I completed my formal education some years ago.
Thinking about the 17 years I spent in school, I realise that I would have had a more fulfilling time if I’d been wiser.
It takes time to acquire wisdom. To help students through this process, I decided to write this article, in which I’ll share 50 words of wisdom every student should hear.
If you apply the advice in this article, I’m confident that you’ll become a happier and more successful student.
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1. Don’t take your parents for granted. Your parents may nag you, and you may feel as if they don’t understand you. But they love you unconditionally, so appreciate them as often as you can.
2. Getting a bad grade isn’t the end of the world. In a few years, you won’t even remember most of your grades. If you get a bad grade, learn from your mistakes and prepare better for the next exam.
3. Use the Internet as a tool for education more than entertainment. The Internet can keep you entertained for hours. But with sites like Udemy, Udacity and How Stuff Works, the Internet can also make you a far more educated person.
4. Stress is a fact of life, but it should never become a way of life. This means that it’s normal to feel stressed and tired once in a while. But if you feel stressed and tired almost every day, then you need to reevaluate your life to see what you ought to be doing differently.
5. Learn to manage your money. As a student, you probably don’t have tons of money. That’s a good thing, because you can learn to spend, save, invest and give with little risk. Learn money management skills while you’re still young!
6. Make sleep a priority. Research has proven that sleep is essential for health and brain function. Make it a priority to get eight hours of sleep a night, and you’ll be a happier and better student.
7. Ask for help when you need it. There’s no shame in asking for help. If you can’t find the answer on Google, don’t hesitate to ask your teachers or parents. They’ll be more than willing to assist you.
8. Write things down. Your brain isn’t a perfect storage device, so write things down. Use a notebook or an app like Google Keep to ensure that you don’t forget anything important. If you write things down, you’ll be a more organised and effective student.
9. If you need motivation to study, go to the library. When you’re surrounded by people who are studying, you’ll feel inspired to study. Don’t underestimate the effect your environment has on your motivation. This study tip is extremely valuable!
10. Learn to embrace challenges rather than avoid them. Choose to see challenges as fun opportunities to learn. Even if you can’t overcome the challenge, you would have still grown as a person.
11. Don’t blame others. I used to blame my teachers, parents and peers for almost every problem I faced. Don’t be like me. The sooner you stop blaming others, the sooner you’ll learn to take full responsibility for your life.
12. Go to every single class. If the class is boring, see it as an opportunity to improve your ability to focus. If the class is about a topic you’ve learned before, see it as an opportunity to review the information.
13. Be grateful. Grateful students are happy students. No matter what situation you’re in, there’s always something to be thankful for: school, friends, family, food, health, nature, technology, etc.
14. Don’t take shortcuts. It’s tempting to take shortcuts, but resist the urge to do so. The more shortcuts you take, the less you’ll learn and the less you’ll grow as a person. Don’t shortchange yourself.
15. Be kind to yourself. Do you ever tell yourself that you’re lazy, ugly, dumb or irresponsible? Would you ever say those things to your best friend? Be kind to yourself, and learn to become your own best friend. In fact, research has proven that self-compassion is a key component of success.
16. Spend more time thinking about others than yourself. If you spend most of your time thinking about yourself, you’ll be unhappy. No matter how many good things there are going on in your life, you’ll be tempted to ask yourself questions like “Why can’t I be as popular as her?” or “Why are my parents so strict?” Instead, focus on helping others and you’ll be a happier student.
17. Say no without feeling guilty. Leading an effective student life is all about knowing what your priorities and values are. If there are activities or opportunities that aren’t aligned with your priorities, say no with confidence.
18. Don’t rely on others for things that are your own responsibility. I used to rely on others to remember things or run errands on my behalf. But I now realise that this was irresponsible behaviour. Don’t rely on other people for things that you should handle yourself.
19. Exercise regularly. Exercise is good for your body and your brain. So if you think you don’t have time to exercise, you actually don’t have time not to exercise. Exercise will make you a healthier and more effective student.
20. Don’t try to remember things; make them impossible to forget. One of the most important traits to develop when you’re in school is dependability. To become a dependable student, make it impossible to forget things, e.g. submitting homework, bringing a textbook to school, asking your parents to sign a consent form. Use a diary, sticky note or app to ensure that you don’t forget.
21. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What’s important now?” We often do what we feel like doing at the moment – even if that behaviour isn’t in our long-term interests. To fight this tendency, ask yourself, “What’s important now?” The answer will usually be clear.
22. Look for the good in every situation. For example, I once read about a woman who was exhausted after working at a restaurant for 14 hours straight in a day. She exclaimed, “I’m tired, but it feels so good to have spent all my energy doing something meaningful like work!” With an attitude like that, you’ll be a winner in life for sure.
23. Celebrate the successes of others. Your life as a student may feel like a competition, but it isn’t. Celebrate the accomplishments and successes of your peers, and don’t be a sore loser.
24. Don’t feel as if you need to have it all figured out. As a teenager, I used to think that I would have everything figured out by the time I finished school. But I still don’t feel as if I have everything figured out, and I don’t think I ever will. Life is a continual journey of learning and maturing – learn to enjoy the journey!
25. Spend time with people who have the same (or similar) values and goals as you. All of us are influenced greatly by the people we surround ourselves with. Choose to surround yourself with people who will inspire you to become a better person and student.
26. No experience in life is wasted. To paraphrase Tony Robbins, cultivate the belief that life is happening for you, not to you. If you believe that life is happening for your good, you’ll be able to see even challenges and frustrations in a positive light.
27. Don’t expect to become an educated person just by going to school. School is a crucial part of your education, but it’s just one part. Why? Because there are many skills you won’t master through formal education alone, e.g. persuasion, negotiation, design thinking, adaptive thinking. Take a proactive approach toward learning these types of skills through these must-read books for students, videos, online courses and real-world experiences.
28. Say “thank you” and “sorry” often. Don’t just say these words for the sake of saying them. If you mean it when you say “thank you” and “sorry”, you’ll build stronger relationships with both your friends and family.
29. Don’t worry about being popular or cool. Popularity is overrated. Responsibility, duty, excellence, kindness, courage and generosity aren’t – so focus on these instead.
30. Be curious. For most of my life as a student, I only learned information that was going to be tested on the exam. But later on, when I became a curious student who wanted to learn about all kinds of things, I started to enjoy school more. Not only that, I started to enjoy life more, because I realised that there’s so much beauty in the world around us. Start becoming more curious today!
31. Every choice you make shapes your character, so choose wisely. As a student, you make hundreds of choices every day: what to eat, how to spend your money, who to talk to, what clothes to wear, how hard to work, etc. Every decision shapes your character and destiny, so don’t take it lightly.
32. 90% of success is doing what others aren’t willing to do. Most students aren’t willing to do the extra assignment, proofread the essay one more time, put their tablet away when it’s time to focus, or delete the distracting apps on their phone. Be the student who is willing to do those things – and more. If you adopt this mindset in life, you’re almost guaranteed to become successful.
33. You’re never too young to make an impact. As a student, I thought of myself as a “kid” who couldn’t make an impact. But just look at these children and teenagers who are making huge contributions to the world. No matter how old you are, believe you can contribute, and start small in whatever way you can.
34. Assume the best of others. Many disagreements arise because we assume the worst of others. We assume that others are selfish and inconsiderate. But this is rarely true. If you assume the best of others, you’ll make an effort to understand their perspective. This, in turn, will enable you to resolve conflicts more quickly.
35. Invest in the relationships that matter most. Relationships must be nurtured – this takes time. List the people who mean the most to you. Make an intentional effort to invest in these relationships, at least on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
36. The grass isn’t greener on the other side; the grass is greener where you water it. (This is my shortened version of a quote from Robert Fulghum.) Do you ever think to yourself, “If only I went to a different school… If only I were born in a different city… If only I were better-looking…”? If so, remember that the grass is greener where you water it. “Water the grass” by choosing to have a positive attitude and by taking action, instead of complaining.
37. Everything worth doing takes time and effort. This applies to grades, relationships, career, character, and more. If you want to go somewhere meaningful and rewarding in life, there are no shortcuts.
38. Compliment others sincerely. Do this as often as you can, preferably daily. This is a simple way to appreciate others and make their day just a little bit brighter.
39. Forgive others and yourself. If you do this, you won’t be filled with anger and resentment. If you extend forgiveness freely, your life will be more peaceful and joyous.
40. To be successful, you must learn how to deal with negative emotions. When you’re feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed or sad, you’re more likely to make bad decisions. You can’t avoid all negative emotions, but you can learn to manage them so they don’t derail you.
41. Become reasonably good at public speaking. I’m not saying that everyone should become a professional speaker. But I am saying that over the course of your life you’ll have many opportunities to speak in public. So you might as well become proficient at it sooner rather than later (or never).
42. Attitude matters more than intelligence or talent. As Zig Ziglar once said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Intelligence and talent play a part in how successful you become as a student and in life. But attitude matters much more. Start cultivating a positive and resilient attitude today.
43. Be present. When I was a student, I spent far too much time thinking about my past mistakes and worrying about the future. I spent far too little time in the present: living in the moment, appreciating the small things, being 100% focused, seeing the beauty in what I was learning, cherishing relationships. Wherever you are, be present.
44. Show your parents respect and appreciation. This might be hard for you to do, especially if you think your parents are unreasonable or overbearing. But I encourage you to do it anyway. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Second of all, when parents don’t receive respect and appreciation from their children, they tend to become even more unreasonable and overbearing. So it’s in everyone’s best interests that you show your parents respect and appreciation.
45. Fear should usually be seen as a signal to advance, not retreat. Most of the time, when we feel afraid our life isn’t actually in danger. Common fears include public speaking, failure and rejection. As such, fear should usually be seen as something to move towards, because in doing so you’ll experience personal growth.
46. Don’t watch TV. Studies show that watching too much TV is linked to depression. Watching some TV won’t hurt you, but if you decide not to watch TV at all, you’ll have more time for meaningful and productive activities. If you need to de-stress, check out this list of science-backed ways to do so.
47. Pay attention in class. If you do this, you won’t need to spend so much time studying because you would have already understood most of the concepts taught in class. If you have trouble paying attention, I recommend that you improve your focus gradually. For example, you could start by setting a timer for 10 minutes, as a reminder that you’ll pay attention for just 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, you can allow yourself to be distracted for a minute or two before you start another 10-minute “focus session”. Every day, increase the length of the “focus session” by one minute.
48. When faced with a problem, ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do now to improve the situation?” I’ve underlined those three words/phrases for good reasons. When you focus on just one thing you can do, you won’t feel overwhelmed. When you focus on what you can do now, you’ll be more motivated to take action right away. And when you focus on what you can do now to improve the situation, you’ll almost certainly be able to think of at least one productive action to take. Ask this powerful question whenever you’re faced with a problem, and you’ll become a more effective student and person.
49. Looking successful is different from being successful. Looking successful is about prestige, popularity, status and accomplishments. Being successful is about purpose, relationships, character and contribution. As a student, ensure that you’re working towards being successful, not just looking successful.
50. Focus on progress, not perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect student. After all, we’re flawed human beings. If you aim to achieve perfection, you’ll be disappointed, and you may lose motivation. On the other hand, if you focus on progress, you’ll realise that getting better is its own reward. This is the key to being an effective, fulfilled student.
I don’t claim to be the wisest person around, but I hope you’ve found this article useful.
(Download the free PDF below to learn 10 additional tips.)
It took me many years to learn these lessons, and I know I still have much more wisdom to acquire.
Don’t feel as if you need to put all the tips into practice right away. Instead, revisit this article periodically and focus on just one tip a week.
It will make a huge difference in the long run. Wishing you all the best!
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