It kept me thinking for quite a number of days.
I think there are many forces at play here and some of them might affect some individuals more than others, but we are all under their influence in some way.
Please do note that I’m not an expert on this in any way, but these are the results of my pondering:
1) The force of society:
This is the most universal force. Obviously, all of us have access to the internet, therefore, all of us live in the richer spheres of the world. Most, if not all, of these societies are achievement-oriented societies (the technical term for this is apparently meritocracy) which has a profound influence on our lives. We are taught from an early age on that we should be of use to our societies, that we should become experts and masters at something or we will have no “value” and no “worth”. We are meant to market ourselves - our skills, our force, our brains, our compassion, whatever we have, we should hone, master and use it, for the sake of progress.
This is not “bad” in itself, humankind does depend on progress, but a lot of its implications are. Because this starts very, very early on, young children are already pressured into various activities they might not even enjoy, for the sake of being marketable later on.
This trend continues throughout our lives - how often have you heard someone say that they don’t like something, but “eh, it will look good on my CV”?
Instead of giving value to those who have learnt something, people learn something to be of value. Do you see the difference in motivation? They often do this with very little passion and a whole lot of pressure, because they have to succeed.
This is best seen when you look at tests. Maybe you’ve seen this floating around the internet?
"When students cheat on exams it’s because our school system values grades more than students value learning” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
This is exactly what I mean. My dad always told me that I should be prouder of a C that I wrote and I actually understood everything than of an A which didn’t teach me anything.
I carry this philosophy with me, but most students hardly ever learn for the material, they learn for their grades – most couldn’t care less what happened in 1500 or how a camera works, they just want an A (or at least a D!) and they will get it however they can. I’m not blaming them, but they are such a perfect example of what I’m trying to show: people are under such a pressure to succeed that they stop caring about knowledge and start to aim for human constructs meant to convey a measure of the thing they stopped caring about. Can you see how perverse that is?
But they have good reasons to do so – grades will determine your future life to a great extent. Whether you will advance, will graduate summa cum laude and will keep climbing the career ladder or will be held back a year, get stuck, become a part of the uneducated and keep working a job you dislike all depend on grades. (There are exceptions, of course. These exceptions saw through this system and forged their own way)
It is easy to start doubting yourself when no less than your own future, prestige and livelihood is at stake. We want to be of “value”, we don’t want to be “worthless”, but as these things are constantly around us, we cannot help but ask ourselves: maybe we are?
2) The force of talent and prestige
The model student is a controversial and mystical creature. Whether you love them or hate them, you know that they are otherworldly creatures with desires unlike any other mortal. You know that they spend 7 hours a day studying, that they can recite any poem by Keats backwards, that they can do mental calculations like a computer and that they snore in algorithms.
Many people who would like to be good in school, feel like they just cannot achieve that level – they, like 99% of all people, lack the brainpower for that. TV and other media have largely contributed to this notion that geniuses like Jimmy Neutron can be found at every corner and you will never hold a candle to them. You are just not that good. This is a myth. I will say more about that under the force of comparison.
Many people also suffer from the wrong kind of education – it’s too fast for them, too sloppy for them, too theoretical and this leads them to think that they are stupid, when the only thing they ever really needed was the right approach.
People who actually are good in school suffer from this too. I know this from my own school-days, when people believed I was studying every second I was not in school and were actually offended when I told them that no, I too was wasting time and playing Pokémon like other kids.
They start to feel like they are just a liar, an actor, like they’re playing this role of a model student that comes with a dress- and behavioural code, that they were wasting their lives if they did not live up to the potential others saw in and expected from them. Apparently they were capable of it, so how come everybody knew that but they? You feel like an imposter after a while and it eats away at you.
You are clever, so you know that there are a million things you don’t know, but others seem to expect this super-human knowledge of you that you just cannot provide. Many draw back from that and sail along easily with mediocre grades and minimal effort. Some end up in the same zone because they were never encouraged enough and now they feel like it’s too late, that their life is more or less over and they’ve already screwed it up.
Both can shake a student’s self-confidence immensely.
3) The force of hard work
If you do decide that you have the brains for pulling off mental stunts, you may falter at the prospect of working for it. This is not because you are lazy, but because studying simply looks boring and hard from the outside and is hardly ever promoted as something fun and exciting.
Almost all of studying happens in your head, so what you see from the outside is somebody sitting at their desk, scratching their head or pacing around the room, mumbling numbers and dates. It does not look fun or exciting and a lot of people miss out on all the revelations, thought-experiments, story inceptions, world buildings, mind-around-something-wrappings and the satisfaction that comes from having absorbed a whole new part of the world.
The problem here is that you really need to do it to get into it and this is one of the hardest parts of all.
4) The force of comparison
Humans hate to suck at something. And beginners suck invariably. You will make mistakes and you will be discouraged by them – the question is how you deal with them and this is something you have to learn as well. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I couldn’t do this problem. I’m dumb. I’ll never achieve anything in life”
As you study something, anything, an instrument, a book, a theory, a specimen, chances are that somebody else is doing the same and you will look at their work. Most of the time, there will be people who have been at this way longer than you have and you will look at them and think “I’ll never be as good as they are”. You know, logically, that time is a big factor here, but given the same time, can you really become as good as they are?
And what if, even worse, these people haven’t had more time? What if they are in the same class – the class genius? The important thing to remember here, is that not only are class “geniuses” people with their own flaws and shortcomings, you should work on your own talents at your own pace. Let other people inspire you, but don’t let them dwarf you.
This question of “Can I become as good as X” harks back to the force of society. You don’t do this to enjoy it or to become engrossed in it, but because you want to be good in it, and not only good, but really good. This leads to the next force:
5) The force of choice
When you do something, you are always aware that your time is limited, so you end up asking: is this how I should be spending my time? Maybe I should be doing something else? Something I’m more suited to? Is this really my “calling”? My “vocation”?
How can you combat this?
You have probably detected a pattern by now: most of these problems arise because we play the game of achievement hunters more than the game of knowledge hunters.
Really, take this advice to heart: Value the knowledge you gain more than the grades you achieve and magically, your grades will follow suit. It takes so much pressure off you. Study because you want to learn and have fun with new ways of looking at the world. Study because of an honest passion and not because of a bothersome duty. Fall in love with riddles. Fall in love with sucking at something. Fall in love with trying, no matter the outcome.
And whether it’s your vocation or not? Only you can know. And you will, in due time.
tl;dr: 1) Society puts an achievement pressure on us
2) We are constantly questioning our own intelligence
3) We are unsure of our own work-ethic
4) We suck compared to other people
5) We are unsure whether what we’re doing is “the right thing to do”
Solution: Love the present, not the wrapping.#studying #study #study in style #indigoproj #education #academia #school #college #university #learning #teaching #teacher #student #exams #finals #problems #inspirational #motivational #grades #science #arts #books #reading #beginner #hard work #ravenclaw #discipline #mistakes #calling #literature