The Secret Behind Successful Students
Never compare yourself to others and be the best you can be
By The Blue Ocean Strategy Team
Do you constantly compare your looks, intelligence, popularity and ‘success’ with those around you? Does that make you struggle even more to get the grades and recognition you want?
Measuring your worth by comparing yourself with others is often a losing battle. A better strategy is to break away from the pack and stand apart.
This means directing your thoughts and energy towards becoming the most successful student you can be. Look at some of the behaviors, habits, and routines that make up your life and find ways to change them.
Easier said than done, we hear you say – and you’re right. But here is a simple tool that can help you tackle this issue – just ask yourself these four questions: what do I need to eliminate, reduce, raise and create to become my best self? (Check out the ERRC grid to find out more). By setting realistic goals, and committing to achieving them, you can you can bring out the best in yourself. Why settle for anything less?
Use a strategy canvas to visualize your goals
The best place to start is by using the Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas – a visual tool that helps you map your goals, thus making them easier to achieve. In one picture, you can look at yourself now and how you want to change in future. The nine factors we used are just a suggestion – you should choose whatever makes more sense to your personal goals and life situation.
1. Stop cramming
We’ve all done it at some point: stressing out the night before a paper is due, relying solely on coffee and junk food to get through. While everyone is guilty of cramming, the real issue is that it simply doesn’t work. Making a study plan is a far more effective way to retain knowledge, leading to better results. And unlike studying into the early hours the night before an exam, it won’t leave you feeling drained and stressed. As always, technology is out there to help: check out some of the apps available to organize your learning.
2. No more destructive self-criticism
Honest self-reflection can help us grow and flourish as individuals. Taking a realistic view of ourselves can be motivating, and it’s definitely a habit of successful students. However, negative voices inside the head are harmful more often than not, especially when applied to attributes about ourselves that we can’t change, such as our intelligence, height, and so on. So instead of focusing on what we cannot change, let’s identify and act on the specific things that we can!
3. Cut down your caffeine intake
In small doses, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks, can increase concentration and energy. However, we all like to overdo it occasionally, which can lead to insomnia, anxiety, stomach upsets and an inability to focus. Why not try green tea instead? It has much less caffeine than coffee and contains antioxidants that fight, and may even prevent cell damage. And it doesn’t stain your teeth.
4. Reduce social media time
Is your life a one big Instagram filter? Do you express yourself in memes and determine your social standing by how many likes you get? While social media has become an inseparable part of our lives, it has also made us easily distracted and less attentive. This is having a major impact on our productivity. And while you probably won’t be able to cut out social media altogether, be smart about it: keep track of how often, and for how long, you’re using it. And switch it off when studying – the brain isn’t built for multi-tasking. It’s difficult enough to concentrate without having all the funniest YouTube videos at your fingertips!
5. Raise your activity levels and do more exercise
Physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy body, but it is also good for the mind. Studies have shown that it can sharpen the memory and improve thinking skills. Aerobic exercise, in particular, appears to increase the size of the hippocampus – the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. One thing you can do immediately and for free is to take more steps every day. Download a step counter to your smartphone, and find reasons to walk more each day.
6. Increase face-to-face time with family and friends
If you commit yourself to just one goal in this list, pick this one. ‘Real’ time with your loved ones can prevent depression, which is significant knowing how many of us struggle with mental health issues. Go back to basics. Less screen time and more social interaction will make you and those around you healthier, happier and your life more active too.
7. Join a student club or organization
A good place to start increasing your social circle is by joining a student club, society or organization, especially if you’re just starting a new school or university. Whatever clubs you end up joining, you’ll get to know people who have similar interests to you, and it can also look great on your resume. Can’t find a club you’re interested in? Why not start a new one? To get inspired, check out how this group of high school students is making an impact in their schools.
8. Take up meditation
You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice meditation. Candles and incense are optional, and there’s no obligation to sit in a lotus position. The good news is that anyone can meditate, and just a few minutes a day can make a difference. Meditation can reduce stress, make you more present in the moment, and there is evidence that it can improve concentration, memory, and creativity. If you are a complete beginner, read this New York Times article, which offers a practical introduction to meditation and some exercises to start you off.
9. Find a mentor
Having a mentor is a unique opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, someone who has more knowledge and experience than you, whether in an academic, professional – or any other – area of life. Sports coaches, yoga teachers, lecturers or even an elderly neighbor can become a truly life-changing friend and mentor if you reach out. Bear in mind, though, that a successful mentoring relationship is based on mutual respect and trust.
Finally, remember that comparing yourself with others simply doesn’t work. This is the essence of blue ocean strategy. The way to succeed is to break away from the pack and find your own way. There is only one unique you, so why imitate others?