“The first and capable of giving more.” That’s what was written on my mother’s first grade report card. Defining our comfort zones and reaching for new horizons, it makes us wonder: What are we really capable of, if we unleashed the full capabilities of our potential? When I first started the IB Diploma Programme (DP), I remember being mesmerized by the concept of the Theory of Knowledge; seeing how discussions rose from seemingly simple questions and how those questions turned into debates. I had never been introduced to a methodology of thinking that has had such a tremendous impact on my life.
During my time in the IB and now at university, I can look back to reflect on how I got to where I am now. I realized that what we give both our attention and time to is we attribute great value to. We all had to study science, maths and other subjects throughout our school careers. There were some who were content with merely “getting it over with.” But those of us that decided to prevail in a specific field were the ones who had an open mentality to experiment and learn.
“Once I put an end to the infinite cycle of: “I could’ve, I should’ve, but I didn’t,” I felt like doors swung open for me.”
Many of us don’t recognize the immense power our mindsets and attitudes have over our choices and the lives we lead. Once I put an end to the infinite cycle of: “I could’ve, I should’ve, but I didn’t,” I felt like doors swung open for me. I no longer regret my every decisions, neither do I try to find glory in my past. I look forward now. As we all should. What enlightened me was Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Angela Ducworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Understanding the importance of having a “growing” mindset and establishing personal peace with being “outscored” is what built my resilience to try and be—not better than just anyone else—but specifically be better than myself.
Looking back, I can see the difference clearly. Minoring in the French language, made me rethink my decisions when I was in school. When I was in primary and middle school, taking French was mandatory, and suffice to say, I didn’t attribute much importance to the language at the time. Then, when I was applying for my IGCSE courses, I could have chosen French and harnessed the benefits of speaking a foreign language, but my attitude was: “Taking Arabic is better, it is an easy A course for me,” (I ended up with a C). And when I was ticking boxes for my DP courses, I could have also chosen French then. How I wish I had chosen it during my IGCSEs. It was my lack of attention and interest in French when I was younger that lead me to my now; studying French in university. Minoring in French would have been more beneficial to where I am now and perhaps, even more interesting, if I had experienced and valued it more.
“It is our attitude that either takes us forward or becomes spikes in the path of our success.”
Even in retrospect, I don’t have any regrets because I decided to move forward. Now I am studying French with enthusiasm, taking part in the Journée Internationale de la Francophonie celebrations at my university and submerging myself into the French culture. I now appreciate the language and all the challenges that come with learning it. Assigning values and having a positive, open attitude in life, will take us a long way. It is our attitude that either takes us forward or becomes spikes in the path of our success.
Building your arsenal of skills
As important as having the right mindset is, it is only part of the equation. What about our abilities to fulfill such high demands and exceed our personal high expectations? That requires more than the right attitude. The skills that we develop form our arsenal and are what make us valuable and indispensable either in our relationships or to our communities. For the longest time, I thought that school was an arena; where the cleverest get all the glory. But now, I know that I couldn’t be more mistaken. Of course, schools generate competitiveness among students but there comes a time when that competition loses its meaning and ultimately its value. We set out to pursue different careers, go to different universities, seek out other challenges. The students who we are competing against cease to matter as we diverge. Setting our minds on achieving that goal, and not only beating the competition, is what achievement is all about.
So, what is stopping us? What is hindering our potential? I found my answer in Kajsa Tylen’s TED Talk, Overcoming Laziness and Setting World Records. In her talk, she spoke about breaking the Guinness World Record for the furthest distance cycled in a year by a woman. A goal that she set herself; a goal so big that she could only achieve it by growing into the person who could. That is the message: setting our goals and doing everything possible to achieve them. From both experience and observation, I know that it won’t be a straight line but will be achieved when we stop accepting tones of “Not yets” and overcome adversity. This is what it’ll take to strengthen our resistance muscles and aid us as we build power in our arsenal.
To conclude, I remember in my English grammar course, my professor said that if we want to achieve a good grade in her class we must learn the “winning combination.” When we asked her what that combination was, she said that it is to have both an articulate “sense of the language and knowledge of its rules.” I think that a winning combination in life would be grounded on following one’s passion and bulldozing the brick walls in the way, as Dr. Randy Paush once said: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” Going that extra mile may be what gets us that golden medal but it is also what allows us to set the bar higher.
Eman Elraie is a graduate of St. Christopher’s School in Bahrain. She is currently an undergraduate at the University of Bahrain, majoring in the English Language and Literature and minoring in French. She published short stories and poems through a grant from the United States Embassy in Bahrain. Whenever, wherever, you are most likely to find her daydreaming, headphones on with a good book. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.
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