The Parable of the Lofty Goals

There once was a girl who set herself a lofty goal: she would get all A’s or B’s on her next report card. She made an effort to pay more attention in class and to set aside more time for both homework and studying. For a time, her plan to attain the goal proved successful and she felt excited to be making progress in her academics; however, old habits die hard, and the girl soon found that she had multiple missed assignments with several projects due soon which she had been putting off. With the due date for a project fast approaching, the girl felt overwhelmed, and decided that desperate times call for desperate measures. She typed a phrase into a search engine and found some things that more or less fit the requirements for her project. She wrote down what she found (making sure to change a few words here and there), put her name on the paper, and turned it in to her teacher.

When the papers were passed back, the girl was excited to find that she received a good grade. She again made an effort to renew her studies, and again enjoyed initial success. One day, when several assignments (which she had been putting off) were due, she returned to the same strategy. She asked a friend what the answers to the questions were. She wrote down what her friend told her (making sure to change a few words her and there), put her name on the paper, and turned it in to her teacher. Checking her grade later, she found that she had again received high marks.

Eventually the semester ended, and the girl’s parents praised her for meeting her goal of receiving all A’s and B’s. As the school year wore on, the girl continued to alternate between studying and borrowing in her pursuit of good grades, and she again met the goal of receiving high marks in her courses. When she graduated from high school, several universities admitted the girl on the strength of her GPA. She was discouraged to find that she would have to take some remedial courses, as her math and writing skills were not up to grade level. She felt that it was unfair that she would have to take these courses, considering her good grades in English and Math. Realizing that she had a tough time testing, she reminded herself that she did always ensure to make up for it with assignments…

As she moved on in college she found that the assignments continued to increase in difficulty. Her professors insisted that she use complex ideas and skills in completing tests and essays, but the girl had never truly mastered these abilities during her many years of schooling (despite her good grades). With these overwhelming tasks piling up, she was forced to rely on her strategy of copying other people’s ideas more and more frequently. It did not take long for the girl to feel burnt out on school, and came to spend much time wondering why she felt so unfulfilled by the education process. She figured that she just needed some motivation, and decided to set another lofty goal: she would graduate from college and get a good job. So, with renewed focus, she pressed on, struggling through college, relying on the strategies she knew best for dealing with difficult and overwhelming content.

It was a happy day for her family when she graduated from college with a decent GPA. It was also a happy day when she was hired on with a good company. She had reached her goal yet again. The good times cannot last forever though, and her personal high quickly turned into a low. The girl discovered that her boss, much like her professors, unfairly expected her to complete difficult, complex, and often tedious tasks. She also realized that some of her responsibilities required skills that she had never truly mastered despite her many years of schooling and above average grades. So, she again chose to improvise, adapt, and overcome. She found little tricks and strategies to trick her boss and colleagues into believing that she was in fact a capable employee. As time wore on, the girl felt increasingly unfulfilled by her work, deeming most of it boring or irritating. Her boss often tried various techniques to try to motivate her, recommending books and introducing her to competent colleagues. The girl never truly felt at ease around her boss or colleagues though. In truth, she was fearful they would discover that she was not as good as she pretended to be. So, she continue to hide behind a forced smile.

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