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Measure Success Through Happiness, Not Grades

For our final Assembly of Term 2, Head Prefect, Mali, encourages students not to base their success merely on marks or accolades but instead on happiness and wellbeing.

Each week, our Student Leaders share their insights with their peers in Assembly.

Mali_Dunn

Last school holidays, my family and I embarked on a trip to Tasmania for a fun little fishing expedition. After a dawn session (that I slept and studied through), the house was radiant with joy. I assumed the morning’s fishing had been successful, as we enjoyed a bustling breakfast with smiles all around.

However, upon asking how many fish were caught, the answer, to my surprise, was zero. In fact, a reel on one of the rods had detached itself and fallen into the water, resulting in my family having to fish with nothing but the line.

I thought to myself, “Where’s the success in that? Where’s the enjoyment in spending hours in the cold and dark to return with nothing but a pair of chapped blue lips and a runny nose?”

The morning didn’t even produce average results. A small, scrawny fish here and there. No. Instead, they were met with a net loss in terms of their fishing equipment. Yet, they were still smiling. They still felt it was a success.

Then I realised; why wouldn't they? A breathtaking morning out on the water, overlooking beautiful mountains, accompanied by loving family and friends.

What the day didn’t bear in terms of tangible success, it made up for in experience.

We need to stop measuring the success of our days by their degree of productivity, but rather by the degree of ‘life lived’.

In a world where our worth often seems tethered to our output and our accomplishments, ie the number of fish we catch, it is so easy to define ourselves by the size of our résumé, badges on our blazer, or the mark and rank on our most recent assessment task. However, that’s no way to appreciate our gift of time and the lives we lead.

Year 12, with our time as ‘big fish’ in this ‘small pond’ is quickly coming to an end. We are continually expected to both cherish our final moments whilst simultaneously prioritising our productivity; a fragile balance that is tipped over more often than not.

However, during our second to last term, it is not my marks that I will remember, not the hours of study, not the fish I have caught nor the fish that have slipped through my fingers.

It is the daily coffee runs with Emma, Litia, Lexi, Sarah, and Jemma during our study periods I’ll remember. The weekly bread, meat and cheese tradition in Spanish class on Fridays during Period 5. The power stance circles outside of each exam hall; my Year 7 swimming arch nemesis, Mia, who never let me win a race. I’ll remember seeing my younger sister, Evie, and her friends in the hallways, small outbursts of song and dance, lunchtime busking, athletics carnivals and science club. I will remember moments of community and joy over my most productive days every single time. These are measures of success.

Each day presents us with a myriad of opportunities to connect, learn, grow, and simply be present in the moment. These are the experiences, big or small, that give meaning to our existence and that define us as successful. They are the true measure of a life well-lived.

Productivity has its place, of course. It allows us to achieve our goals, pursue our passions, and fulfil responsibilities, but let us not confuse busyness with fulfilment or success with mere output. Our days should be about more than just checking items off a to-do list, more than casting and reeling in fish after fish. They should be about savouring the beauty around us, embracing our humanity and human connections, and finding fulfilment in the journey itself.

So, as we navigate our days, let us strive for balance. Let us prioritise not only what we accomplish, but how we live. Let us measure the success of our days not just in terms of productivity, but in the richness of the life we lead because you are all so much more than your marks or what sports team you end up in. You are more than what clubs you are a part of, what leadership position you hold, and how many musical instruments you play. You are all beautiful, individual, and unique young women who have intelligence, integrity, and kindness that extends beyond the constraints of productive success. By smiling you are successful, by showing up you are successful, by taking a break you are successful.

When you choose to see success in the smallest of things and understand that it is mutually exclusive to one’s productivity, you have yourself a life well-lived.

Finally, when the time comes for our Year 12 community to wrap it all up and leave this sisterhood, it won’t be my tangible productivity that I’ll continue to cherish for years to come, but instead, the love I have for every person in this room, the memories I have formed in this community, and the overwhelming love that has been reciprocated.

At the end of the day, who wants 20 fish when you can have 20 smiles, make 20 people laugh, and have 20 small memories that you can remember forever.

So, I think it’s time we pack up our fishing rods and take a moment to simply look around.