The mental drain of Studying
A lot of us approach studying as a chore just because our parents, teachers and society in general expects us to do well in our academics. The academic journey can be rather inundating and boring. The very thought of studying and examinations can cause a lot of distress for students(at least I can speak for myself).
Why can be studying so difficult
studying may not be the most appealing thing in the world. Sitting for multiple hours looking at static books is not exactly what our survivalist brains were made for. There are a myriad of reasons why we may find studying undesirable, some of them being:
#### Delayed gratification as against Instant gratification
Apparently we all have an inner, pesky reptilian mind. The metaphorical term the internet likes to call it is something called the lizard brain. Our lizard brain likes to live in the present and loves to have instant results. Studies for one, that too in our education system will never yield instant results. Often deadlines (final exams, graduations,Entrance exams) are years or months in the future. Unless you think rationally, it is likely that our lizard brain will try to convince us that there is no point in learning seemingly useless materials.
#### Previously unsatisfactory results
If you have never gotten good grades before (like me), trying to score straight A’s may seem unattainable. The mind does reject the chance we can ever achieve it, so why even try is? is what the inner voice keeps taunting.
People (mostly Asians I think) have this culture of comparison. You may be compared to friend, family member or a successful person often. This may cause us to become more demotivated and associate getting good grades with people who you think are smarter than you, not yourself.
Competition and vast syllabus
The world has become a lot more competitive with better access to education. People flock in hundreds of thousands to attempt to get into elite colleges and universities.
For instance, In the year 2023, I will be attempting the Indian JEE exam, one of the most difficult and rigorous engineering exam in the world. The motivation behind this tag is to get access to the best universities, to be a part of an elite circle of the smartest peers and then get a fat paycheck. But, such a difficult entrance exam often ends up crashing our dreams and demotivating so many of us.
So, Is Studying worth it?
I for one, have been a chronic procrastinator. For this reason, I have almost never appreciated the art (yes, its an art) of studying with the intention to learn. There are quite a few reasons that I have found that may associate studying with learning rather than it just being another plain task. The Studying process can be fulfilling if we understand the Why (the reason) instead of getting muddled with the How. These reasons perhaps can lead to the motivation that we need to go through the grind.
#### Builds a solid foundation There is so much learning we can acquire out of the act of studying. It enhances our ability to absorb information and learn about multiple subjects. It is said that Knowledge and Information is power, and this journey will equip us with a deep understanding of what we are trying to learn.
#### Develops a growth mindset The knowledge that we gain enables us to develop a growth mindset. The journey in academia requires constant improvement over a lifetime. It builds discipline, team work, and competitiveness, which further can be utilized in various other endeavors that we undertake in our lifetimes.
#### Leads to a safe, secure career study well, get a safe secure job is the reason we hear the most from society and parents, it is pretty blue-pilled and may sound like a cliché. However, It does have a bit of truth. It is a fact that 90% of wealth goes to the top 3 -5 % of people. Not necessarily that excelling in academics will allow us to become those few elite people, but at least becoming the top few % in studies will open up pathways in our future careers and thereby giving us a head start.
But it ain’t easy The competition in the academic field is extremely fierce. To get into top universities you would be competing against some of the smartest people in your country, or even the world! If you do manage to crack any of these competitive exams and get into the universities of your choice, we will have a chance to be surrounded by like-minded, smart people. They say you become the average of the 10 people you spend time with, so surrounding with the smartest will up our averages.
#### So, How to Study well and hope to get into the Toppers league?
What I have understood listening to these various success stories is that Humans are creatures of enormous potential, and our brains have the unique quality of being able to adapt much quicker to new situations.
In order to actually score good, we must not work in hopes to please another person. Good, self-motivated studying is the only way to study without it feeling meaningless, and unfulfilling.
The top rankers do not think of the syllabus as one gargantuan task, but rather hundreds of smaller, more manageable concepts that they can master.
At the end, it will all add up. All we have to do is keep improving every single day.
Fret not, my dear fellow average students, as there always seems to be hope. What I am beginning to understand is that we don’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed, Consistancy and putting the work in will easily get you to the top, no matter how average you may have previously preformed. You must understand that the competition are not meant to belittle you, but rather to refine you and make you a more seasoned person who can handle the stress.
The Success Equation
Until high school, being at the top of the class could be possible by chance. One may not study as hard, and get good grades by using their natural talents/abilities.
However, the more we advance into education, everything becomes a lot more competitive. Although luck and talent still plays a role, consistent work trumps everything else. There is a beautiful equation from the book The Unfair Advantage that demonstrates my point.
$$\ Success = fair \ play \times Unfair \ Advantage $$
Your unfair advantage is something that are unique to you, and can help you get to your goals from square one, be it financial support, technical education, life skills etc. It is what separates you from every one else.
Fair play here would be any difficult work that requires you to be persistent, and tangibly brings you closer to your goals
You have a lot more control on the “fair play” aspect of the equation in comparison to your unfair advantages (you definitely already have some)
You can make your fair play variable bigger by - working smarter and more rigorously than everyone else - being consistent - understanding:always following up after classes, taking notes, visuallizing concepts etc. - Having ambition (thinking about how all this learning will help you in life) - work-life balance : in long study marathons with an end goal in mind (for example, an entrance exam at a university) burning out is highly undesirable. You must be able to balance your diet, exercise, sleep, hobbies (in my opinion, hobbies are highly underrepresented in traditional media) and social life in order to make the best of your time.
The Flow State
Ever wonder how the smart dude/gal in your class is able to sit and absorb a lot of material for hours on end? It’s simple (but not always easy!). They “get in the zone”. To put it simply, being in the flow state causes you to lose all sense of self, with all your focus being on the thing you are now doing. Think of a painter who is completely absorbed in his art. He could go hours painting, even missing sleep, food etc.
To understand this concept better, you could watch the TED talk
How do we apply this in learning? Here are a few steps to make getting into the flow state a habit:
Have a fixed environment for studying. I cannot express how important this is. You must sit at a single desk every single day. Eventually, the moment you sit on your study chair you will get into a state of intense focus (truly magical I tell you)
Having a set time for studying, doesn’t really matter if it’s in the morning or night, you just have to show up every single day
Making it so that the material that you are solving is hard, but not so hard that it demotivates you
Put away your flipping phone away. The thing can suck so much time that you will not even notice your precious hours flowing by. Turn off all notifications. Preferably, you could chuck your phone in another room.
Having fun. This may sound really weird, but when you purposefully try to get more interested in your subject (questioning and being curious about everything), you find that your mind starts buzzing, and the flow gives you real satisfaction, which is really important in study marathons.
Hard Work vs Deep Work
|Hard Work||Deep Work|
|Force imbibing concepts(reading the same paragraph repeatedly without testing yourself,memorization without understanding the core meaning)||spending time understanding your material,and not bruteforcing your way through concepts. Spending some time really visualizing how the idea works|
|Prioritizing time over the flow state||makes the time you spend valuable by getting into a conceptual flow state|
|Does not really promote learning||the most scientific way to study,Gives you a more all-rounded understanding of your subject|