I have high expectations of myself. If I don’t do well, my initial reaction is to think about it endlessly. Sometimes, extremely minor mistakes will still be on my mind several weeks after the event.
I was like this in Year 12, too, but to a much greater degree. I worried a lot about my grades, and rankings, and whatever else. It wasn’t good for me down the track.
I’m sure many people reading this will identify with the above. Having high expectations often goes hand-in-hand with performance anxiety – they’re a natural couple, really. And that’s okay for the most part – after all, anxiety isn’t inherently a bad or disruptive thing.
But when those expectations become too high – when future performance is negatively impacted as a result – something needs to change.
The catalyst for this article? I messed up a task at work today – and I hate that fact. I tried really hard; I just didn’t do it right.
In Year 12, something like this would have been a huge deal for me. It would have burnt inside me for weeks – probably months. The anxiety would build slowly until almost unbearable. Obviously, not good for a number of reasons.
The last few years, I’ve been trying really hard to consider life with greater perspective. And that’s what this article is going to focus on. It’s important at this time of year, too. There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead, what with grades, and exams, and subject scores. That elusive and daunting ATAR. Those things are important, sure – they’ll have some sort of impact. But I promise you: they’re not the end of the world. This is why.
Everybody does. Everybody will in the future. Thousands of people across the world are probably making mistakes right now. Some big, some small. Some more meaningful than others.
And that’s fine.
It’s a part of life – it’s a part of being human.
Say you don’t do as well you’d hoped on an assessment task. You studied hard, you felt prepared, and then you just… didn’t do that well. It sucks, no doubt; it’s a type of pain I’m sure some people just wouldn’t understand. But it’s definitely not the case that the world stops spinning, that the birds stop chirping, that the sun stops rising.
Even in HSC terms, it’s okay. Seriously.
One of our most prominent forum members, Jamon, was ranked second to last in one of his classes. Again, he worked hard, got great marks for the rest of the year, and ended up rank #1 (… plus a 99.80 ATAR).
Down in Victoria, one of our lecturers, Jess – she almost failed her first English essay. Then what? She worked hard, she improved her grades, and she ended up with an incredible mark for English.
It’s okay to make mistakes, and everybody does – even those you might not expect.
And, by definition, not everybody is the best – they simply can’t be (unless there’s some sort of ridiculous 7 billion-way tie).
Like, imagine you’re in a swimming race with Michael Phelps. There’s really no point comparing your time with his – that would be pretty silly. He’s had different life experiences, has different strengths and weaknesses – he presumably has different priorities. Equally, there’d be no point comparing your time to that of a six-year-old who’s just learning how to swim.
Ultimately, there’s not much point comparing your results with anybody‘s. So long as you’ve given it all you have, there’s nothing more that anybody can ask of you.
But, of course, everybody can work toward being the best they can be. Michael Phelps can (theoretically) improve his swimming PB. And so can you. And so can the six-year-old. It’s all relative, even if those results are fundamentally different.
Same sort of thing with HSC. Nobody is perfect, and there’s very little if any point comparing your results with others’.
(Being perfect would be boring, anyway; there’d be nothing to work on!)
I don’t think this point can be over-emphasised. Seriously.
Subject scores and results and all that jazz are sweet, but what do they mean, really? Like, yep, absolutely, they can help you get into your course. That’s absolutely and fundamentally true. Receiving a high ATAR is a considerable achievement, and those who do should be extremely proud.
But five years down the track, know what’s going to be more important? Resilience. Persistence. Organisation.
Those are buzz words, but they’re also incredibly important traits for day-to-day life.
The most important things I learnt in Year 12 weren’t subject-related. I went to uni for four years, and I can very comfortably say that the same is true for that experience. I learnt a lot of stuff – some subjects more interesting than others – but that subject knowledge is well and truly dwarfed by the life skills you pick up here and there.
Year 12 is more than marks. If you make a mistake, if you’re disappointed – it’s okay. It’s only human to feel that way, after all. And it’s a great opportunity to deal with stuff with a great attitude.
Remember, in the words of Queen: “And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few; I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through.” Profound.