If you feel like you are living inside the pressure cooker of perfection, let me assure you :
You are not alone.
I have a hypothesis that collectively, we have become so good at the game of school and scholarly achievement that what used to be learning has been replaced by an unrelenting pressure to get straight A’s and achieve, achieve, achieve at all costs. A sad price for this pressure is a loss of creativity and innovation. But learning doesn’t happen without risk. How can I encourage you to take some risks in your academic life?
I’ll start by offering a confession: I wish I were perfect, but I know I’m not. To accept my less-than-perfect nature is a daily challenge. For me, grace is found in the space where I can accept myself as I really am. Grace is also found in that space where I am striving for something I want. This is the paradox of ambition: it gives us a goal, something for which to strive, yet we don’t want to pin our self-worth on the achievement of that goal. It’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to not want to fail.
This month, I’ve been reviewing thermodynamics at the general chemistry level, and I decided to make a “mind map” for myself. A mind map is a a brainstorming diagram in which you connect ideas, write notes for yourself, even draw images if that’s your thing. I had the idea that I would share my mind map on this site, but as I drew it, I started to think to myself, Oh, it’s not good enough to share. It’s messy. Other people will think it’s not pretty enough.
And then I realized the mind map had something to teach me, which is that learning is messy. If I want my students to feel comfortable making mistakes, then maybe I should give myself the same grace. Plus, mind maps are awesome! They're great for studying. To make a mind map, you have to actively engage with the material, which I find is better for studying and remembering the important ideas.
So here is my messy mind map for thermodynamics. Feel free to use it for your own studying! Or draw your own mind map to help you learn a new subject. If you prefer to download it, I’ve included a link below for that too.