Western Courier

Balance Key to Evaluation

Kyle Davis

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Imagine going to the gym for exercise. For some of us this may be a common adventure, for others, an activity embarrassingly absent from our lives. Either way, when you exercise, do you compare your abilities with your previous records or to those around you?

 On one hand, comparing your scores with your previous records can take away the external pressures of seeing others excel. But on the other hand, we have removed the valuable aspect of competition. In other areas of life, this is clearer. Take, for example, the classroom environment. Research has shown that students do better when challenged by those around us.

 Also, when playing sports we “step-up” and do better when playing better people. In competitions, we allow outside judges to evaluate our performance, and even during final exams, we let teachers decide our efficiency.

 These perspectives have real-life implications as well. If we were to take this idea that we should all try to just do better than ourselves before, then we would have a world where every government worker has done great work due to being better than they once were. A world where every test we take should be graded based upon us doing better than our first day in class.

 A world where every Olympic athlete should be decided by who has had the most improvement. Clearly there is some problem with this world.

 Yet, a purely competitive environment isn’t healthy either. Here, I am imagining the person who stops working out because of all the “beautiful” people around them; likewise, the person who gives up on math because of the frustration that comes with seeing a student who knows all the answers.

 There has to be some level in-between, a fully introspective outlook on our abilities and the reality of competition with others that drives us to do better. In our efforts of self-actualization, when do we use one or the other? Can there be some sort of merger that allows us to be envious and competitive with others but remain wholly autonomous in our efforts to better ourselves?

 Why is it people aspire to be celebrities, athletes, Einsteins, or presidents? Wouldn’t it be more productive including some level of inner realism about these people? Maybe instead of aspirations to be the next celebrity, we could just focus on being incrementally better than a day before. Yet, when the time comes to admit your allegiance to a dream we could list the Steve Jobs and Lady Gagas of our world.

 I think being able to switch between these two perspectives is very important as we try to better ourselves and others. We should all be open to feedback from others and use it to accomplish our self-identified goals, because when we try to accomplish others’ goals, we may be frustrated or give up early. Likewise, we should be open to feedback from others because outside perspectives can be very helpful in making us great.

 So the next time you’re at the gym, try to remember to carry a careful mix of external and internal evaluation — only then can you truly be great.

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Balance Key to Evaluation