This article was originally published May 27, 2011, in issue 1920.
Sure, the end of the world may be six months away (or not), but for many students it feels like It’s already happened.
With June often comes the end of the academic journey, the close of a significant segment of one’s life. And while this is most obviously true for graduates, even students just finishing their first semesters can look back on the past year and realize that they’ve just passed a milestone.
Looking back, looking ahead. Most graduation speeches focus on the future, but at the end of the school year It’s equally important to shine some light on the past. Perhaps It’s even more important, because how we learn from our past successes and failures can affect our present?and shape our future.
Many self-help gurus recommend a similar exercise at the end of the calendar year: a sort of pre-New Year’s review, if you will. But for students, beginnings and endings tend to cluster around the summer, when we wind down the old school year and gear up for the coming semester.
Whether we’re finally graduating with that long-sought degree or moving on to the next stepping-stone class in our educational program, June is a good time for reflection on the year?or semester?or 10-year marathon?That’s finally come to a close. It’s an opportunity for a broad personal review, an attempt to discover what worked? What didn’t? Keeping in mind the coming semester, year, or phase of life, these are a few points to reflect upon:
What affected my motivation? Was the class delivery method one that didn’t appeal to me? Were there too many readings, compared with other classes? Was it too theoretical?or too applied? We can use this new understanding to help schedule future classes for a more satisfying and productive semester.
Or was there a tutor conflict? Or an outside event, illness, or personal circumstance that affected my progress? Because as much as we like to plan, we simply can’t control all the factors in our educational experience. However, a good plan takes contingencies into account, and recognizing our triumphs and failures in dealing with any past problems is the key to future success. How will I handle it if I fall ill, or if I’m unhappy personally? How will I cope with a bitter disappointment, a death in the family, a difficult relationship? How will I keep focussed? Most importantly, what will I not do?
What about inner conflict? We shouldn’t discount the effect that negative self-esteem can have on our productivity. Like that poor grade earned despite all my hard work on that assignment. Did that colour my perception of the semester in general, or cause me to lose interest in the rest of my classes? Did I obsess over that one letter grade?to the point that I was no longer able to give my best in the rest of my studies (and thus setting myself up for future failure)?
Did I take on too much? Or not enough? While It’s easy to see how too many commitments can cause burnout, sometimes insufficient challenges can equally affect motivation. Was the interplay of work, school, family, and community activities in my life imbalanced? Finding the right proportions is important when we’re juggling many obligations, and the best way to do so is to evaluate the successes and failures of each year-long ?experiment.?
A caution: this year-end review is not a time for regrets, for woulda-coulda-shoulda self-judgment. Rather, It’s a look back with a view to the future. Self-productivity blogger Celestine Chua, who recommends yearly reviews in late December, says that the practice will ?help you to start the next year on a high note.? After all, It’s only by understanding the lows of the past that we can hope to soar to the heights of the future.