The exams are over.
Today, the results will be announced.
Students are gathered for the morning school assembly. As usual, the top three achievers in each class/grade will be mentioned as “toppers.”
Those who don’t make the list will experience a range of emotions.
Some will determine to work harder.
Some will feel dejected.
Some will be indifferent.
All will have some anxiety about what their parents will say when they see their report card. One thing is certain—they will quote the example of the “toppers” and most probably say, “why can’t you be like (insert name)?”
It always makes me a little sad to see how it is the norm to compare and compete, right from the time one is in school and often, throughout life.
Why is there a need to always be better than someone else? Why confine yourself to the standards set by someone else. Perhaps you can do much better.
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
— William Faulkner
It is heartening to see that corporate brands like ITC Classmate, which caters to this whole student and parent community is coming forward and promoting this social awareness.
In its new marketing campaign, or rather—social drive—brand Classmate takes on the theme “Be Better Than Yourself” and reaches out to all stakeholders: students, parents, teachers and even employees.
It challenges the long-standing assumption on the nature of competition. While life is a competition, it is not a race against anyone. You are your only true rival. And achieving your unrealized potential, is the only true measure of success.
“Be Better Than Yourself” kicks off a crusade against such a prevailing view and how it shapes kids as they grow up.
It revolves around thought-shifting, culture-changing exercises aimed at moving perceptions on both education, and its real purpose. Which is to strive to better oneself, with every passing day, with every passing effort.
Imagine providing a pressure-free, happier environment for our children to grow, learn and live in!
I saw this heart-warming video from Classmate on TV recently.
Even as I smiled at the Mother’s response, I couldn’t help thinking back to that time when I used to be anxious about not being at the top of the class and losing the position by one mark.
However, I was fortunate to grow up in a family that never put pressure on being “the best” in terms of academic performance or otherwise. In fact, my Mother always urged me to set personal goals. She inculcated the belief in me that the only person I needed to compete with was myself. She said, “Always ask yourself: is this the best you can do?” This took the pressure off me. Eventually, I did excel in academics and also follow my passion and do well in everything I took up!
We have tried to instill the same value in our son—that motivation must come from within and not as a result of competing with someone else. Even now, as he slogs through a tough course, we tell him that it is more important to learn and achieve the personal satisfaction that he’s doing better than before, than chase grades.
With exam fever at its peak, it is all about extreme competition, thanks to our education system. Success is seen as being better than someone but it doesn’t have to be that way. Children, as they go through school and college, are almost always compared with others – their classmates and peers. Our society is so achievement-oriented that they are conditioned to perceive “others” as competition.
- What if we encouraged children to focus on improving themselves based on milestones they set for themselves?
- What if we understood that the most important part of competing with ourselves is being able to set our own values and metrics? We choose goals that fit us best and what we really want to compete on—and what we don’t.
- Why not chase your future self?
- Why not set only your personal values and ambitions ahead of you?
- Why not be judged on your own metrics and not someone else’s? Thing is… if you win, you are doing something that’s important to them, not to you.
The real purpose of education should be to strive to better oneself, day after day, with every effort, shouldn’t it?
Do we need to “fight with others” at all?
Why is life full of competition?
Isn’t there space for everyone to express herself?
There usually is. However, it often seems to happen that different people seem to wish to earmark a particular spot as their own. Therein lies rivalry which is not always friendly. We all know that the race is not always to the swiftest. However, even if it seems that way for a while, in the long run, we know that it all evens out. So, how does an apparently less able person reach the same exalted position which she could never dream of earlier as practical?
It is based on one word—self motivation.
“The rise to the top is a battle against oneself, and a journey with others.”
Sergei Bubka created world record after world record. He had nobody to challenge him. So, what did motivate him? Of course, it has to come from within and from a sense of not having done your best. It has NOT to do with external factors. Otherwise, Bubka would have created one or two world records and gone away.
“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone tries to light that fire under you, chances are that it will burn very briefly.”
And yes, it is fine to lose sometimes and perhaps do worse than before. There are days when it is quite alright—and enough—to remain static, because there will be days when you unexpectedly find yourself leaping forward.
Whatever happens, when you are your own competition, you assess yourself based on what really matters to you.
“I look in the mirror, my only opponent.”
How will you motivate yourself, your child today?