Do you want to be a successful student?
Or if you’re a parent, do you want that for your children?
There’s no running away from hard work.
But becoming a successful student isn’t only about doing more. It’s also about saying the right things.
By being intentional about the things you say to yourself and others, you’ll cultivate a success mindset. Only then will you find the intrinsic motivation to take consistent action.
And that’s what leads to success.
So, to be a successful student, say these 10 things every day:
1. “My goal is progress, not perfection.”
Nobody’s perfect. It’s impossible to get perfect grades, to have the perfect body, or to have the perfect social life. If your goal is perfection, you’ll eventually be disappointed and disillusioned.
I’ve worked with students who are perfectionists. Several of them cut their wrists, suffer from eating disorders, or have suicidal thoughts.
That’s scary, I know.
Not all perfectionists have such serious psychological problems, but perfectionism is dangerous. In addition, perfectionists often experience performance anxiety, which affects their grades.
The better alternative is to focus on progress, not perfection. Progress is about developing and improving, just a little bit each day.
To become a successful student, concentrate on the process and try to forget about the outcome. As the research shows, you’ll actually achieve a better outcome using this strategy.
2. “This is hard. This is FUN.”
When faced with a problem, successful students say to themselves, “This is hard. This is fun.”
In contrast, not-so-successful students say, “This is hard. I want to do something else.”
Successful students see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, so they embrace these opportunities.
Not-so-successful students, however, see challenges as obstacles. They fear challenges, because they worry about what other people will think if they fail.
Challenges are an integral part of the success journey. When you face challenges head-on, you grow as a person. So the important thing is that you give your best effort and build mental strength in the process.
3. “How can I contribute?”
Success is less about achievements and more about contribution. People who lead meaningful, significant lives serve others and create value for them.
This principle applies in various settings: at work, in business, in the community, and at home.
To be a successful student, find a way to contribute in every situation.
Recognize that the main point of education isn’t to get good grades or to rack up accomplishments. Instead, it’s to acquire skills and knowledge, so that you’ll be equipped to make a bigger impact in the world.
4. “What did I learn today?”
This question applies to your academics, and to everything you learn outside the classroom too.
I’ve recently formed this habit: Immediately after every significant event or conversation, I take one minute to write down what I’ve learned.
This habit has allowed me to gain wisdom and insight that would have otherwise slipped away. It’s also made me more aware of the learning opportunities that abound.
You really can learn something from every lesson, talk, article, conversation, and discussion.
The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
I know, it isn’t easy to take the time to reflect. With the constant barrage of text messages, Twitter updates and Facebook notifications, there’s just so much “noise” to sift through… every day, and even every hour.
But learning to think – really think – and reflect is a critical skill for students to acquire.
Start by asking this question: “What did I learn today?”
5. “What do I have to be thankful for?”
As a student, I complained about a lot of things:
- Boring teachers
- Annoying classmates
- Unreasonable school rules
- Too much homework
- Too little time
- Too much pressure
- Too many tests
The list goes on.
In hindsight, my student life wasn’t that bad. I just had a bad attitude.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find something to complain about. But if you look for things you have to be thankful for, you’ll also find what you’re looking for. It’s just a matter of training your mind to see the good in any situation.
Successful students tend to be positive and optimistic. They don’t ignore their problems and frustrations. Rather, they intentionally focus on what they can do to effect change.
The first step to becoming a more positive person is to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
How can you do this in a practical way?
Start a “gratitude journal,” where you write down one thing you’re thankful for every day.
I began doing this eight years ago, and it’s made me a much more appreciative person. Studies show that grateful people tend to be happier and more successful. So start a “gratitude journal” today, and you’ll be on the path to success.
6. “I refuse to blame others.”
When I was a student, I used to blame other people for every problem I was experiencing. This made me angsty and disgruntled.
Don’t follow my example.
Successful students take full responsibility for their education and their life.
So regardless of what problems you’re dealing with, don’t blame your teachers, parents or friends. Don’t expect others to bail you out when you get into trouble, because life is all about choices and consequences.
By taking full responsibility for your life, you’ll concentrate on taking productive action to improve your situation. This will prevent you from wasting time complaining about how unfair life is.
7. “What is one thing I can do to improve myself?”
As mentioned earlier, it’s more effective to focus on progress than perfection. Make tangible progress every day by asking yourself, “What is one thing I can do to improve myself?”
In response to that question, you might decide to…
- Set specific goals
- Learn a new skill
- Take an online course
- Ask for advice
- Find a mentor
- Overcome a fear
- Change a bad habit
- Start a new project
Whatever area you want to improve in, break it down into bite-sized pieces. For example, if you want to become better at public speaking, you could read a book on the subject or volunteer to do a five-minute presentation.
Don’t try to do too much at one go, because you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed.
Remember: If you improve by just 1% each day, after 70 days you’ll be twice as good as when you first started.
8. “My mistakes and failures do not define me.”
What do Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs have in common?
They’re considered successful. They also failed countless times on their way to success.
As the saying goes, “It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.” So when you hear about successful people, remember that it took years – or even decades – of persistence for them to get to where they are.
Successful students don’t see their achievements or failures as measures of their self-worth. Instead, they see those things merely as feedback.
If you get an “A” on a test, don’t brag about it; just take note of what you did to get that “A” and take similar steps in the future. Likewise, if you do badly on a test, don’t condemn yourself as a failure; just change your strategy going forward.
Zig Ziglar once said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” To become a successful student, you must embrace this truth.
Education is about learning, growing and improving – not about achieving an impressive class rank or GPA. Remind yourself that your mistakes and failures do not define you. This belief will set you on the path of enduring success.
9. “I will do what other people aren’t willing to.”
Here are some things that many successful students do, which other students aren’t willing to:
- Delete all the games on their phone to eliminate distractions
- Turn their phone to airplane mode when they’re studying, so they won’t be interrupted by text messages
- Regularly update their to-do list and calendar
- Get eight hours of sleep every night
- Exercise at least three times a week
- Do daily and weekly planning
- Have a specific plan to get rid of their bad habits
- Make time to reflect
- Learn information that’s outside the syllabus
If you want to be a successful student, you’ll need to make sacrifices. It comes down to what you want now, versus what you want most.
What do you want now? To watch YouTube videos, play games on your phone or computer, or watch TV.
But what do you want most? To do well in school, build meaningful relationships, make a difference in the lives of others, and find success and fulfillment.
Don’t let what you want now get in the way of what you want most. Choose to do what other students aren’t willing to.
10. “I will do more than what’s expected of me.”
To be a successful student, you can’t just do enough to “get by.” You can’t coast. You can’t do the things you ought to, only when you “feel” like it.
You must do more than is expected of you…
Doing all the supplementary practice questions; reviewing your textbook readings two more times than you think is necessary; scouring the Internet and the library for resources.
Staying back after class to clarify your doubts with your teacher; taking thorough notes; explaining the concepts to other students if they have questions.
Going the extra mile to serve others; volunteering to take on extra household responsibilities; being active in the community.
Of course, you shouldn’t push yourself to the point of burnout. But you must work hard, and be willing to do more so that you can become a bigger person.
As the saying goes, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Hard work is never wasted, so do more than what’s expected of you.
The bottom line
The words we use affect our thoughts and actions. The words we use profoundly affect our lives.
So say these 10 things every day:
- “My goal is progress, not perfection.”
- “This is hard. This is fun.”
- “How can I contribute?”
- “What did I learn today?”
- “What do I have to be thankful for?”
- “I refuse to blame others.”
- “What is one thing I can do to improve myself?”
- “My mistakes and failures do not define me.”
- “I will do what other people aren’t willing to.”
- “I will do more than what’s expected of me.”
When you do this, you’ll be on your way to success and happiness in your student life and beyond. Why not start today? 🙂
An earlier version of this article first appeared on Yahoo!.
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P.S. I’ve developed a step-by-step system to help students become more focused and organized. It’s called the Straight-A Student Weekly Checklist. You can find out more about it here.
Image: Successful student