This is your life, these are your dreams and your choices. Don’t allow bad moments to label you and make you give up. With time, effort and belief in yourself, you will make it. ~ Vishant
I am dedicating this article primarily to students who were less successful in their academic endeavors this year. This article is also applicable to anyone going through a difficult period.
Before I start off with my letter, I want to share a quick story with you. A story of a good friend of mine, named Giovanni. I got acquainted with Giovanni 10 years ago at the Student Excellence Awards event. He graduated as the best student from Havo Ⅱ and I was from Natin. Since then, Gio and I have been good friends.
Gio was an excellent student, which he had been for the greater part of his life. But he also went through a lot of downs in life. Right after he graduated to high school (Lyceum II), he got acquainted with freedom that comes along in this stage of life. His focus shifted and he could not handle the freedom very well. He spent a lot of time with his friends and was hanging in the streets most of the time. Because of this, his school results took a turn for the worse. After three years Gio got expelled from high school. In addition to this, he got his girlfriend pregnant. So he became a father at the age of 19, with no academic credentials nor job.
Shortly after the birth of his son, he enrolled at Havo II and resumed school again. It was not an easy task, but he was determined to take responsibility for his child and was willing to give it his all. After Havo II Gio studied ICT, which he knew little about. But he had a strong drive and was willing to learn. It’s been 10 years now and I can say that Gio is a father who leads by example, a good friend and, from my point of view, one of the best software engineers in Suriname.
I’m sorry that you’re going through a rough period. Maybe you don’t deserve to be in this position, but we can’t turn back time so we have to accept certain things as they are. Perhaps you feel alone or think that you are the only one going through this difficult period, but you aren’t. Trust me.
There could be various reasons why you’ve had a less successful academic year and maybe you’re the only one who knows the real reasons. They can vary from things you can control to things you cannot.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really help to keep lingering on the reason(s) why things did not go that well. Ruminating over the matter won’t bring about any change. I won’t suggest you to analyze the incident and draw lessons from them immediately. Because I also realize that sometimes some experiences can haunt us for years and may take ample time before we can draw lessons from them, usually years after they have occurred.
How can we turn setbacks into success?
Well. First, we can either choose to run away from our past and our mistakes or we can face them. The former will keep us running away every time we face a problem and turn into fear and procrastination, but the latter will not only boost your confidence, but also enhance your problem solving skills and stimulate a hands-on mentality. Secondly, change does not come on its own or on a silver platter, it lies in our own hands. As the saying goes: “When you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.” This is quite self – explanatory and sounds very simple, right? The only thing standing in the way of seizing that control and your personal development is You. When we draw lessons from our errors, we must imprint these lessons into our mindset and utilize them in our present and future life.
Accept your mistakes
It’s easy for us to play the blame game and point fingers towards others, whenever we find ourselves in adverse and unfavorable situations. Blame is an excellent defense mechanism to turn to when denying our own faults and flaws. Moreover, it’s easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility. There’s less effort in recognizing and accepting your contributions to a bad situation than in accepting the fact that we are at fault and changing so we don’t do it again. We are the one responsible for all the choices we make. My Friend Gio could’ve put the blame on his school and his teacher for the reason he got expelled or his girlfriend that she was pregnant, but he did not. He realized what had happened, owned up to his mistakes and took responsibility for them. He worked day and night to juggle between the care of his son and finishing off his education. It would’ve been easier to walk away from it all, which happens quite regularly. Do such actions contribute to our self-growth? And do such actions make the world a better place or a more bitter place? We may not realize it, but unlike other games, the more often we play the blame game and attribute our faults onto others, the more we lose. Learning to own up our role in a bad situation, will help us grow from our experiences and ultimately help us achieve more fulfilling relationships. This can be encouraged when we learn to shift from an external locus of control (where we blame everything and everyone around us for our mishaps) to an internal locus of control (where we believe that we can influence events and their outcomes).
Not everything will go your way
Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and we can’t do anything about it. When life doesn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, planned or expected, we feel tremendous disappointment and start doubting everything, including ourselves. When we’re disappointed we might find ourselves not doing anything at all or behaving in ways that don’t create healthy or meaningful change. We might develop unhealthy habits to cope with the disappointment which may prove detrimental to our physical and mental health, thus ultimately harming us. Have you ever considered that disappointment might be the best thing that has ever happened to you? Why? Because it opens doors to other opportunities (for eg. asking others for help), which may change your perspective and help create a future based on who we are — not who we expected to be.
There is a saying that has helped me a lot during times when things went wrong and I could do almost nothing about it. It’s from the famous psychiatrist, who survived years of torture in different German concentration camps, Victor E. Frankl which goes as following: “Between stimulus and response we always have the freedom to choose.” Which means that we always have the freedom to choose how we react when something happens to us. For example, you can scream, shout and become angry when you fail a subject or you can make peace with it and say to yourself that you will make up for it, because you cannot change the past. So remember, we always have the freedom to choose how we react to someone or in any situation. How we react is our responsibility, the reaction of others towards us, is theirs.
A failed class or goal is not a failed life
It’s common that people embrace success and run away from failure, not knowing both are inherent to one another and part of life. Both are needed in order to grow. Failure helps us discover who we are, what works and what does not work for us. There is always a bigger picture, which may not always be clear to us at a certain point in life. But with time the reason for, and the lessons from, our failures will become clear.
If you try and fail, you should be proud of yourself. Outcomes from our failures are ways to tell us what not to look for, so we should not quit but keep searching for other perspectives or options. The point is to keep trying. If you can’t figure it out, one can ask for help; fresh eyes may see something you may have missed. No one can fail at life, because life is not a goal but a road, a point from A to Z, like an obstacle run. In order to finish this obstacle-run, we must overcome all barriers and accumulate skills do that effortlessly. This can only be accomplished if we can learn how to run and jump over those obstacles. This entails years of training, falling down, and perhaps sustaining a few injuries along the way and periods of rest. We may even have to start training from scratch again, but we must continue. Like they say, the show must go on. The desired outcomes can only be accomplished through trial and error. And if we fail or make errors, don’t forget to make note of them as they provide useful information and experience to avoid mishaps or prevent you from landing in a similar situation in the future. In a previous article I explained how only constant failure is a predictor to success. These failures are conditional steppingstones to an ultimately better and brighter future.
There may be a lot of reasons why people are not willing to try: laziness, fear of failure or any number of reasons. None of those reasons really matter to me. What matters is how we can improve ourselves and give our lives meaning. We all know that sitting around idly, won’t bring about the desired change we all want.
Just ask yourself how you want to be remembered at the end of your life. Do you want to be remembered as someone who just always gave up? Or someone who pushed even when everything went wrong? Or as the person who lived a purposeful life and was able to change?
One easy solution to overcome this is to talk to others, to open up and not fear what the world thinks of us. Regardless of your success, status, descent, gender, religion, intellect or (financial) wealth, people will label and judge you every day. If we keep worrying about what other people think of us, we aren’t living for ourselves, but for them. It’s an utter waste to wait for the right moment to try. That moment is now, because you are living now. Tomorrow, is uncertain.
Mindset is everything
You can be anything you want to be, unless that’s Superman. There can be only one, and that’s me (just kidding).
Saying you can be anything you want may sound ridiculous or crazy, but what’s even more ridiculous is that it’s a simple truth. The easy part is saying it, that’s child’s play. The hardest part is putting in all the work and effort to become the person you want to be. This implies going the extra mile (or plural). Set goals for short, medium and long term and focus on what you want rather what you don’t. You won’t spill your energy on unnecessary things.
Any skill can be acquired and intelligence isn’t something static, it can be boosted when we put our brain into use. Like they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
When you first started school, you knew less or nothing. When you graduated you knew a lot more, because you gained some knowledge, learnt some skills by putting time and energy into it.
I pause to acknowledge that schooling is not a solid indicator of intelligence. Plenty people I have had the honor of being acquainted with, do not have a higher education but possess more common sense and intelligence than some academics out there. I’m not saying education does not matter, it does for requiring a specific set of skills or knowledge. But it’s not the sole source of gaining knowledge, experience or only place to develop certain skills.
In the story above Gio showed how he developed his skills in ICT, something he knew nothing about when he started. You can be the best in whatever you want, but only if you are willing to dedicate yourself and get out of your comfort zone. It’s all in the mind.
Things to consider:
- A failure in the past does not define your present nor your future self
- Bad days happen to everyone and can help us discover ourselves
- Draw lessons from failures, they’re there. Keep looking
- Any action you want to take, starts in your mind
- No one is perfect and we don’t have to pretend to be
- If you don’t have the answer to something do no hesitate to ask. Chances are, someone has the answer.
- Don’t be afraid to open up and talk about your concerns or something which makes you unhappy
- The world will always judge you, so live your life on your terms
- Make mistakes, but own up to them
- Talk to yourself. Seriously
- You’re braver and smarter than you know
- Whatever happens, choose your response with careful thought
- You have your whole life to succeed, so don’t let a couple of bad years/moments define you
- If you’re not motivated, just ask yourself: how bad do I want it?
- Your actions speak louder than words.
Over the last year I had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of students from different schools. Most of the time they knew how to be successful in their studies, but they were at times uncertain and lacked the drive to study. Some words of inspiration or a listening ear has helped a lot. I like to remind you that you are no different than others. Your road may be slightly different, but in the end we all go through the same phases of failure, pain and suffering. If this occurs you can either see it as an end or a new beginning. Enjoy life as it is, take chances, make mistakes but most importantly, live a life which fulfils you. Don’t be so hard on yourself when times get rough. You got this.
Drop your comments or experience below and if you need someone to talk with or some encouraging words, feel free to send me a message.
Thanks to Gio for letting me share his story, Sasha for screening and rewriting my story, Charmhen for rereading the article and the other Gio for shooting this awesome image.
It’s all you and I got you,
If you liked this article and you still need some hope, read my favorite story: Cancer: How a loved one that passed away taught me how to live and to love more