Self-awareness is key to academic success

College is a big goal for most people my age, and working hard to achieve in high school is a very real aspect to that journey.

The problem is that I’m not always driven to achieve in school; it’s not in my DNA. I genuinely dislike tests, and find homework quite restrictive. As much as I realize my increasing itch to be an entrepreneur or a policy-making economist who will develop Central America, school doesn’t feel like the oxygen tank that keeps my heart pumping.

Instead, I yearn to continue to develop my self-awareness, which sustains me and brings me happiness and success; it is my true oxygen.

We read, watch, and listen to coming of age stories, we learn that we are expected to become academic adults, but not once in our journeys as students are we pushed to develop self-awareness.

Knowing who we are, what we want, and where we want to be is not addressed in our academic or school culture.

So I wanted to know: do the highest achievers at ARHS know what drives them? Do they possess self-awareness?

I went in with the preconceived notion that ARHS’s pool of high achievers would lead me to students that lack self-awareness and are just driven to get As. After all, there are no emotional intelligence SATs, and college doesn’t test for your grit, ambition, passion, or mindset.

Instead, what I found in two high performers that I spoke with, junior Leif Maynard and senior Catalina Yang, was the opposite: their motivation for high academic achievement sprouted from a drive to execute their own ambitions, ambitions developed out of a deep understanding of who they are.

“I say happiness is number one,” said Yang, “and as for health, it’s not just physical health, it’s mental health [that is important] too.”

Yang’s focus is on living the life that she wants, and she knows herself enough to understand where she wants to go. Her dream is to be the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts in New York one day, to be someone who “protects the cultural heritage of the world and interacts with living history everyday.”

Yang finds oxygen in the arts; she understands that surrounding herself with the arts will bring her happiness.

Maynard is also driven, and not by money. “Money is out of the picture,” he said. “I’m driven by gaining a place of influence in environmental sciences and humanities.”

In order to achieve their goals, Yang and Maynard try to see the best in whatever they are learning and have gratitude for their education.

“I try to do my best in school and always aim to take the most out of each class,” said Yang. “I just try to keep myself engaged and don’t close any doors.”

She credits her mother with teaching her this positive attitude toward school.

“She always taught me to be a very active student,” she said. “She really built me up to be a positive person and student.”

Yang also takes ownership over her education. “You are responsible for your learning and how you learn,” she said.

Art has also helped to make her a better student. “When you are drawing, you notice all the details, but you are also taking into account the composition, which is the bigger picture,” Yang said. “Being able to juggle the little details and the bigger picture is a very important skill which applies to school.”

She also admitted that she always knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like, and she practices reflecting on why she has these likes and dislikes in the process of learning.

In her book, “Insight,” organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich tackles the link between self-awareness and success. Through a series of surveys, Eurich found that 95 percent of people think they’re self aware, but only 10-15 percent show self-awareness to some extent.

She also found that self-aware people are better performers in their work environment, and in dealing with personal tasks.

Self-aware business people generally create more successful businesses, said Eurich. In general, her book and research argues that self-awareness allows for a happier life.