Developing the right mindset for processing and absorbing information can help you launch and successfully pursue your academic goals for the year. Having spent most of my career helping people gain and sustain better daily energy and focus, I’d like to offer up a few simple techniques and thoughts that will set you on a path to achievement this year.
No. 1: Be positive.
I put positivity at the top of my list because its opposite, negativity, is a self-defeating mindset and will contaminate all efforts. The results are low energy, weakened performance and memory failure, physical and mental fatigue. Positivity fuels the reverse. It helps your mind flow freely, effortlessly—light and fluid like water.
Create a positivity baseline. Catch yourself during a moment or time when you are feeling awesome, at the top of your game. Pay attention to how this feels physically and mentally: stressless, happy, flowing. If it helps, write down how you feel. It’s important to stop yourself and feel this so that you can remember it and measure how you’re feeling at various daily moments. Note what positive things you did that helped you get into this zone so that you will know how to create the mindset when you don’t have it. Make savoring, sustaining and protecting your positivity a priority.
No. 2: Use a self-scan before you begin each class.
This will immediately improve your focus, and you’ll like the results. At first the scan will take you a little while, but still it’s not much. Don’t worry about speed. You’ll develop that soon enough, and then you’ll just do it automatically. Here’s how.
Take a few moments before classes and simply ask yourself:
- What is the day’s goal for this class and what are my responsibilities? For example, I am listening to a lecture on Edgar Allan Poe and taking notes for a test.
- How does this goal link to larger goals in my life? Example: I can use the information in another course for a term paper I am writing, and that will make life easier and better; I can ace my English class, qualify for higher level classes I want next year, graduate with honors, get into the college I desire, etc. On the scale of things, how important are these goals to your life? Often it is hard to get motivated unless we see how information matters to us personally and is linked to larger personal concerns. So splurge on your answers.
- What are the demands of my environment and my teacher’s expectations? Are there distractions? Are my questions and views welcomed and accepted and in what context? If the room is large, can I hear adequately?
- What have I done in the past to help me achieve these goals? What has interfered?
No. 3: Restrict your mind from wandering.
Keep participating no matter what. Just like when your coach is telling you, “Don’t stop now—pour it on.” Create words or phrases you can think to yourself during such moments to stay on task, such as: stay with it, be strong, or focus. Give yourself a slow, deep, good breath every now and then and relax your focus before narrowing it again.
No. 4: Get a good night’s sleep.
Make it a habit to turn lights off at the same time each night. You need sleep for higher-level thinking and to keep your mind flowing.
No. 5: Each day, think of something nice to do for someone.
Keep it simple. Plan who you will help, compliment or surprise, then do it!
I encourage you to start this practice immediately. As your academic interests grow, time will move much faster, and your studies, in general, will become a lot more enjoyable. These skills will help your mind become more flowing, creative, energized, interesting and complex. And just like a “runner’s high,” these characteristics will feel good both mentally and physically. As such, you will feel rewarded. And this pattern of activity will begin to feed upon itself. Grades will come easier. You will feel more secure, confident and happy. The best news is that you will start transferring this mindset over to other areas of your life, deepening those connections as well.