Mentoring Monday: What to do When Your Best isn’t Good Enough

What to do When Your Best isn’t Good Enough
David Logue, School of Music Mentor

There will be a point in just about everyone’s college career where this question will be asked from one’s self, “What do I do if my best isn’t good enough?” After pondering on this topic for a few months, I have concluded that this question is actually a contradiction of itself, thus rendering it unnecessary to continue thinking upon it, so if you’re in this situation, all hope is lost. But yet, I couldn’t shake this question from my mind, and my own inquiry still persisted of how I managed to scrape through certain classes when I had faced this exact situation.

Throughout my ponderings, I came across multiple disclaimers that need to be addressed before I continue forward, and at certain points throughout the paper. The first being, is your best, actually your best? Yes there are times when our boundaries and knowledge is tested, but I have come to the belief, concerning classes, that you have not tried your best until you have talked to the professor, studied to no end, and examined every possible perspective in the given material, and learned it as well as the back of one’s own hand. Secondly, if you think your best is your best, have you talked to your classmates to see how they have gone about the given material? And finally, if you have attempted all of this, and if you still are struggling, it’s now time to figure out what to do when your best isn’t good enough.

In order to address this, I will need to break this situation down by variables, for example, if given the equation x=y+9-b, solve for x, there are infinite amount of solutions, therefore making finding the exact solution nearly impossible, as the answers will just be an educated guess as to what the answer really is. Our given variables would be you (the student), the teacher, and the material. As we have already deduced that you have been and are trying your very best, thus, only two variables are left, the teacher and the material. Concerning the teacher, most of them will be human to you and understand if you are having trouble and assist you in your learning. Some teachers, if you talk to them about your test and explain how you got to your answer, will actually give you points back, assuming your logic is sound and you found a loophole in their question, but this is a very trivial topic in this large manner. I also must include that some teachers are very difficult, and will challenge you, and not give you any mercy. But if one was to start teacher blaming, that time spent thinking about and complaining about it, is time lost that you could be spending on the topic. And even if you feel your complaining is justifiable, remember that you cannot change the teacher. From all of this, we can then conclude that the teacher you have is what you’re stuck with, and you cannot do anything about it. Therefore leaving us only with the material as the only variable, but since you can’t change what the material is; this causes a problem as we’re out of variables to change.

The only other possible scenario of where the problem persists, are the relationships between these variables. The teacher and the material is absolute (as this is the core of the class), the teacher and your relationship should not affect your performance, and if it does, seek higher council, which only leaves the relationship between you and the material as the sole factor that isn’t absolute. Therefore, as you may have come to expect, this is where the majority of problems generate from, due to so many other variables within this relationship. And once again, in dissecting those variables, we will have to deal with the actual material (in a generic sense), study habits, and thought processes.

Now also having to assess one’s ‘best’, each person has their own style of how they personally work best. For example, from reading this paper, one could assume I have a very task oriented and chronological thought process, whereas other people will go about an issue another way. This is all to say, that in our own thought processes, we have found what we find to be the best for us personally that works almost all of the time. The key word in that statement is almost, which is when our best fails; we are unaware of how to adapt otherwise.

Before I come to a few conclusions and possible solutions of how to make your best better, I will need to make a few more disclaimers and statements. The first being, I’m assuming at this point you have been humbled in the face of failure, which is something you are not accustomed to, implying that you do not know how to proceed, which the rest of this paper may help assess. Additionally, you have to remember that sometimes it’s not always about the grade. In college, we approach a critical time of learning where what we learn will be applied to our particular field of study for the rest of your life. So if your grade is terrible, but you understand the material fully, in a strange and abnormal way, you have succeeded. And the final disclaimer is, sometimes, you are just forced to push through the dirty and grimy parts of class just to get through it.

At this final stage, I have identified all of the variables as to why your best may not be good enough, and narrowed them down to the relationship between you and the material, and your thought process about them. Since I have identified the problem, there are a few obvious solutions, which may or may not work. Sometimes, the hardest thing is realizing we sometimes get stuck in our own mindset which we think is the best, simply because it’s where we succeed the most.

Thus, the first solution is, adapt and change your mindset (a lot easier said than done) to the new scenario’s in which the material is set in, and is being taught. For example, if you work best in studying by following a sequence of logistical events, and your studying dates for a history test, those dates as a sort of rote knowledge will not be something that comes easily, so you will need to adapt your mindset of how to study for it. Bringing around my second point, when studying, there are infinite amount of ways in which to study. Since your first few ways aren’t working, adapt and change to another study method. For example, one person may love using flash cards, and others may like writing the material down multiple times. Both are great ways to approach studying, but sometimes, as stated above, you will need to adapt, as both have different implications of forms of remembering.

Unfortunately, in the time frame of the semester, only 3-4 months, you may not have time to find the perfect way in which to study for this particular class, where I will give my final piece of advice, which refers to some of the statements and disclaimers above. Sometimes, you just have to push through the class and know that this is only one class out of many you will be taking throughout your college career. And above all else, remember sometimes it’s not always about the grade so much as it is essential for you to learn the material to integrate into your repertoire or knowledge for your future career.

So what do you do when your best isn’t good enough? By now, hopefully one would understand there is no simple answer, but now can at least understand where the problems generate from, how to address these issues (with some sort of guidance), and understand that it will not be an easy task to get by. I had stated that sometimes you have to just push through, but that should only be held as the very last resort. Something to always keep in mind, is having the ability to access multiple different mind sets and always being able to change and adapt those mindsets, will be beneficial to have whether or not it will fail in the class. And just like riding a bike, once you have figured out how to use a new mindset, you always remember your other mindsets and can choose between them. Not only will different mindsets help you in just a few classes in college, but also influences a progressive mental state. So now, where your best wasn’t good enough, you can observe it from a different angle and perspective, and approach the material/class/situation with a different mindset that will deal strongly with another mindset’s weaknesses, forming a much larger strong circular metacognitant perspective, so your best can always be good enough.


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