In education, as in life, there will always be challenges. There will be times that we question what we are doing, why we are doing it, and if any of it matters. And these times – while the scariest – are also the most valuable, the most important, for they reveal what truly matters to us. No one gets through challenges simply because we are told to do so, but because we choose to do so. I strongly believe that there are two major things we need to tackle challenges: perspective and inspiration – perspective to help us understand where we are, what we know and do not know, and why we do not know it; inspiration to understand where we want to go, and why we want to go there. The source of our perspective and inspiration comes from the realization that we are not alone, that where we are is defined by our relation to one another and to the greater universe, that our motivation comes from our family, friends, mentors, the beauty and mystery of life. It is humility and ambition combined.
When you find yourself questioning why you are doing problem sets, or attending classes, or going to work, remind yourself of your current perspective and inspiration. I say current, because these things can and will change throughout your life. What you do should grow your perspective and inspiration, and your perspective and inspiration should motivate what you do. Without perspective and inspiration, the work you do quickly loses meaning and the cycle is broken.
What troubles me is that the current systems that surround us do not address these two things, instead they construct additional challenges that make us lose our perspective and cloud our inspiration. Instead of being sources of inspiration and perspective, the education system tends to suck these things out of our lives. We are given goals to strive for without the reasons why, we are told to take tests because they will increase our academic standing, we are told we need to be the best out of a tiny percentage of a privileged population because…why? When that happens, we stray away from challenges, letting difficulty or fear of failing be our excuse not to do something. We lose the will to pursue challenges, to work hard.
At the moment, it is up to us to maintain our perspective and inspiration. Please don’t lose it.