend’s family took out their karaoke machine after we all had dinner. I am normally very nervous and do not sing. However, this time was different. I picked up the microphone and sang ‘Love Me Do’ by The Beatles. This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was accepted and we all had a great time.”
Let Go of My Self-Judgment.  “Today I decided to let go of my self-judgment. This was actually pretty hard for me, because I tend to care a lot about what everyone else thinks of me. I decided not to put makeup on and to wear sweatpants (which others would never think I would do). Everyone seemed to look at me differently because they were not used to it, but on this day I just didn’t care what people thought (which was pretty tough). At the end of the day nothing changed in my life. I still had the same friends. I no longer feel I have to be anybody else besides myself, just to impress someone.”
Random Acts of Kindness. “Today I ran into my friend while she was working behind the help desk at the student activity center. She was complaining that she was hungry. I then went down to the vending machines outside the weight room and bought her a bag of combos to surprise her. She was so excited.”
Random Acts of Kindness. “Over the past three days I have held the door open for multiple people, helped someone pick up things that they dropped, and assisted a friend with homework. I found that after each time I helped someone else, that person seemed to really appreciate my help and kindness. This also helped me talk to new people.”
Seek Out Assistance.  “One day this past week I had trouble with my homework, so I decide to go to the math lab. I have never been there before, and I was kind of scared. I don’t like to ask for people to help me, even if I really need it. When I went there I was actually surprised I went in (and it didn’t even kill me). I was proud of myself for going outside of my boundaries to do something I would have never thought of doing before.”
Sleep. “On three nights, I went home and got ready to go to sleep a couple of hours before I normally go to sleep. I decided to leave early instead of staying on at my friend’s townhouse handing out. Going to sleep earlier made me feel very good the next day because I felt well-rested and had a lot of energy. It felt good.”
Sleep. “Going to bed an hour earlier was probably one of the harder things I chose to do. As it is I tend to be in bed by 11pm every night. But I did it, and the extra hour made me more alert in class, at work, and also made me happier and more hyper! I believe if I were able to do this every night, at least during week nights, I could end up with better grades and accomplish more within each day.”
Sleep. “I always seem to be tired during my classes and tend not to focus that much. So I went to bed an hour earlier, for four days straight. This helped after a couple of days. It felt great not to feel so gloomy each day from being overly tired.”
Smile and Say ‘Hello’ to Strangers.  “Wednesday I decided that I would greet everyone I walked past in the hallway. I mostly just said a simple ‘Hello’ to most people, but I think just that alone can brighten up someone’s day and make it better. This also made me feel better because I felt like I was meeting more people on campus.”
Speak Up in Class.  “I spoke up today in class, when normally I would not. I don’t tend to answer questions in class, just in case I get the answer wrong or in case someone doesn’t like what I have to say. Finally speaking up made me realize that it is o.k. to get the wrong answer, and if you do then your professor will likely explain it more fully to you. I realized also that I don’t always have to try to figure out everything on my own; when I get stuck, it’s o.k. to ask for help.”
Speak Up in Class.  “I did this, and I then found myself much more interested in what my professor was saying to us. It forced me to listen to what he was saying and enabled me to understand more of the material he was going over. It made me feel very accomplished and gave me some extra self-confidence. For once I wasn’t the student in class everyone thought was just there because attending class was mandatory; I was there learning.”
Speak Up in Class.  “Today for the first time all semester I was talking and answering questions during my macroeconomics class. This actually made me feel really good, because I answered most of the questions correctly. That gave me confidence for the rest of the day.”
Study Group.  “I spoke to a few of my peers bout not understanding the material in class and gathered three people to join in with me to start a study group. We read over the chapters and studied for tests together. We recently had a test and we all did fairly well on it. I enjoy being in a study group rather than studying alone.”
Tell Someone They are Loved.  “One of my friends has been in a tough relationship for a few years now. I’ve been with her through all of her ‘ups’ and ‘downs.’ So this week I went to visit her and told her how much she was loved and by so many people. We both got very emotional, and she said to me: ‘Thank you. No one has ever said that to me, and I think I really needed to hear that.” This made me pleased, with the knowledge that I helped a friend.”
Tell Someone They are Loved. “I’m not the type of person to express my feelings, so this activity was a hard one for me to accomplish. A friend of mine has really helped me out a lot with college. This week I told him how much I appreciate it, and that he means a lot to me and is a great friend. He appreciated it, and it made us closer as friends. It was awkward and hard to say, but in the end it was a great thing to do.”
Thank a Family Member or Friend for their Ongoing Support. “Tonight I decided to thank my mother for her ongoing support. She raised me and my three brothers by herself, and I know it was not easy (especially with her disability in her back). She always put us first though. I called her and thanked her for this, and told her how much I love and appreciate her. She was so blessed and caught off guard. It felt good to make her smile and be happy. This makes me feel loved, but it is more the knowing that it made my mother feel appreciated that made saying it all worthwhile.”
Thank a Family Member or Friend for their Ongoing Support.  “For as long as I can remember my grandmother has been my only source of real support. No matter what my dreams were, my grandma would always tell me I can do it, that she believes in me. This week I decided to thank her for that. Even though I have thanked her more times than I can count I decided to come up with something elaborate to say to show her how much it has truly meant for me. I called her and thanked her by reading what I had prepared and she started to cry; then I started to cry. That was not really the reaction I had anticipated, but it showed me that I truly conveyed to her how much she has done for me and how much she means to me. I felt so relieved and happy afterward. She is my best friend and it means the world to me when I make her proud.”
Unplug the T.V.  “I did not watch t.v. for an entire week. I have to admit I thought it was weird, but after the week I realized that not watching t.v. gave me more time for school work and ‘me time.’ My t.v. is still unplugged and probably will be for awhile.”
Some Closing Thoughts from Students.
“I have realized that the only thing stopping me from engaging in new experiences was me. I tend to judge things without even knowing that I am judging them. I’m glad that I got a chance to leave my comfort zone, and I plan on doing many other things that I don’t usually do.  These activities were very beneficial to me.”
“I have realized that if you go out of your way to do at least one nice thing for another, you accomplish a lot and feel even better about yourself. I also found that asking for help is o.k., even if you feel uncomfortable doing so; in the end it will help you out – trust me on this.”
“I’ve realized that I, personally, am capable of achieving a lot on my own. And that’s worth embracing.”
“I have realized that there is a lot I can do in my everyday life to make others happier and for them to have better days. I get a better day too! It’s just a big ‘win-win.’”
“I have realized that probably three of the most important things are to try new things, let people know you appreciate the things they do, and to let go of grudges.”

The students’ essays demonstrated that these exercises can change students’ lives for the better – including possibly increasing their attention to their studies. I continue to believe that we must not just speak to our students about developing good habits in all aspects of their lives, but actually permit them to expand their horizons through a series of exercises designed for this purpose.
From my observations many of the basic skills which seem to be so self-evident to us, as professors – such as the ability to greet others we pass by every day, give compliments to others, express gratitude to others, and to forgive others – are just not part of the modern vocabulary of most students. And many students, at least at first, do not fully understand that college is the perfect place to expand their comfort zones and to improve as an individual. This is particularly so for students who are shy – and a good proportion of the student population displays tendencies of shyness.
At Western Kentucky University's Gordon Ford College of Business, we have launched "Smile, Greet & Engage Days" each semester. Because learning how to better connect with others is just as important as the theories and knowledge instilled from other lessons.

Dr. Ron A. Rhoades serves as Director of the Financial Planning Program at Western Kentucky University's Gordon Ford College of Business. He may be reached via e-mail:

For more of Professor Rhoades' writings on how to succeed in college (and in life), visit

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