NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Learning to love the grind

The end of the semester is here. After many sleepless nights, last-minute scrambles and outstanding pieces of writing and presentation, we can all take a deep breath. As the semester ends, and the next one comes into focus, it’s time to rest, take stock, and prepare to overcome whatever challenges lay ahead i the next semester. In order to become as effective a possible, to be as much an asset to our own interests as possible, there is a single change that will make all the rest so much easier.

Planning is only the first step, and overplanning can sometimes be more of a hindrance than help. As it has been said, no plan survives contact with opposition. Staying on task and committing to meet deadlines is essential, but even with this done the work can wear even the hardest worker down. The repetition of work, the process by which we find achievement has been dubbed “the grind,” with the understanding that it is a difficult and tiring endeavor. The single best way to overcome the grind is to love it.

This is not just a platitude for motivational posters, to be posted in bold print over a picture of a mountain. Instead, understand that no matter the situation that arises in front of you, it is an opportunity to overcome it and achieve a goal. A last minute assignment is a terrible thing to recieve, until it is accepted as a dare of sorts, as a way to prove one’s studiousness and versatility. Overcoming the problem, finishing the assignment, and receiving high marks stimulates the brain’s reward impulse, encouraging the development of studiousness and versatility. Even in the event the assignment is not finished in time, the downward push can either be seen as a crushing defeat, or an opportunity to improve and come back stronger for it. We already seek challenge and success in our entertainment in the form of video games and other interactive media, and it is not a massive shift to apply the same mindset.

I enjoy video games as much as the next twenty year old, and I know an avid player of a game like the Dark Souls franchise (infamous for it’s overpowered enemies and difficult gameplay,) will say the difficulty is the whole idea of the game. To figure out the challenging opponents and perfecting a playstyle gives a sense of achievement and mastery. When inexperienced players complain how difficult it is, the tongue-in-cheek response from more seasoned players is short, not-so-sweet and to the point, “git gud.”

Why do we not apply the same line of thinking to academics, or anything else? Taking up an instrument, beginning a sport or a new job, all of these can become all the more fulfilling and enjoyable from a change in perspective.

To accept that some tasks and undertakings are going to challenge us, and to begin to look for this challenge and enjoy figuring out how to overcome it can completely flip our mental narrative.  Viewing tough situations and failures as a challenge takes these difficulties from being an end to being a beginning. It is all too easy to become disheartened in the face of a failed paper or a bad day at work. It is healthy and okay to feel upset about something like this, and to deal with it in our own ways. There is no one quick fix to make sure we never feel bad again. But to understand that situation as a chance to start again and do it right allows those feelings to fade and be replaced by a sense of purpose.

This sense of purpose does not have to be where you wish to be in five years, that’s a quick way to overwhelm yourself and is far too much to be tackled all at once, especially in the middle of a time of duress. Let the purpose be as simple as possible, to accomplish the present task, to the best of your ability. Once that task is done, to accomplish the next task to the best of your ability, and so on. 

There is nothing to be gained from checking out when things get difficult, in fact it almost guarantees the situation will get much worse. Misery loves company, and shunning work or falling behind will only make getting back up to speed that much harder. Addressing the problem as soon as possible, with a clear head and goal in mind, can become an automatic, conditioned response just as well as giving up can. Once this mindset becomes ingrained, it will extend into other areas of life. Aristotle explains as much in his quote, “…Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

The work may not get easier, the page counts are the same, the topics as challenging as ever. Readings, essays, speeches and experiments, let them come. Once we are equipped with the right mindset and some forethought, planning, and practice, pages are written and papers completed, experiments are successful and deadlines met with time to spare.

To accept that some tasks and undertakings are going to challenge us, and to begin to look for this challenge and enjoy figuring out how to overcome it can completely flip our mental narrative.