THINK Education

Small wins matter

Growth isn’t always linear

Growth isn’t always linear

You dread speaking in public. Yet, you sign up to take part in a debate in class. Pat yourself on your back. You have performed so poorly in Statistics that it pulls down your overall average. But on the next quiz, you attempt every question instead of omitting hard ones. Give yourself a high-five. You are generally disorganised and often miss deadlines for projects. When you start marking submission dates in your phone calendar, celebrate your new resolve to be more organised.

Very often, we look only at the big picture when it comes to our desires and goals. The post-graduate programme you really covet. The dream job that you have envisioned for years. Making it to the national team in badminton. Getting to play the lead role in a play produced by a prestigious theatre company. Running a start-up with oodles of VC funding pouring in.

Appreciate progress

While we need to keep our larger goals at the back of our minds, we are more likely to get there if we learn to acknowledge and appreciate small steps of progress. Even though there may be a gaping chasm between where we are at present and where we would like to be, we can cross the gulf if we inch closer to our goal day by day. If we set our sights only on the big prize, we may not notice the infinitesimal progress we are making and thereby give up too soon.

At times, this may seem harder than it sounds because we have to be our own cheerleaders. While a sensitive coach, teacher, mentor or parent may notice the minuscule advances you are making, often there are no external markers to signify your achievements. But that does not make them any less real. For example, your marks on an exam may not improve but you find that you were able to complete the paper on time. That’s an accomplishment that others may miss. Similarly, you fail to land another job after an interview, but you felt you were less nervous this time and were able to answer all the questions without getting flustered. Here, again, only you can gauge the gradual headway you are making at cracking interviews.

Also, when you are making small steps of progress, don’t get disheartened if you make a few mistakes and fall a few steps back every now and then. Growth and development in most domains are not always strictly linear. If you take two steps forward and then one step backward, keep plodding along. So, if you make incremental gains in the first two quizzes of your econometrics course but do worse on the mid-term exam, don’t despair. Instead, you should try and ‘deconstruct’ your performance. What did you get right? Where did you go wrong? What can you do differently next time in an exam so that you avoid the same pitfalls? If you are unable to answer these questions for yourself, don’t shy away from getting more specific feedback from a teacher or peer.

Remember that every victory or accomplishment, however large or small, should goad us on to seek further and extend ourselves, perhaps even choosing a different path at times. Writer, Daniel Pink, exhorts us in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing , to celebrate small wins so that we will have the “motivation and energy to take on more daunting challenges.”

The author is Director, PRAYATNA.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 1:00:13 pm |