The path to self actualization

Taking a new perspective on academic success

Graphic by (Olivia Walz ’22)

Students year after year strive to get the best grades, be in the most clubs and get the most service hours to stand out to their dream college. The dream college that will earn them a good job, so they can finally start working towards the ideology of success.
However, success is not necessarily measured by the number on a paycheck or how enjoyable the job is for the person. According to South teacher MaShanta Ashmon, passion is essential to success.
“Passion involves something that a person cares a lot about,” Ashmon said. “The key to being successful means that you have to be passionate about what you want.”
Passion and pride make success very sought-after, Ashmon said. Passion can make a person driven and pride can make them feel accomplished. Being proud of one’s production or performance contributes a great deal to being successful, according to Ashmon. She believes students should work for themselves to find their self-worth.
“During the end of the school year, I find myself reminding students daily that I want them to finish with a grade that they can be proud of,” Ashmon said. “It’s not for me, not for mom and dad and not for the community.”
Grades are only one of the things students stress over, Ashmon said, as many students think grades will affect their chances at a bright future. This can affect students to the point where they aren’t happy with what they are working for. Ashmon said that mental health can distort the meaning of success to an individual.
“I encourage students not to spend five to ten years being mentally unhealthy because of an extrinsic bubble,” Ashmon said. “There’s always a way to fit that goal into a passion that they have in their hearts.”
According to Ashmon, students are more likely to become successful if they have an intrinsic
perspective, doing something without any obvious external rewards. She said establishing a goal for someone’s own sake rather than a goal that has a distinct reward could mean so much more for a person’s mental health and potential prosperity.
“A person can gain the world financially and materialistically and still be unhappy,” Ashmon said. “If the motivator is intrinsic, then it means that their heart and soul will feel good about the things they’ve accomplished and the things that they have acquired along the way.”
Ashmon said she believes success should make people feel good about themselves. One person’s idea of success or what it takes to become fortunate could be very different from another’s. Gina Hawkins, a South counselor, said she thinks hard work is the key to achieving one’s full potential.
“Although success sometimes falls into people’s laps, hard work is absolutely necessary,” Hawkins said. “Being able to stick to your plan and to your goals and having the grit to get through those tough times is much more important than just being purely brilliant.”
In order to become accomplished, it is essential to plan out how the future should look, Hawkins said. Some students don’t know what they hope to achieve or what they want to do with the rest of their lives until much later. Some don’t know what field of study they want to pursue when they get into college, continuously switching out of majors. Some may not even know what they wish for after college, and according to Hawkins, that’s totally okay.
“You just have to figure out what your goals are, and once you figure out your goals, you should figure out how to meet those goals,” Hawkins said. “If you find that those goals are difficult to achieve, you must not get discouraged. You just have to get over those hurdles, and that’s where hard work comes into play.”
Experiencing the feeling of devotion and the joy one gets out of exploring the work or topic being taught is the first step to finding success. According to Hawkins, success is hard work that doesn’t always work out, so persistence is necessary in order to grow. Hawkins said individuals will undoubtedly encounter numerous losses before a win.
“To me, being successful is being happy, healthy and having enough money to be able to still go out and live life,” Carly Geezle ’21 said. “I would rather be happy and make less of an income than work a job I have no passion for.”
Geezle said she believes that determination is the paramount characteristic for someone to become successful. She said people can work hard and be passionate about what they are doing, but if they can not face failure head-on, the hardships before them can and will overtake them.
“You can work hard and be determined and really build a life for yourself if you have a drive for it,” Geezle said. “Being determined and molding the life that you want is what having a future is all about.”
As students enter high school, some become more aware of academic achievements than others. The strive to always get good grades can be emotionally and mentally draining, as many students love the feeling of academic validation. Cate Hampton ’24 expressed how difficult it is to measure success based on a feeling or a reward.
“School is stressful and success to me is getting good grades in school,” Hampton said. “As for the future, I hope that I’m happy.”
Being successful consists of many different aspects, such as wealth or the feeling of being happy. Hampton said that it can be difficult for students to feel successful, and she believes people who find joy in the little things are more capable of feeling successful.
“Someone who is easy-going and optimistic would find success in their life easier,” Hampton said. “If you are someone who looks at the glass half full, you would have a problem finding happiness in yourself or success in a workplace.”
According to Hampton, anything can happen in three years, and the thought of not knowing what is to come is what deprives some students of the feeling of success. Hampton said the unknown is scary, and until people can see their success right in front of them, they’re unable to feel complete.
“I have three years of highschool left, and I have no clue where it’s going to take me,” Hampton said. “In my head, I have a plan of what I want to happen, but that could change at any given moment.”