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Success as a process, not an outcome

October 28, 2020

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Being a student is one of the most fulfilling and frustrating life experiences. It’s a role where there is so much to gain, yet every new experience can feel draining. A reservoir of patience and contentedness are key to seeing this journey through, and even enjoying the ride along the way.

I recently decided to step back into the role of student and am finding out, as many of you might be as well, having patience while learning is easier said than practiced. Soon after I started, I was confronted by old habits and desires for a schedule or flow – some force to subconsciously propel me while I glided along. Combined with pressures of work and home life, it didn’t take long for stress to set in and leave me feeling as though I was struggling to stay above the proverbial water. Add in the uncertainty of our current global crisis, and excelling as a student can feel impossible.

When I began thinking about how I should approach this article, I sought out wisdom and advice to reaffirm students who find themselves in this position, myself included. Thankfully, such affirmation was not hard to find.

John Wooden knew quite a bit about success. His ten National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championships for the University of California, Los Angeles are not so much a testament to his technique, but his values and beliefs lived out. In a TED Talk, Wooden (2001) presented his own definition of success as, “peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” (Wooden, 2001) Wooden goes on to say with this mindset, winning, or the results of one’s efforts, are the byproduct.

In some ways Wooden’s thoughts confirmed something I already knew: success is not equal to perfection. In general, people understand perfection is not realistic and that others will not expect them to be perfect. Yet, it is difficult to set this notion aside in favor of trusting in one’s abilities and affording oneself some patience.

The instant satisfaction of “getting it right” or receiving a grade is tempting, but not sustainable. Shifting one’s thinking of success as something external to be won, to something internal to be grown over time entirely changes the meaning of it. When success becomes a state in which one is satisfied with his or her effort, the means by which success is achieved is patience.

This aspect of success can be a truly challenging one. Through the process of learning, failure, having to reconsider one’s point of view, and having to start all over are inevitable. It takes patience to grant oneself time and forgiveness to move past such things and glean what value can be found from them.

The outcome of learning is satisfying, and with a fresh view on success and ample patience, the journey of learning can be equally as fulfilling.

Wooden, John (2001, February). The difference between winning and succeeding. [Video]. TED