This is a fundamental question which students have to resolve for themselves as they go through their education. All too often the focus becomes highly oriented around achieving high grades in course work and exams, with little real acknowledgment of the stresses that a student might be facing outside of their academic life.
Achieving high grades and pushing ourselves hard is all well and good if we are in good condition ourselves. However, if we are achieving high grades at the cost of our health, our friendships and our self-esteem, then it would be useful to ask ourselves why? And also to roll the clock forward and think about the blueprint that we are developing for our future lives. If students are getting into the habit of working in a way that achieves high grades, but leaves them open to burn out – this is not a useful blue print for later life.
The debate rages within the business world about how hard should we work as employees. Some nations are famous for their clarity around their work/life balance and take the view that if you cannot achieve everything you need to achieve within your usual working day, then either you need to adjust how you work – or you are being given too much work. The UK is famous for taking the attitude that the longer and harder that you work, the more respect and acknowledgement you will receive from your colleagues and managers. and yet, we also know that there are high levels of illness and work place stress in the UK. It costs the economy millions and it’s impact on peoples lives can be really distressing.
For students the pressure is on. And it stays on more or less throughout their education as they move on to ever more complicated topics and courses. Developing a longer term perspective that takes into account the type of person we want to be and the values we want to embody in our lives is a really useful exercise.
Are we really saying that we want to be someone that achieved extraordinary grades even though we came out of our exams a shell of the person we were before. Exhausted and depressed.
Taking a longer term perspective and valuing ourselves, our free time and the fun we have is proven again and again to deliver good performance when we really buckle down and do the work.
We know this intuitively if we think about an athlete. We know that they would not work all day. They need time to rest. They need good food and they need time with their friends and loved ones. Under these conditions, they can perform at the top of their ability and under these conditions, they can recover and do it again.