Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny
~ Mahatma Gandhi
The single most important element to make this school year great is your thoughts, because that’s where it starts.
Elena Aguilar wrote a blog on edutopia.org in August 2012 aimed at teachers, but it’s equally applicable to students. Here’s part of what she said:
“If I could, I'd lay money on the claim I'm about to make: If you do the one little thing I'm about to suggest, you will have a great school year. Here it is: At the end of everyday, identify three things that went well…. This exercise can be done mentally….And it can also have a tremendous impact if it's verbalized….The key is that it becomes a habit of mind.”
Aguilar also quotes Rick Hanson’s book “The Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom,” in which he describes our brains as being “like Velcro" for negative experiences, because we dwell on them, and "like Teflon" for positive experiences, because they tend to slide right out of our minds. The way to begin to reverse that is to monitor – and change, if necessary – what we say to ourselves when we explain why things have happened to us, Dr. Martin Seligman writes in his book “Learned Optimism.”
Seligman says that when good things happen to optimists, they believe that the good thing is:
Permanent and never going away.
Pervasive, affecting everything in life.
Happening because of themselves — something about they are or did made it occur.
And he says that when something bad happens to optimists, they believe that the bad thing is:
Temporary without long-lasting effect,
Situation-specific, affecting only a small part of life.
Happened due to things that weren’t in their control.
Optimists are not only happier than pessimists but outperform them in almost every domain because they think that they can achieve good things and simply don’t give up, as do pessimists when they encounter the kinds of obstacles that are almost inevitable whenever they try to achieve something of value, he writes.
So if you want to have a great school year, start by monitoring what you say to yourself when good and bad things happen to you, and, if needed, change your internal dialogue to an optimistic one.
And there are other things you can to do to make your school year a great one:
Get organized both at school and wherever you study at home: Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place so that it will be easy to find when you need it; go digital to keep track of all assignments and upcoming due dates and tests; create a time budget/schedule that allocates a reasonable amount of time for leisure activities after your schoolwork is done for that time period.
Begin to build a strong relationship with at least one of your teachers: If you’re in high school, you’ll almost undoubtedly need one or more letters of recommendation to submit along with your college applications, and if you’re just beginning your college career, the importance of you finding and cultivating a mentor can’t be overstressed.
Get at least eight hours of sleep each night: Yes, we know that many of you will ignore this because you think that you can perform just as well with very little sleep, but we’re obligated to give you our best advice, and you’re wrong.
Start or join a study group, or find a study buddy: This group or person should share your values. Encourage everybody involved to participate on a regular basis, and contribute to helping all of the participants to learn.
Get involved in a community service activity that entails giving of yourself in service to others: It’s the right thing to do, it will look good on your college applications, and it will make you feel good about yourself. In the words of Robert Ingersoll, “You will rise by lifting others.”
And remember that the single most important thing about making your upcoming school year – and every school year thereafter – a great one is your keeping your thoughts positive.