One of the number one topics I offer advice on is how to study. The initial questions or challenges presented take on many different forms, but they always trace back to study habits and strategies. In reality there is no one size-fits-all answer. There is no proverbial “silver bullet” to earning that A. Being a successful student is really about the journey, not the destination. Grades are a benchmark, a data point. They are not a reflection of your value or worth. Focusing on the journey, I find, helps lessen or remove the emotional stress associated with the grade. So with that in mind let’s talk about the foundations for a successful journey.
1. Set your mind for success
As with most things in life, studying is what you make of it. Ultimately your mindset will determine your experience. View a situation as impossible, and it is impossible. Decide for yourself that you will succeed and I assure you, you will. Remember, though, that you aren’t required to do it alone. No matter the definition of success, success is achieved with a team not an individual. Think about who is on your team and know it’s ok if you need to ask for support. Let them know what you need. Tell family members you need time to focus so you appreciate their love and understanding if you are off the radar for a while; talk with teachers and professors if you need their help understanding a topic; utilize tutors and other academic supports available at your school; talk with your community members (faith leaders, CBOs, mentors, etc.) and seek their guidance.
2. Practice makes proficient
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” I take this to mean that hard work will always outweigh undeveloped raw talent. The same is true with studying. The best way to “get good” at a subject is to put in the time. Do the problems until you get them correct, then do them some more; read and re-read passages until the message, theme, or idea makes sense; use flash cards or outlines to help you memorize terms, systems, and concepts forwards and backwards.
3. Eye on the prize
When we find ourselves in the thick of things it is natural to let exhaustion drive our thinking . It opens us up to THAT voice in our head. The one that questions our drive and motivation. Ever, in those peak moments of stress, ask yourself “why am I doing this?” That’s the voice I’m talking about. The most effective method to redirect this negative internal monologue is to remind yourself of your why:
- I want to conduct research to help people
- I want to make the world a better place
- I want to rid the world of disease
- I want to start a business
- I want to help people reach their financial goals
- I want to help young people achieve their dreams
Your why is what will give you the emotional and spiritual sustenance to carry on. Studying is a labor of love. Put the effort in, and it will pay dividends!