I regularly give talks at schools to help students find new meaning in education. I once spoke at a high school whose students weren't academically inclined.
After the talk, one of the teachers remarked to me, "It's sad. Few of these students will make it to college, so their lives will never amount to much."
I almost couldn't believe what I'd heard.
Did this teacher really believe that getting a college degree was the only way to have a meaningful life?
I hope he hasn't influenced his students toward his views. After all, education is about much more than getting good grades or earning prestigious degrees.
Reflecting on the purpose of education, I've come up with a list of three truths that students must understand if they want to be happy and successful.
1. Contribution matters more than achievement.
In the "real world," few people will ask about your academic qualifications or awards. Instead, they'll be far more concerned about how much value you add, and how well you serve others. Which means to say that what matters in the long run is contribution, not achievement.
I've observed that people who lead meaningful lives focus on making a difference in the lives of others, rather than on doing things for the sake of prestige. So the earlier that students learn that contribution trumps achievement, the better.
2. You don't go to school to get an education; school is just part of your education.
We live in a fast-changing world. Every day, there are technological breakthroughs. There's new knowledge being created. There are new industries being developed, which didn't even exist a decade ago.
What does this mean for students?
You can't expect school to fully prepare you for the future. School is no longer the place you go to get an education. Rather, it's just
of your education.
Students must adopt a proactive approach toward learning things outside the classroom. If they don't, they'll struggle to adapt to the "real world" that awaits them.
Students can take online courses at
, learn computer programing at
, create educational YouTube videos, or share useful information on a blog. The possibilities are endless. All that's required is a desire to learn and contribute.
3. The process matters more than the end result.
The point of going to school isn't to try to become the valedictorian, or to rack up accomplishments. The point of going to school is to learn how to learn; to become disciplined and self-motivated; to develop communication and interpersonal skills.
Education is about lifelong learning. It's about acquiring skills and knowledge that will benefit others for the rest of your life. In other words, the process of education matters more than the outcome.
Interestingly, by focusing on the process instead of the outcome, students will experience less performance anxiety and achieve better results.
Students who understand that the process counts more than the end result will find long-term fulfillment and success.
As Alvin Toffler once said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
I hope that students everywhere will embrace these wise words, because it's the only way to make the most of your education.