“Keep your eyes on the prize.” A common saying we grow up with which guides us through the achievement-seeking process up to the point we are rewarded for our efforts. From winning the Nobel Prize to getting first in a subject in school; be it an international or in a small local competition, prizes and awards are a common tool used for rewarding and according to a certain level of achievement to someone today. Prizes and awards are used to recognise an individual or groups excellence in various fields, and allow them to feel a sense of achievement, and be seen for what they have accomplished. I believe that prizes and awards are useful in recognising outstanding people, and crediting them for their achievements. Additionally, prizes and awards further motivate people to work hard toward achievement, prizes and awards inspire, they motivate people to strive for excellence. Yet we must also recognize that conversely, an over-valuation of awards and prizes might diminish their positive impacts and create a rather materialistic society that only has their “eyes on the prize”.


Prizes and awards offer rewards to individuals and groups who work hard, helping them find motivation to continue striving in their respective fields. It rewards deserving people in both environmental and scientific fields, and much more, they allow for further exploration in research to better society. Prestigious scientific awards such as the Nobel Prize offer a cash award of 1.5 million dollars to the laureates, though its influence is worth more than prize money. Usually, scientists which are accorded Nobel Prizes go down in history as legends to be remembered, and their work as a result becomes incredibly widespread and furthered, even the laureates themselves become household names almost. Most people you ask would have heard of Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, on which most of modern Science is built upon. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, and his work has inspired many of modern-day science’s discoveries. Gary Becker, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize said his lectures were solicited more, his opinions were more valued and the prize helped boost funding for his area of study due to its prestige. Furthermore, prizes and awards are effective in incentivising students to complete and further their studies. Cash prizes such as Edusave and Scholarship awards – given to top students in Junior Colleges and Secondary Schools in Singapore – are both motivational and practical, providing subsidies toward the educational costs of students who do well, reducing the burden on their families to provide for their education, especially at higher levels. This recognition allows outstanding people to be motivated and continue working hard, thus creating a society in which every individual strives to excel in order to obtain rewards they wish to attain.


Prizes and awards are also useful in glorifying the achievements of the deserving, and in the process inspiring and motivating others to follow in their footsteps. In the entertainment and sports world, prizes and awards are a great fuel to an individual’s passion and their resultant hard work. For many, if they receive awards, not only are they put in the spotlight, but the hard work they put in to achieve what they did is thoroughly recognised. When Michael Phelps achieved the award of having the most number of gold medals in the history of the Olympics, he became both a legend and an icon. He could immediately retire as a result, travel the world, and still make money to lead a comfortable life with his title of most prized Olympian. Similarly, Usain Bolt’s 100-metre record made him the target of the advertising teams of most successful sports brands and led to the creation of a line of sport shoes attached to his name. His signature “lightning” pose became a highly impersonated pose by athletes around the world and he continues to inspire many others with his talent and personality. Prizes and awards are thus useful in helping artists and athletes boost their outreach and their careers away from their sports and their main lines of work. They allow athletes to establish fan bases, providing them with the validation and recognition they need. Prize and award ceremonies are also commonly screened live with millions of viewers watching, allowing them to have a great impact on not only the celebrities and athletes but their audience as well.


However, prizes and awards may also in turn create a materialistic society in which the prizes and awards are sought instead of the achievement and recognition that come from them. Individuals might as a result only be willing to contribute to society for something in return, and may even resort to underhanded means to achieve what they want, opening prize and award systems to abuse. According to a 2008 scientific record, published retractions in scientific journals have increased around 1,200% over the past decade, even though the number of published papers has gone up by only 44%. Around half of these retractions are suspected cases of misconduct. Furthermore, scientists may only focus on populist domains in which there are prizes to be won, instead of domains of research that might benefit minority communities greatly, or even hidden discoveries that may benefit society greatly. Similarly, sportsmen may lose sight of the true meaning of sportsmanship in the pursuit of these awards. Lance Armstrong, a former legend was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after being found guilty of using steroids to improve his performance during the races. Excessive competition and emphasis of prizes and awards might result in individuals disregarding things achievements that might not come with rewards, causing society to evolve into one that is only individualistic, and focused on material self-interests.


As Jake Colsen once said, “The ones who win usually don’t need a prize.” Though prizes and awards are undoubtedly valued in our society, it is important more so for us to be able to see beyond these material accolades of our achievements. Our identities should be continuously shaped and defined not only by our material achievements but our values as well. That is, keeping our eyes beyond the prize, instead of merely on it.