During my time in secondary school, I was an active member of my school’s public speaking and debate club. I participated in various debate competitions and have attended a lot of Model United Nations Conferences (MUN). The time when I failed terribly was during my second MUN conference that I had competed in, and had high hopes of getting awards. During this conference, I represented Sweden in the UN General Assembly council.
Our objectives, as a council with various nations, were to cooperate with each other and solve the problems of environmental refugees stemming from natural disasters in African nations by passing a UN resolution. Because of my strong desire to acquire awards, I invested a great amount of time and money preparing for the conference itself. I spent countless hours during my school holidays, which I was supposed to rest, researching about the issue, solutions and my country’s stance towards it. I even begged my parents to pay for my airplane ticket to fly back to Singapore from Thailand in order to attend the conference. During the conference itself, I attempted to gain council presence throughout the sessions by lobbying other delegates from other countries and speaking with confidence to introduce new ideas and persuade the council to consider them. I also stayed up until the morning to finish up the resolution with my teammates. After the council session has elapsed, I managed to pass my own resolution for the topic and was extremely elated as I thought that I would definitely win big awards during the awards ceremony.
I could imagine myself going up there, shaking hands with the Singapore ambassador, and receiving that prestigious certificates.
During the awards ceremony, I could feel my heart pounding forcefully inside my chest like a snare drum. My heart beated faster each time other delegates from other councils came up to the podium to receive their awards. I told myself that in a couple of minutes, I would be the next person standing on that podium. I could imagine myself going up there, shaking hands with the Singapore ambassador, and receiving that prestigious certificates after my name has been announced, followed by a loud, exuberant, and congratulating clamour from my council mates downstairs.
However, that hopeful dream I have been imagining was nothing but a lie. As soon as the emcee announced the result of the awards, I felt that my dream which had been realistically constructed had suddenly been knocked down just like a strong wall that is abruptly shot down by a rocket launcher, falling to pieces within a second. At that precise moment, I wanted to melt away onto the hall’s floor like a heated stick of wax. It was all over.
After that moment of the biggest failure I have ever encountered in my life, I had been crying in my sleep for 2 days without stopping, wondering what went wrong with me during the council session and trying to find millions of reasons why I did not get the awards I wanted. At that time, I did not know that to do and I felt that I was a failure for both myself and my school. I started to think about the satisfaction I once had from my past awards from various competitions I attended, comparing it to this hopeless disgruntlement. It was a completely different set of feelings — one being a sense of accomplishment and another being a sense of failure like being forcefully pushed down into the deep ground below. However, after that day, I started to talk to my teacher about how upset I was for not getting any awards. Instead of scolding me, she warmly smiled at me and said one sentence that completely changed my mindset about how I view success until now.
“ Don’t expect too much from anything you want to do, the less you expect, the less disappointed you will be when anything lets you down.”
That sentence was “ Don’t expect too much from anything you want to do, the less you expect, the less disappointed you will be when anything lets you down.”. Not long after that, I stopped feeling dissatisfied and came to a realization that, the most important thing that is even more valuable than those certificates is the novel experience I get from MUN — the fact that that I made new best friends from MUNs, or even the fact that I got to enhance my leadership and speaking skills. If I have chosen an expectation intentionally as a way of influencing my experience and what I expected did not occur, then I’m left with the valuable information for what I did wrong during the conference. In fact, after all, the most beneficial aspect of MUN for me is the process itself, not the end result.