Motivation is quite the hot potato for students. Some weeks, we feel like we could single-handedly move mountains. Other weeks, we feel like we have those same mountains on our shoulders. In fact, as a student, I know that it doesn’t even need to be mountains; it is usually just a matter of lifting the blanket off yourself so that you can leave your house on time — or at all.
I firmly believe that, as folks who have now committed ourselves to education, we should want to grasp onto what going to university truly means; we should want to become better versions of ourselves — in all meanings of “better” and of “ourselves.”
There is no time to waste your youth moping around about motivation issues! As a matter of fact, youth is not even tied to age; youth is a mindset. Youth is the feeling you get when you reach the top of the aforementioned mountain and believe you can climb it ten more times before you even decide to start moving it. You will probably never be able to move the mountain, but there is no doubt that if you keep trying to do so, you will become a strong person; you will become a better you.
Self-improvement is probably one of the most important things we should be thinking of every day, but we don’t. We make all these excuses: that we can’t work out, that we can’t read a few pages in a book, or that we can’t clean our rooms (which is really telling, because that’s where we live). I am, of course, referring to people who are mentally, emotionally and physically able to achieve these tasks with little difficulty, but who choose not to do so.
If you really put some thought into it, what is more important than being a better you? There’s no greater feeling than being able to look into a mirror, stare into your own eyes and say, “You’re not good enough, but you’re up to the challenge.”
If you think about self-improvement, the first few things that pop up into your mind are things like exercise, studying more, drinking less… blah blah blah. Those goals are very cliché ways of approaching self-improvement. Deep down, everyone acknowledges those things as things they should just be doing anyway. I want to discuss a different way of thinking about self-improvement. I want to discuss being honest with yourself.
But what does being honest with yourself mean? That probably sounds pretty cliché, too. But when I talk about honesty, I mean the ability to stop pretending — the concept of non-fabrication.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to act differently around different groups of people? It’s almost as if we put on a character to play, and the people around us reciprocate that character, and sooner or later, everyone is just trying to impress one another, and they don’t even know they’re doing it at all. “All the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare wrote. When you pretend, you hide who you really are, who you want to become, and what you want to achieve.
Picture this: you’re on a date with someone, and they keep checking their phone every two seconds. Do you just let it slide, even though you’re burning with rage inside? Do you make a semi-serious joke about how they’re being rude during your date? With the former, you’re guaranteed to go nowhere with this person in terms of developing your relationship. With the latter, you have about a 50/50 chance to find out whether that person is even worth dating.
In reality, however, it is very hard to break your cycle of thinking. Self-improvement is really all about what you do every day. You have to think about your routines. Ask yourself some questions like: “Why do I have these routines?” or “Where did these routines start?” and “Are these routines helping me become a better version of myself ?” Questions like those are the fundamental starting point for getting yourself on the path to being better. You have to meditate long and hard to find the questions that you have inside of you, and you have to meditate even longer to find the answers to those questions. And those questions are very important, because no two people will have the same questions for themselves; everyone will walk their own paths in terms of self-growth, if they really intend to grow.
Speaking of growing, there’s an analogy worth making to help visualize personal growth: a tree knows what it is, and it doesn’t try to be more than a tree, but it never stops growing. Every tree might be different in shape and size, but the largest tree just keeps doing what nature intended it to do: grow! That’s a pretty pretentious analogy, but it’s true. It comes from an old Taoist saying by Lao Tzu: nature will never rush, but will never leave anything behind.
These sentences about trees mean that you just need to keep doing things that feel right. Maybe they don’t always feel good, but they have to feel right. If you really want to grow, then do something. Doing nothing will get you nowhere. Doing things that aren’t important to you will most likely take you a few steps away from your goals. A tree doesn’t grow unnecessary branches. Trees also aren’t people, so take the analogies with a grain of salt.
Instead of pulling the roots out of your head during exam time, plant some seeds this spring. Nurture your tree of self-improvement, and watch it slowly grow into something great. Watch the face that you see reflected in the mirror turn into someone great. Determination can never betray you.
Photo by Madison Kerr.