Push vs Pull

It's July. Exams for most students have ground to a halt. It's this time that many students now feel the proverbial treadmill underneath them has finally stopped. For the first time in a long time, there isn't that much to do.

The urgency to do something constructive no longer stirs. The perpetual alarm to action has abruptly shut down. We all go through this. Every year. And it's unnerving.

Exam seasons have always been a blessing. An annual campaign where we have no choice but to organise and focus. A pulling force that quickly whips us into shape.

Pulling forces are comforting. They make us feel more productive than we actually are. Being pulled along by something like the fear of failure is easy. We are just there for the ride. The feeling doesn't cost us anything, we did nothing to create it. Yet we gratefully get dragged along to accomplish the task at hand.

Pulling forces are our preferred motivator. When given the choice, we'd much prefer to do something out of fear and compulsion, than being pushed by a higher, more virtuous goal. Motivating yourself, not out of fear, but for personal pride/legacy/ambition is harder.

Your personal ambition is a pushing force. And pushing forces are inconvenient. They require constant tending to. The consequences for not addressing a pushing force are neither immediate nor terrifying. Ignoring a pulling force. like an exam, can place you in hot water fast. Ignoring a pushing force, our personal ambition, at worst threatens us with being average. Which for many, isn't so bad.

So once holidays start, we stop being pulled. Now should start the season of pushing. Now its time to create our own roadmap. To generate internal motivation, without the comforting whip of a submission deadline.

Most of us sit patiently for the next pulling force to arrive. Which for most students is next year's exams. Then once again we can pretend to feel we are making use of this life of ours. That we are indeed productive. But for now we just wait.

In reality many of the accomplishments people remember men by, were borne from pushing not pulling forces. It's those endeavours that we do for ourselves, not because of instruction or compulsion, that provide the most fulfilment. Our personal projects are our most treasured.

Which arenas are we pushing in? What paths are we driving forward in for our own sake? Or is our routine in a constant flux? Alternating between fear of failure, and the blissful inactivity that follows when there's no longer something pressing to do.

It's our time. How will we use it?

Ibn Abbas reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6412