plato-and-aristotleReinforcing Effort

Student attitudes and beliefs have a significant effect on success in school. Achievement can increase when teachers show the connection between effort and success. – Northwest Regional Educational Consortium

Plato: “What giveth, wee Dipides? Thy project lieth untouched whilst thy deadline draweth nigh.”

Dipides [with downcast countenance]: “Woe is me, wise master. Yon titanic project is too difficult for the likes o’ me. I shan’t ever finish, and even should I do so, success is not oft a boon granted me by the gods.”

Plato: “But, wee Dipides, cast thine internal eye back unto thy last examination. Didst thou not totally rock an A?”

Dipides [amazement dawning]: “Thou art wise, master. Thou speakest truth!”

Plato: “Indeed, difficult mayhap was thine exam. But thou wrestled thy studies with ardent tenacity and administered said examination quite a kicking. No doubt a similar determination will ensure thy triumph over this churlish project?”

Dipides [revealing all thirty-two teeth]: “Dear master, no doubt thou hast once again seen the excellent path. I shall begin working diligently forthwith!”

Conversations like this (maybe not exactly like this) have been taking place between excellent teachers and discouraged students since long before Noah’s neighbors felt the first raindrop. It’s difficult for any student to when they see the task ahead of them as too difficult. We waste our time wringing our hands in dread while the clock ticks.

There is often no wise teacher to talk you out of your mopishness, these days. That means you’ll have to do the job yourself. Here’s how.

First, think back to something you did really well at because you worked hard. It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with school or studying. Perhaps you practiced for weeks and won the free-throw competition or months of diligent wooing finally helped you land that big client. Think of it now. What have you succeeded at in the past because you worked hard at it? Think of more than one example, if you can. Carefully note the relationship between your hard work and subsequent success.

Next, identify a small first step in your project or task. If you’re studying for biochem, for example, just concentrate on reading the very first chapter. If that’s too much, concentrate on reading the first page. Or if you’re writing a research paper, go to the library and locate one likely source.

Finally, once you’ve done that first step, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back. This is progress! Feel good about yourself. You’re already doing better than when you started. That helpless overwhelmed feeling disappears and is replaced with a healthy dose of satisfaction and the certainty that you can do something. If the overwhelmed feeling comes back, remind it of your past successes, identify the next tiny step, and look forward to the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get when it’s done.

BONUS: I highly recommend the book, Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales. It’s well-written and full of fascinating survival stories, amazing findings, and brilliant psychological insights. One tidbit that applies here; many survivors who’ve managed to walk out of endless jungles or climb daunting cliffs have noted their “one foot in front of the other” mindset. They realized they didn’t have to walk hundreds of miles to get back to civilization, they only had to keep on taking the next step. Good advice.

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.



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