Dear 100 Hour Board,
I know that it is probably wrong to ask, but how can I have the confidence and the attitude of BYU students of being competitive and awesome. They just seem to do their best because they believe that they can!!! Are there any tips to helping me have that mindset so that I can be as successful as well in my schooling?
- Future #1 BYU Student
Dear Nigh Future,
A lot of the answers below me highlight some of the pitfalls of competition, which I agree with. However, I don't think competition is wholly bad, nevertheless I do advise caution in developing a healthy sense of it.
Academically, I can be pretty competitive. I'm the person who strives to be at the top of every class, set the high scores for tests, etc. When I see others do well, it inspires me to improve my own efforts, perhaps more so than if I had no one else around me working towards the same goals. But a very important note here is that my sense of competition doesn't arise from trying to prove that I'm smarter, or superior in any way to other people; it's more like I see my classmates as examples of excellence, and aspire to follow that example. I don't just want me do well, I want for everyone to be able to do well. The point of the competition isn't to "win" against others, it's to improve yourself, using the examples of others to help do that.
If you want to be successful academically, you'll have to learn to accept any failures that you run into. Remember that no matter what the current levels of your abilities are, you still have the potential to achieve excellence. If you fail a test, that doesn't mean that you yourself are a failure and unable to do well at school. It also doesn't mean that you weren't trying your best, and an increase in effort will guarantee you an A. It probably means that for whatever reason, that's a subject you have a harder time with. And that's okay. Realize that you aren't a static being, but can change and grow; past failures may alert you to areas that need growth, but they aren't impossible barriers to that growth.
Your worth isn't tied to your grades or academic performance. Internalize that, and I think you'll be able to realize you already are one of those awesome BYU students (or will be as soon as you're a student here).
I'm actually tired of the whole competitive thing at BYU. There are so many good students who just get so carried away by what the average score is on the test, who has A-s and all of that jazz. I think you should set your goals for grades and performance, and then work at those goals.
Personally, I have been in a lot of classes where it has been hard to find a really good friend in a class because they don't want to take a chance that you would get a better grade than them. This is not the way to handle life, not to mention school.
So, here's my advice. Before each semester, make a goal of what GPA you want and how you are going to get it. Make a real plan and prepare yourself to stick to it. Allow extra time for dating, social events, club meetings, etc. Once you have your goals and plans, go to school and smile. Say nice things to people you meet or pass on the sidewalk. Most of them are thinking they don't fit in or aren't good enough, and hearing your confidence in them will inspire them to be better! Give people high fives, introduce yourself to others in your classes and offer help if they are struggling. If they get an A and you get an A, everyone is better off. If everyone else is getting lower grades than you, that doesn't mean you are superior. I think you'll find that if you follow this advice of being genuinely nice to everyone you meet and not comparing them to you or vice versa, you will have a more rewarding college experience. Remember that you are only competing with your goals and plans. If you exceed your own GPA goal, then celebrate that! Even if your goal was a 2.0, go get ice cream or something!
I could go on and on, but I think you can get my message from this much. BYU does not need any more competitive culture than it already has. More love and kindness can never hurt though!
-Sunday Night Banter
Congrats on getting accepted to BYU! That you did get accepted shows that you belong here, whether you feel like you do or not. I think that when we first get here, most of us feel like we don't fit in. It's part of the culture shock of transitioning from high school to college. In high school, we were at the top of our class and measured our self-worth through external things. GPAs, AP courses, and class rank were all ways to measure success.
Once you get to BYU, however, it feels like half the people you meet were their school's valedictorian. You're no longer the top of your class, nor is the point necessarily to be at the top. College is a lot more about personal growth and gaining skills than competing against others. Doing well in class still matters, but the reason changes: instead of proving your worth against others, it's now about preparing for your future career.
But in college, it doesn't always feel like that. Comparing ourselves to others comes naturally, and when we see the successes of others, we can't help but compare ourselves to them. When I meet another English major who seems like their life is so much more put together, I can't help but feel like I don't belong here. The thing is, though, comparing ourselves to others like this only really leads to low self-esteem and envy. Healthy competition can be good, but it can also turn toxic if it becomes your primary motivation.
Instead of pushing yourself against others, try to gain an internal motivation. Learn for the sake of self-improvement and reaching your academic goals. When achievements do come, they'll feel so much more satisfying. And then when achievements come to others, it'll be easier to celebrate with them instead of feeling bad because you "don't measure up."
Dear future winner,
School is a game and it's fun to win. I don't mean comparing yourself to others. I mean figuring out the system and beating it.
If you treat it as a game rather than as a life or death thing, it's a lot easier. Let yourself spend the first few weeks of a class figuring out how the class works and how the teacher thinks. Then figure out how to give them exactly what they want. It can be quite fun to beat the system like that. Work hard and smart, but don't get so invested that you're overwhelmed.
Mistakes can usually be made up for in the long run. And even if they can't, oh well. What's the worst that can happen?
Good luck winning!
Not all BYU students are excessively competitive. And you don't need to be competing against others in your mind to be successful. Honestly, my grades didn't change that much when I went from being competition-focused to just-minding-my-own-business-focused.
I think you might really enjoy reading Brene Brown. I've heard all her books are good, but I'm currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection and it addresses a lot of your concerns. Plus, it makes it clear that you're not alone in those concerns.