Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Keeping a positive attitude

Over the 9 years that I have been doing academic support with law students, I have become more and more convinced that a positive attitude is a must for this period in the semester.  When law students begin to focus on the negative and lose their self-esteem, they handicap themselves in their studying.

Consequently, I give a lot of pep talks.  But, I cannot be with them 24 hours a day to keep that positive attitude going.  So, here are some of the things that I suggest they can do to stay focused on the positive:

  • Post positive messages around the apartment.  For one student, these messages might be famous quotes.  For another student, they may be scriptures.  For another, inspirational pictures rather than words may be more helpful.  (Personally, I watch Susan Boyle's first appearance on Britain's Got Talent on You-Tube whenever I want inspiration for beating the odds - talk about a positive attitude when everyone is snickering before you open your mouth to sing!)
  • Ask an encourager to phone or e-mail every day.  A family member or friend whose job is to keep you focused on the positive can be a valuable asset.  Having someone who cares enough to believe in your abilities is priceless.
  • Visualize your own success.  Athletes often visualize themselves succeeding in whatever they are trying to accomplish: a new height for a pole vaulter, a difficult jump for a figure skater, a faster flip turn for a swimmer.  Law students can use visualization to picture themselves walking into an exam, being confident in every question's answer, and completing the exam on time.
  • Remember that people learn differently.  You are the same intelligent, successful person as when you arrived at your law school.  You may learn at a different pace than others.  You may have different learning styles.  Determine how you need to learn and work for understanding rather than measure yourself against what others do.  If they have a technique that will work for you, adopt it.  But do not try to become someone that you are not.
  • Forget about grades.  Grades will not come out until January, and there is no way of knowing now what your grades will be.  Focus on today.  Finish today what needs to be done.  It is the daily accumulation of knowledge that gets the grades.  Focusing now on January grades takes one's eye off the ball.     
  • Avoid people who are toxic.  There are always a few law students who want to make others feel stupid and who play games to panic those who are less confident.  You do not have to agree to be the victim.  Walk away.  Do not listen to their ploys.
  • Study somewhere different than the law school.  Law students often tell me that they feel they have to study non-stop at the law school during the last weeks.  Then they tell me how stressed the law school makes them feel.  My response?  Go somewhere else to study: the main university library, another academic building, the student union meeting rooms, a coffeehouse.   
  • Keep your perspective about law school in the scheme of life.  As bad as your day may seem, it is really a blessing.  Lots of people would love to have the opportunity you have.  Each day millions of people in our world are without food, water, health care, shelter, and education.  Law school is not so difficult in comparison.
  • Up your number of hours of sleep.  If you are well-rested, you will be more likely to stay positive.  Things look much brighter when you have enough sleep.  And you absorb more, retain more, and are more productive.  Get a minimum of 7 hours and try for 8 hours.
  • Add exercise as a break from studying.  Exercise is a valuable stress-buster.  Whether you just walk around your apartment complex, run a mile, or do 25 sit-ups it will help you expend stress.  Instead of skipping exercise, add in at least 1/2 hour three times a week. 
  • List three nice things you did during the day.  Before you go to bed, think of three things you did that were acts of kindness.  It may be holding a door, giving change for the vending machine, or lending your notes to a classmate.  No matter how small, the acts of kindness will make you feel good about yourself.  And before you know it, you will be able to count more times than three when you were a blessing to someone else.

When you are in the thick of law school, it is hard to realize that there are simple ways to get your perspective back.  Practicing even just one or two of these methods can make a difference in your attitude.  And the more of these steps you follow, the more positive you will feel.  (Amy Jarmon)

    

 

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