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Prime Yourself for Success

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What do the words in the following list have in common?

  • reliable
  • rock
  • steady
  • trustworthy
  • Abe
  • true
  • honest

Did you figure it out? They are all words that have to do with being reliable or trustworthy. Did you realize, however, that just thinking about these words has primed you (predisposed you) to view things in your environment–including what you are reading right now–as more reliable and trustworthy?

There is ample research to back this up. For a complete explanation of this and further resources, look here. You might also read the excellent book, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, by Adam Alter for an absolutely amazing analysis of how environmental factors, like colors and symbols, have been proven to affect behavior, mood, and performance (HINT: Paint the opposing team’s locker room pink to sap their energy before a game. Paint your locker room red!)

So how can you use this to prime yourself for academic success? As you begin a study session, prime yourself with key words, images, and thoughts. For example, I might think about words like diligent, engaged, attentive, smart, and focused, in order to increase my ability to be all of those things during my next class. I could prime myself to be creative by thinking words like: creative, insightful, clever, smart, and weird. You can prime yourself with thoughts of strength and quickness for athletic tasks. This worked remarkably well for me when I learned of it and applied it during my high school football career.

Priming works on others as well, whether they realize it or not. One study found that just showing people words that remind them of old people–such as rocker, cane, dentures, wrinkles–made them walk slower compared to another group primed with non-geriatric lists of words.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”
BONUS: Keep priming lists for key occasions. In my wallet or on a list on my smart phone I can keep lists of words that prime me for different activities and occasions. I look at the list and think carefully about what they mean, what they look like, and how they feel.
© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.