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Day 45-47: Danger of Losing Confidence.

So I had this conversation with a high schooler about her calc class.

She was telling me about how after getting her first C having studied for that test for "7" hours, she started slipping down.

Because she was so stressed about the calc class, the other ones did not turn out great too.

So from a "good" student, she went down to an "average" student from this singular class.

Of course, there are potentially other factors that went into this trend at that very time.

However, she kept saying that it started with calc failure.

Whether it was or not, it is the fact that she thinks it was that is important for our consideration here.

So what I saw in that was the loss of confidence in the ability to take classes and succeed in them the way she used to before. So the loss of confidence leads to more failures, which leads to more loss of confidence. This is a vicious circle that is hard to exit.

This trend is probably true of so many situations, where your desire to succeed is curbed by creeping doubts of whether you can actually make it and if you are good enough for that.

If you spend enough time doubting, you get adapted to a state where the failure slowly becomes the new norm. At that point, reaching for your original success seems completely out of reach.

Now, these dips in our performance eventually happen when we reach our "carrying capacity" within that endeavor. Now, carrying capacity is what we can sustain without extreme effort or thinking. So this is studying for 7 hours for a test and then failing.

The actual cap of our performance seems to be way more prone to our mindset and dedication to the desired outcome. So if our high schooler spent time thinking about the approach, the strategy, or pinpointing problems, she could have exceeded the initial carrying capacity and stretched out her performance cap.

I also had this interesting idea.

If achieving a certain grade was an absolute necessity without any options for retreat, it is likely that with a different number of attempts and hours studied, most students would be forced to learn the material enough to pass.

Like in my last programming class, the project needed to work to pass the tests. Although I chose a very convoluted and extremely inelegant way, I had to make it work. Some of my classmates definitely thought of smarter ways and it took them less time.

Now, if it took them like hours and hours, they could then make a decision to not pursue that interest later in their studies because their effort doesn't produce the desired outcome. However, they would have secured their confidence in their ability to figure things out. They wouldn't say "I turned out to not be that smart" but say "That took too much time for me and I can spend this time doing things I am more qualified at. "

This is a slightly idealistic set-up. I wanted to communicate the following pointers:

  • the principle of exceeding your own expectations when you really have to do something

  • Creating conditions or environment where you are forced to perform a certain way and there is no retreat

  • Seeing self-confidence as an asset you can have, lose, grow, and use as leverage.

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