Drive to succeed will not be squandered
It is that time of year again. It is time for sleepless nights and spikes in caffeine intake to cope with the crippling stress of the final exam season. For some of us University students, it will be the last series of exams before graduating, and for others, it may very well be the last series of exams before flunking out. The questions are: What differentiates these two groups? How can students of identical situations and backgrounds encounter such opposing outcomes?
In my experience, this intense testing usually starts off with a powerful drive to succeed, followed by a drop of willpower and ultimately ends with a nervous breakdown, in which the meaning of life is thoroughly examined. It is nerve-wracking to prepare for several exams that could potentially determine such a large portion of the future. It would be a whole lot easier if the stress of the exams were the only problems to worry about. However, the stress from relationships with friends and family, money issues and other general anxieties accumulate into one giant ball of negative energy. In other words, it is difficult to care about how the rhythmic meter of a Shakespeare sonnet affects the meaning of a poem when your personal life is in shambles.
We all have an innate desire to succeed. Tai Lopez, an investor, partner or advisor to over 20 multi-million dollar businesses, once said, “Everyone wants, but not everyone deserves to be successful.” So few of us actually commit to the challenge of working to accomplish our goals. We have an endless supply of excuses. We let our circumstances dictate what we are capable of. Our limiting beliefs become our reality, so we settle for average. As a result, procrastination and self-indulgence take precedent over this drive.
Humans have evolved with an Epicurean way of thinking. Our ancestors were not investors. They lived by the proverb, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Unlike modern society, humans were actually in the food chain! Every moment was a constant struggle to survive. They had no methods to store food, so they ate and used every resource at once. Today, we have adapted to the changes from technological advancements, but we still have those primal instincts. Our brains pursue quick dopamine highs, not investments in the future. The notion of “YOLO” is forever engraved into our minds.
The term hyperbolic discounting refers to the tendency for people to choose smaller rewards sooner, over larger rewards later. For instance, the average person would rather take an immediate $20 than choose to receive $100 in a month. This concept translates directly to the process of work versus procrastination. The appeal of investment into the future is simply overshadowed by the urge of instant gratification. The more we indulge into this way of operating, the more tolerant we become of this psychological addiction.
Even if we do manage to break this cycle of behaviors it does not mean that all the problems are solved. Motivation is finite, and there is a big possibility of relapse. Just like a drug addict, it is very easy to fall back into the old ways. Since the natural human mindset is programmed to fear pain and to indulge in pleasure, it is almost inevitable that excuses will arise. The reason why people quit during the process is because the darkness of these negative circumstances outweighs the positive light. In the short term, putting in the effort toward self-improvement is much more painful than sitting on the couch watching television all day. The pleasure that results from hard work does not happen instantaneously. It takes months and years of consistent progress to cultivate results. And even then, the results may not be in line with expectations. It may seem like the struggle is a waste of energy. It may seem perfectly rational to just give up. However, this is what separates the good from the great.
The biggest error that people can make is setting the bar too low. The true definition of failure, in my opinion, is to be satisfied. Business consultant, author and lecturer Jim Collins coined the term, “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG), to ensure that satisfaction is guaranteed to never happen. This is a nearly impossible goal that could take up to an entire lifetime to complete. He understood that achievement could be poisonous to self-development. Goals give us the false impression that there is nothing left to gain. The moment we stop growing is the moment we truly fail, for success is a never-ending struggle. Greatness is not about the result, it is about the process.