I have written a number of blog posts on academic success in the past but in this article, I am so excited to be drawing specifically from a recent personal experience.
A couple of years ago, I decided to enrol in college for a one-year course to hone my skillset and prepare for a professional exam.
From the onset, I told myself that I was going to excel in the program. I had a lot of motivation for this goal. Firstly, it was important to me to prove to myself and my loved ones once again that if I gave a pursuit my best, I could ace it and bring something beautiful out of it. Also, as a recent immigrant who wished to pave her path in her new country, I wanted my result to be a testimonial to my competence.
However, there were a few small complications that seemed to position themselves against my target.
- I was pregnant throughout the course of the program, having to combine the unique ride that is called “first-time pregnancy” with school work. In addition, looking at the school year calendar, there was the slight chance that I would not be able to complete the course before my baby arrived.
- The program I went in for was heavily team-performance-based, meaning that if your team has an A in a project, then you have an A. But if your team flukes, sorry that would also be a Fail for you. And you, dear reader, will agree that human beings are not the easiest to manage.
In spite of these and many other unlisted obstacles, I am glad to say that I did in fact complete the course successfully and even made it on the Dean’s honours list.
Wow! I was beyond thrilled. It meant so much to me because I looked back to all the times when I was nauseous, sickly or simply worried that I might not actually complete the school year at the same time as my colleagues. I looked back at the time when I performed rather poorly in a test and almost gave up hope of making a distinction in that course. So, you can imagine the ecstasy I experienced when we graduated and I received the congratulatory mail whilst cuddling my baby. God is indeed gracious and He is the giver of all good gifts.
I cannot in all sincerity take credit for everything that went into succeeding with flying colours because I had the kind help of my darling husband, my parents and siblings, my friends, my team members, my other classmates and my professors. In fact, there was a lot that I had no control over.
However, I would like to mention 3 tips regarding academic success from that experience. It is interesting that the 3 recommendations I have are found in the the Serenity Prayer, commonly quoted thus:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”The Serenity Prayer
One key to success in life is to ride on the things we can change and to rest on the things we can’t.Tweet
For exploits in academics and other life endeavours:
- Get a strong head start
- Add an extra to the ordinary
- Rest to the things you cannot personally change
A Head Start:
Getting a strong head start is something I would almost always recommend for any life endeavour. As much as possible, do something early in the game that can influence your outcome positively. The advantage that your head-start gives you would especially come in handy when you hit some murky waters ahead. It would provide a cushion to bounce back on.
In my case, a dear friend of mine volunteered to give me a tour of the campus before school opened for the year. Then she shared with me a tool on excel that I could use to stay organized and ahead on my deliverables throughout the semester, which turned out to be quite helpful as the program progressed.
Getting a strong head start in an academic pursuit also involves getting the required reading materials early on, choosing like-minded study partners, rearranging your schedule and planning your next several months to accommodate study time, making a study time-table, attending tutorial classes ahead of the semester, and so on.
Getting a strong head start is something we can control, it is a part we can influence. And when we do, we enhance our likelihood for success.
Do the extraOrdinary:
To excel implies that one performed above average, one had additional touches beyond the basic, an icing on their cake. The bare minimum does not cut it.
Back in my first year in the university years ago, my slogan was “My best for God.”
Four little words so powerful and profound, they drove me to long hours in the library, haha.
I did not share the slogan with anyone. I simply wrote the words in my personal notebook where I could stumble on them and be stirred afresh to work hard.
This time around, extraOrdinary for me meant being present at every single class, no matter how boring that professor was or how much my lower back ached especially towards the last trimester of pregnancy. It meant turning in every assignment, including the ones that had just 1 mark attached to it. It was just 1 mark out of 100, right? What difference could that make? A world of difference, actually. That was the extra in my ordinary.
ExtraOrdinary for me meant taking on a little bit of extra work in the tasks that were demanding, including pulling my weight when a team member was unavailable. It is the same in a relay race (and in most daily activities). If one person drops the baton and the whole team does not complete the race, it ends up being a sad day for all.
I wonder what might be the extra, the little final brush that would ensure the success in your next endeavour. Perhaps a kind word, a reminder email to a team member, or a few hours in the midnight.
The extra is another thing we can change. That too we can influence – the extra in our ordinary.
What is the Christian motivation for excellence?
I have to clarify that doing the extraordinary does not in any way encourage an unhealthy obsession over success, distinctions or fame because our identity as christians is not founded on anything that we acquire or possess. Our identity is rooted in the fact that we are deeply loved by God just the way we are, and this has nothing to do with whatever we have or do. Just loved. Absolutely loved.
That said, the basis for reaching towards excellence as Christians should be that we want to be all that God wants us to be.
I pray that God will spark and sustain in us the desire and strength for the extraordinary. Sometimes, it gets wearisome. Other times, we couldn’t care less and there’s no real passion to pursue excellence. It takes God to spark the drive in us.
Do your best and leave the rest.
There is a tendency to feel worked up over the things we cannot control. We spend a considerable amount of time worrying or complaining about them. But what good does that ever do? For instance, throughout the school year, I often wondered if the dates would align to enable me complete my course at once. I may also have whined a bit the few times when my team members were not pulling their weight, lol. But no matter how long I thought about those things, they weren’t in my power to change. So, I confided in a few friends and my family to pray that somehow the calendar would work in my favour. I did what I could to cover my team’s bases. And God did the rest!
It may look like this last tip is a passive activity in achieving one’s goals but it is an equally important one! Rest. Rest over the things you cannot change by yourself and enjoy divine serenity in the process. Once it comes into your thought to worry you, convert that thought to a sentence of prayer. You may not be able to change everything but God can! He can control seasons, kings, world leaders, inanimate objects and wicked people. And yes, He will control them all in our favour!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ JesusPhilippians 4:6-7
As we launch into a new week and month, may the Lord show us everything that we should do to change the things we can, and fill us with rest over everything we must trust Him to do.