Building Commitment: Andrew’s Story

Science has proven that people can accomplish what they once thought impossible by taking simple steps to purposefully change their behaviors and perceptions.  Many posts contained in this blog seek to teach young people how to improve their grades in order to get accepted into the school of their choice.  Other posts are geared to help parents best support their child in this endeavor.

Andrew’s Story

Andrew is a bright young man, 16 years old, with aspirations of going a state University.  Andrew exceeds in many areas including computers, video games, and he is an avid guitar player.  Andrew’s parents will tell you that he is exceptionally smart but that his poor attitude towards schooling and lack of motivation results in grades significantly lower than his actual abilities.

An average student in junior high, Andrew tried very hard in school.  Despite Andrew’s best efforts he seemed to always turn in assignments that were “just good enough.”  Andrew maintained a C+ to B- average for most of junior high.  In areas where Andrew had high levels of interest, such as computer science and music, he performed exceptionally well.  In these subjects Andrew consistently made “A’s.”

When Andrew entered the 9th grade he became overwhelmed.  The organizational strategies that he used during junior high just weren’t good enough to track all the assignments and responsibilities required for high school.  Andrew fell further and further behind in his course work and his grades suffered.

In addition to Andrew’s poor organizational skills, he found that high school was an intimidating and overwhelming environment.  It seemed that the more Andrew’s grades suffered, the worse he felt about himself, and the more socially withdrawn he became.  It was a depressive cycle from which Andrew just couldn’t pull free.  Several months into high school Andrew suffered from depression, poor self-esteem, social isolation, and an extremely pessimistic outlook on life.  Andrew needed an intervention to turn his life around.

The Intervention


            Andrew’s parents contacted Dr. Bishop who set in place a plan to work with Andrew to address each issue systematically.  During one of Andrew’s sessions he listed out all of the costs of poor academic achievement and determined that maintaining his current routine was definitely not worth all the negative outcomes.  To help Andrew break out if his current cycle, Dr. Bishop taught Andrew about various concepts including:


  • Self-Regulation, which involved teaching Andrew how to employ systematic efforts to direct thoughts, feelings, and actions toward the attainment of his academic goals.


  • Systematic Self-Monitoring, which involved Andrew breaking down all his assignments and responsibilities and tracking his daily study behaviors with a journal.


  • Goal Setting, where Andrew learned to break down his goal of attending the state University into yearly, monthly, and weekly tasks.  Andrew also included the behaviors that are required to reach his goals into his weekly planner.   


  • Self-Talk Retraining, where Andrew charted every negative statement and thought he had about his academic performance and created disputes and positive statements to counter his negative self-talk.


  • Memorization Techniques, which involved Andrew learning about various techniques for improved memory and recall including Mnemonic, Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Systems.


Further, Andrew learned how to organize his folders for school, his locker, and his backpack.  He began to track his progress by plotting his grades on a large poster board in his room.  Andrew’s success fueled his drive to work harder and structure his time.  As Andrew’s grades improved he made a commitment to himself to never fall behind in his schoolwork again.


The After Effect

            As Andrew’s grades improved so did his attitude.  Before too long, he felt good enough about himself to go out for the high school basketball team.  Utilizing the same self-regulation skills he learned to improve his school work, Andrew created a plan to improve his basketball skills to the level required to join the team.


Andrew broke down the goals he wanted to achieve including:


  • Increasing his running speed and distance he could run.


  • Improving his accuracy of free throw shots.


  • Increasing his jump height, etc.


  • Improving his stamina in terms of minutes he could sprint.


Andrew created daily measurable tasks he needed to complete to achieve his larger goal.  Again, Andrew created a large poster board in his room and charted his progress.  Andrew then set out to train for try outs for his high school basketball team with both objectives and daily tasks planned to achieve his goal.

Similar to Andrew’s efforts in academics, Andrew found success with his goal of joining the basketball team.  This kind of story is not uncommon for psychologists that teach self-regulation and self-monitoring techniques.  As adolescents and teens realize that they are in control of their attitudes, behaviors, and the end result of their actions, they can apply these experiences to other things in their life.  As teens like Andrew experience more victories they begin seeing that they are in control of their life, and drop the notion that they might be a victim of circumstance, genetics, or other factors in their life.

The same goal planning, self-regulation, and self-monitoring techniques explained in this blog could be applied to:


  • Outlining a plan for college admission.


  • Developing a strategy for getting a job.


  • Getting a handle on your financial situation.


  • Saving for a car, house, or retirement.


  • Getting fit and keeping healthy.


The commonalities here include goal setting, motivation, organization, and the purposeful planning and execution of behaviors to reach a target goal.  The underlying techniques and principles described in this blog are simple to learn, but they are not easy to master.  Time and practice are needed to master these techniques.  Commitment is fundamental here, along with developing an understanding of your personal learning style.