A History lesson

I came across an article this week, where a Harvard Psychologist sought to explain why we sometimes don’t achieve our goals.

According to the behaviour expert, Amy Cuddy, “The biggest mistake people make in setting goals for themselves, is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.”

I have to admit that I fall into this category sometimes. I am a dreamer, always have been and probably always will be. I still remember vividly when my eighth grade History teacher, Ms Williams, told the class that we should always “DREAM BIG.” But I have to agree with Cuddy because while it is important to visualise your goals, they need to also be realistic.

When our goals are so big and require a long list of things to happen before we can accomplish them, then we end up going through life seeing the glass half empty all the time. Failure and disappointment set in and we lose sight of the smaller victories we had along the way.

History was my favourite subject in High School and today I am still fascinated and interested in learning about historical events and people. Each year my High School gave prizes to top performing students and one of the categories was for the student who had the highest average in History. So, I decided to set a goal for myself upon entering the tenth grade, as this was my last opportunity to get a prize for the subject I loved the most, before graduation.

By the end of the first semester (“term” in our local Jamaican context), my average for History was 91%, the highest in my class. I was thrilled, my dream was almost coming true. But then I got a test that was set by the History Teacher who did not teach my class. It was a multiple choice test and to this day remains the most confusing test I have ever done. The questions were brutally tricky and when the results came back my grade was 13%. I cried. This grade shattered my average and my dreams of winning the award.

I forgot about all the times I scored between 85-100% on the History tests, I forgot about my good studying techniques. The only thing I could see at the time was that I failed. This is what Cuddy is referring to in the article, a lot of things can go wrong when our goals are so distant. There were too many variables at play for the award, so even if I managed to get straight A’s, there were a number of students in the other classes getting straight A’s too and their average could simply be more than mine, even if it’s by 1% and they would be the automatic recipient of the award.

So the point is not that we shouldn’t dream big or we should settle for the glass half full, but rather, that we should enjoy the process and fill up the glass with each incremental success.


Thanks for reading my article, feel free to share your stories in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Have a good weekend!