Just when you thought you’re ready for “back to school”...
Local stores seem to suggest you prepare for the school year by buying pencils and notebooks and the oddly specific folder colors some teachers request. Yes, these ARE important elements, just as doing summer homework, learning your class schedules, and setting school year goals are all really important. But I promise you that they aren’t enough to ensure a good semester.
My decades of working with students from middle-school to graduate-school has proven this. Real preparation requires an answer to this: What will you do when things do NOT go as planned?
When I was writing my book last year, I fell off my writing plan a hundred times. Sometimes it felt stupid to even have a plan if I couldn’t stick with it! But what helped more than anything is the plan I had to get back into action whenever I missed a goal. For me, the author Annie Lamott’s words always helped: just get your butt into the seat and write the thing (from "Bird to Bird")
Sometimes I call this a “bounce-back plan” with my students. How do you recover when you screw up? Because (deep breath here)...you WILL screw up sometimes. We all do. It’s the very nature of learning and growing. Failure, then, isn’t when you fall off the proverbial horse; it’s when you don’t get back in the saddle, when you let that mistake--or two or three--slow you down or even make you stop. Negative feedback on your essay? Get back up. Terrible grade on the Math quiz. Get back up. Forgot to turn in that Chemistry lab report? Get back up. And Do. Not. Walk. Away.
So, preparing for success is really about preparing to mess up and bounce back! How? Here are 3 suggestions to get you started. Reach me if you want more personalized preparation!
1. Routines. If you have a set time to work, or at least a set amount of time even if the time of day changes, it helps you stay on track in the face of mistakes. You have less room to hide away from the problem. Fall down on an assignment? Get back up tomorrow for the study routine you’ve set up. This time you’ll get it right!
2. Self-talk. In addition to positive messages about your mistakes, psychological research shows that using “you” instead of “I” is more effective. Try these: “So you made a mistake, it’s not the end of the world, what’s next?”; “You’ll feel better about trying again than you would about giving up”; “Not there yet but better than a year ago.”
3. Role models. It’s easy to find examples of people who mess up but persist. Every single successful person! There are all the classic example--Edison failing 1000+ times before inventing the lightbulb; Michael Jordan getting cut from his high-school basketball team; JK Rowling unemployed and rejected by publishers before Harry Potter success. Millions more examples exist around us. Just ask someone near and dear to you (people love talking about failure, right?)
So...are we ready for back to school with all its successes AND its failures? Yes, yes, yes! You got this.