As children we are told to aim for the most distant of stars for they are just the start. To pursue whatever it is our heart desires for it is ours to have.
As we grow the moon starts to look further, and stress pulls down harder. Dreams seem that much more incredible and begin to seem a bit more unattainable. Until one day we are disillusioned into believing that it’s all just wishful thinking because of our introduction to a menacing monster: marks.
It is distressing that a collection of numbers, cumulating in a piece of fancy paper, measures our worth. That is precisely why we cannot let marks and the stress of achieving them stop us from chasing down our dreams, because that would be ludicrous.
Marks are the padlocks on our future, and that’s all they are: padlocks. We’re human. We’re versatile and we are blacksmiths.
It’s not about struggling to cut keys in the hopes that they conform to the padlock’s need. It’s about forging life into something that transcends padlocks altogether.
If life were thought of as the molten material, then dreams would be the mould into which it is poured; hard work is the hammer that shapes it, and motivation the forging fires. The product: a life where dreams breathe in reality.
If you’re reading this then you’re hopefully alive and probably have a couple of dreams. Motivation is something you’ll need to find, but the hammer is below.
The hammer of hard work is made from a handle of organization and a head of self-discipline.
Thinking about getting an A+ in a course can evoke a dizzying feeling, not unlike the feeling experienced when standing at the base of a tall structure and looking up. Both the tall structure and A+ seem daunting, but that’s only because we are contemplating the final product. The tall structure was built in organized stages, over a period of time, and thinking about it in this sense makes its immense stature more digestible.
An A+ is similar to a tall building in this regard, but often times we get so overwhelmed and lost by its building process, that we end up building something less desirable. That’s why it’s important to breakdown an A+ into manageable stages of building, and for most courses this is already done by a course outline.
A course’s outline is the blueprint to building an A+, and upon receiving a course outline it’s vital that you study it, understand it and utilize it. Obtain a calendar and on it mark down the date of each assignment and evaluation. Include a very brief description of what is required for each assignment, its worth and include a star if it appears especially challenging. Do the same for evaluations.
What you’ve just done is broke the course down into manageable stages, which are spaced out and better digestible mentally.
On the same calendar add any other commitments you might have whether it’s extracurricular or a party you want to attend.
Now you’ve just created an organized, time management tool to help you hammer your dream into shape. Consider each week a stage that you must complete. To a certain degree you should only concern yourself with the current week (present stage) so that things do not get overwhelming.
The present stage is really the only stage that matters, because in order to get to a future stage you need to successfully complete the present stage. This makes past stages irrelevant, because you’ve already completed them. If you stay focused on successfully completing the present stage, without getting overwhelmed, then all your past stages will add up to an A+.
With that said, don’t completely ignore future stages because it is important to stay informed about the future. If you see a starred task coming up in a week or two, you should start figuring out how you’re are going to tackle it and even begin preparing for it. This is especially true for evaluations.
If things still seem overwhelming, you can continue to break everything down further. You can take it day by day, by making a list each night of everything you need to complete for the next day. The important thing is to keep breaking everything down until you have pieces you find manageable.
This idea of manageable pieces can be expanded and applied to most things. For example, if you are having a difficult time with a chapter in a course, don’t get stressed. Chapters are formed by sections, which are formed by topics, composed of keywords. If you work at understanding each keyword, you can put it altogether and understand the chapter.
All this organization is useless if it’s not put into practice, and that’s where self-discipline comes in. Procrastination is a big problem because of the assortment of distractions easily available to us. We usually procrastinate due to stress, but this only creates more stress, making procrastination a crippling issue. Procrastination is a habit, and habits can be broken, but it takes willpower and self-discipline.
Self-discipline is essentially conditioning yourself to focus and keep going, long after your mind has said to stop.
If you are working on an assignment but want to take a break, then promise yourself a break after one more paragraph. When you complete that paragraph, commend yourself, but tell yourself if you could complete one paragraph when you thought you needed a break, you can surely complete another one. Keep doing this until you have completed a significant chunk and then finally take your well-deserved break. If you procrastinate on procrastinating, then eventually you will be spending all your time productively, while developing self-discipline. Organization and self-discipline form hard work and stop life from becoming a stressful juggling act.
The fight to conquer the tyranny of marks seems at times a stressful war not worth fighting, but don’t let the stress break you down. Instead break everything else down, and conquer the tyranny piece by piece. Accept you might lose a few battles along the way, but just remember you decide when the war is over.