The way you talk to yourself has a huge impact on how you handle challenges.
It affects how you perform in every area of life, including your academics.
Negative thoughts sometimes become so much a part of your “self-talk” that you’re barely even aware of them.
In this article, I’ll show you the 10 most dangerous things that students can say to themselves, and why these 10 things prevent students from achieving their goals.
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1. “I don’t feel like it”
There will be times when you don’t feel like doing something that you ought to.
One thing that successful students all have in common is that they don’t allow themselves to be driven by emotion.
To succeed, you must be able to put your feelings aside and follow through on your commitments, even when you don’t feel like it.
For example, if you’ve made a commitment to study for at least 1 hour every weekday, do everything necessary to keep to that commitment.
Or if you’ve decided to go for a 20-minute walk every evening, make sure you do it, regardless of how you feel.
To make it more enjoyable, you could listen to an audiobook or podcast during the walk. (That’s what I do during my walks, and it helps a lot!)
Doing things only when you feel motivated to do them isn’t a reliable way of reaching your goals.
This is because you definitely won’t feel motivated all the time.
It’s important to be able to do productive and meaningful things even when you don’t feel like doing them.
Over time, you’ll build self-discipline.
2. “I’ll do it later”
Procrastination is the enemy of success, because it prevents you from being prepared to perform at your best.
To combat procrastination, the first thing to do is recognise that you’re engaging in it.
If you find yourself frequently saying “I’ll do it later” or “I’ll do it the day before it’s due”, these are common signs of procrastination.
The most effective way of dealing with procrastination is to make specific commitments, e.g. “I complete all my assignments at least 2 days before they’re due”, “I start studying for every class test at least 1 week in advance”.
You can go even further than this and prioritise the very things that you least want to do. This turns procrastination on its head: the things you want to avoid doing, you do first.
Another way of dealing with procrastination is to say no to perfectionism.
Sometimes we procrastinate because we feel that something has to be perfect. The fear of falling short of perfection is what causes us to procrastinate.
If you find yourself falling into this trap, tell yourself every day that progress and the process are what matter most, not perfection.
3. “I don’t have enough time”
We all get 24 hours a day. How is it that some students are so productive while others aren’t?
The answer boils down to planning and prioritisation.
If you feel you don’t have enough time to study and do other meaningful things, the problem could be that you aren’t doing enough planning.
Planning means allocating your time to specific tasks so that you achieve your goals.
When you have a plan, you “make” the time you need to accomplish a particular task.
So when you say “I don’t have enough time”, check that you’ve set aside time in your daily and weekly schedule for the task.
If you haven’t, this would explain why it feels as if you don’t have enough time.
The second aspect is prioritisation.
It’s often the case that students who say they don’t have enough time to study, read, exercise, etc. do have enough time to play video games or watch shows or go on social media every day.
If this is the case for you, then it’s a matter of priorities.
Prioritising is the act of deciding that some things in your life are more important than others.
For example, when thinking about doing fun activities like playing video games, ask yourself: “Will this help me get to where I want to be in 5 years or 10 years?”
Of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play any video games at all.
I’m just saying that the way you spend your time should reflect what you claim is most important to you.
4. “It’s too late to…”
There’s a famous Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
This principle applies to almost everything we do.
For example, you may feel that it’s too late to learn to play the guitar. Yes, it would have been good if you’d started learning to play the guitar 3 years ago.
But don’t let that thought prevent you from starting today.
Or you may feel that it’s too late to build a better relationship with your parents, because you’ve had a bad relationship with them for the past 5 years.
But without a doubt, today is the best day to start improving your relationship with your parents.
5. “I’m just not good at this”
When you’re learning a new skill or area of knowledge, do you ever think to yourself that “I’m just not good at this”?
If so, that’s a limiting mindset that will prevent you from growing and developing.
If you have this mindset, you’ll find excuses not to do your homework or to try to master a new topic.
Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has identified two kinds of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset tend to fear failure. They frequently avoid challenges or anything that makes them feel bad about their level of ability.
On the other hand, people with a growth mindset take on challenges. They accept the discomfort that goes along with challenges, because they know it’s part of the learning process.
So the next time you’re learning something new and the thought “I’m just not good at this” pops into your head, remind yourself that this feeling of being stretched is a good thing.
Feel the discomfort and push through it as you put in the effort to improve!
6. “Nothing ever goes my way”
We all experience setbacks, and we all have days when nothing seems to go right.
But if you find yourself frequently thinking that “nothing ever goes my way”, ask yourself if this is accurate.
This kind of thinking is an example of what psychologists call all-or-nothing thinking.
Look back over the past month and make a list of all the situations that turned out well.
Maybe you did better than expected on a test, or maybe you made a couple of new friends, or maybe your physical fitness improved.
Through the process of making this list, you’ll begin to see that this kind of all-or-nothing thinking is rarely objective.
7. “If only…”
A limiting belief that will prevent you from succeeding as a student is the notion that something is holding you back.
This often takes the form of thoughts that begin with the statement “If only…”
For example, you might think to yourself:
- “If only I was born into a wealthier family…”
- “If only my parents gave me more freedom…”
- “If only I went to a better school…”
- “If only I didn’t have to travel so far to get to school…”
- “If only other people made an effort to understand me better…”
- “If only I was better-looking…”
These thoughts are sometimes based on valid observations.
You’ll always be able to find someone who has something you don’t. At the same time, there are always countless things for you to be thankful for.
Don’t let these “if only” thoughts become an excuse for not doing your best.
History is full of people who made profound contributions to the world, but who had to overcome huge obstacles along the way.
8. “I’m not __________ enough to…”
This is another kind of limiting belief that will stop you from making the most of your potential as a student.
It might take the form of something like “I’m not smart enough to get good grades” or “I’m not confident enough to be on the school debate team”.
These thoughts will stop you from even attempting something challenging.
If you struggle with these thoughts, there are two aspects to focus on.
First, ask yourself if the belief is accurate. Is it really true that you’re not smart enough or confident enough?
Second, even if there’s some truth to the belief, what’s to stop you from improving and putting yourself in a better position to succeed?
For example, if you lack confidence, you can take practical steps to become more assertive, improve your communication and leadership skills, contribute to the community, etc. As a result, you’ll become more confident.
Remember that the thoughts you have about your abilities are often self-fulfilling.
As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
9. “It’s my teacher’s/parent’s/friend’s fault”
There will be times when people let you down. But at the end of the day, we’re fully responsible for our lives.
After all, if you’re not responsible for your life, then who is?
So even though your friends, teachers and family members may not live up to your expectations, there’s no point blaming them.
Instead, think about what you can do to take ownership of the situation.
For example, if you’re tempted to blame your teacher for not explaining the material clearly, hold your tongue.
Decide what you can do to learn the material. Are there notes you can refer to? Are there videos that you can find online? Would it help if you clarify your doubts with your teacher outside of class time?
If you take this proactive approach, you’ll find that there’s almost always something you can do to take ownership of the situation.
Taking responsibility for your life may seem scary at first.
But it will actually give you a greater sense of control and autonomy, because it puts you in the driver’s seat of your life.
10. “I’ll try to…”
When you say that you’ll “try” to do something, you’re not making a firm commitment to take action. All you’re promising to do is “try”.
This gives you a convenient way out if things don’t go smoothly.
Instead of saying that you’ll try to take notes in class, say that you will take notes in class.
Instead of saying that you’ll try to get to bed before 10 pm, say that you will get to bed before 10 pm. If you need to, set an alarm for 9:45 pm every night as a reminder for you to get ready for bed.
Make an unwavering commitment to the positive changes you want to see in your life.
Are you guilty of any of the negative thought patterns listed in this article?
(To learn 3 bonus tips, download the free PDF summary below.)
If so, don’t be discouraged. It’s all too easy to give in to such thoughts.
The first step in changing these thought patterns is to become more aware of them.
The next time you find yourself falling into one of these thought patterns, ask yourself these two questions:
- “Is this thought objectively true?”
- “Is this thought helpful?”
Most of the time, the answer to those two questions is no. You can then start to have a healthier internal dialogue with yourself.
By becoming more intentional about the thoughts you think, you’ll be on your way to developing better beliefs.
In turn, this will enable you to find meaning, fulfilment and success in your life as a student!
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