12 Oct 2012



Not just what, but why?

That's the message brought today during the Farewell Assembly in RI for the Year 6 students. Behind every action there's a motivation we should be aware of. Behind every means to an end, there should be a justification for employing such means to this particular end. Nothing should be committed to without being clear on the reason by such commitment. Do we really know why we're doing what we're doing at the moment?

And frankly, I've been tossing this around in my head for quite a while now. (Well actually I've been tossing around different interpretations of this question around, but I'll deal with the intended question here.) 

We seem to be getting more and more conditioned into diving into stuff while leaving questions for later. Okay, we may ask ourselves why we'd do such things, but would probably settle for answers that sound fine for now. "Why do I want to join this CCA? Because my ex-classmate is in it." "Why do I want to take this subject? Because I guess I feel alright in it." "Why do I need to get really good scores for the 'A' Levels exams? So I can get a job." They may be correct, but they all sound vague and superficial. Some even resemble clich├ęd adages periodically mentioned by others who went through a similar experience. Yet they don't seem to highlight on the inner personal desire being addressed by making such a decision.

The truth is there is always a personal self-centered reason behind each decision. Even actions that appear altruistic still have some form of personal motivation behind them, like that they want to exercise such values to affirm themselves as moral humans. Of course there may also be negative intent behind the same altruistic actions, but that doesn't change the fact that personal motive is present.

When we become aware of the personal reasons behind our actions, we also become better able to judge whether such actions should be followed through or not. If we realise how superficial or really selfish our own reasons are, then we know not to continue such behaviour. Conversely, good reasons that resonate with the positive values we uphold confirm the integrity of our actions. 

How many movie and story plots out there like to preach the values of going against what society forces on you and following your heart? The fact that it's such a recurring theme hints how people out there still feel pressured to go with the "logic" of others, going along with the idea that they should be more knowledgeable with experience. Sure, getting straight A's would give you a great chance of becoming a lawyer, which in society's eyes is usually seen as an admirable source of income, but is that what you believe in? Do you think being a lawyer would be as desirable as others make it out to be? Are there other reasons you are aiming for those straight A's?

And yes, it sounds more interesting and beneficial to go study in overseas universities, which boast producing the world's legendary minds over the years. It'd look really pretty in portfolios when applying for jobs too. But are there other reasons behind choosing to study overseas that seem irrational or impulsive? Or is there pressure from family and society?

Not saying that you should totally discount others' opinions when making decisions, but that such decisions shouldn't be made solely based on other people's judgements of your circumstances and assumptions on what you want. They could be very well be valid and unbiased in offering thoughts, but ultimately the decision is a personal one. If you willingly agree to their opinions on the matter, that's okay. If you disagree with them, with proper justification, then it's also fine. It's like writing an essay, really! The important thing is you know what you're doing for what purpose.

I admit I've been guilty of doing things without self-awareness. Sometimes I do things without really bothering about why I'd do them in the first place. I'm trying to correct this habit of ignorance though.

The takeaway from the Assembly today was to be clear on why we pursue the goals we set for ourselves, providing an extra motivational force behind us students as we press on in our feverish preparation for the big exams. We were also taught that throughout the life ahead of us, we should continue being self-aware of our motives behind our actions, no matter the context. 

Don't follow the yellow brick road without being fully aware of why you chose this path.