Keeping Self-Talk Positive

Even if you are faced with some negative factors in your life, you still shouldn't have negative self-talk.  Negative self talk includes  statements like:

  • This is too hard.
  • I guess I'll try to do it.
  • There is no way I can do this.
  • How can I pass this class; the teacher has it out for me.

In fact, if you do have a learning disability or physical setback you should be extra diligent in putting a positive spin on any difference you might have.  There are many role models in society today that have overcome physical limitations and achieved what others would have guessed impossible.

Richard Simmons

Milton Teagle Simmons, known professionally as Richard Simmons, is an American fitness personality who promotes weight-loss programs and is known for his eccentric, outgoing personality.  Richard Simmons went from being an overweight child whose obsession for food controlled his life to becoming the exercise-and-diet guru of today.  Simmons was a staggering 268 pounds as a college student and suffered from Gynecomastia, an embarrassing condition defined as the development of abnormally large mammary glands in males resulting in breast enlargement.

However Simmons didn’t let his genetic propensity to gain weight define him in a negative way.  Simmons started counting his calories (later marketing his calorie counting method in though a product called, “Deal a Meal”) and literally changed his life through goal setting the executing behaviors to achieve his goal.

Simmons is one example of literally millions of people that have used a physical deficit to drive him in the opposite direction.  Simmons refused to be defined by his genetic predisposition to obesity, and in fact made it his life’s calling to exercise, eat healthy, and show others the way.

There are many other examples like Simmons today.  Overcoming an adversity is possible, and can be turned into a positive.  Simmons struggle has resulted in a successful career selling over 1.5 million units of Sweatin' to the Oldies since 2008.  During the course of his fitness career Simmons has helped others lose an estimated 3,000,000 pounds.

Stephen Hawking

Almost completely paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, British physicist Stephen Hawking is an academic celebrity known for his theories concerning black holes and his best-selling book “A Brief History of Time.”  While few people could completely grasp his concepts without an in-depth explanation, his theories have become as well-known as Galileo, Newton and Einstein in the scientific community.

Stephen Hawking is another classic example of a person with a disability that did not let their condition define who they are.  Hawking has a neuro muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralyzed.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born blind and deaf.  She was the first blind and deaf person to graduate from college. Famously tutored by Annie Sullivan, her life was chronicled in the play, “The Miracle Worker.”

After graduation, Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes.  In 1915, Helen Keller and George Kessler founded the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. This organization is devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Final Thoughts Overcoming Adversity

So what do all of these individuals have in common?  They all encountered a physical setback in their life yet they chose to not let the setback define them.  You might have been told that you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or even a learning disorder.  Even so, research has shown that you can develop skills to overcome your setbacks.  Researchers have found that much of the variance in students’ academic success can be explained by self-regulation, and motivational beliefs (Kitsantas et al, 2008).

Self-regulation can be learned.  Self-regulation involves the systematic efforts to direct thoughts, feelings, and actions toward the attainment of one's goals.  Academic self-regulation requires a student to be an independent, self-initiated learner with the ability to use a variety of learning strategies to accomplish specific learning goals (Kitsantas, 2002; Zimmerman, 2008).  These students have learned how to plan for attainment of their goals by breaking down goals into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.  They employ a variety of learning strategies and adjust their learning style to best suit the assignment.  Again, this is a learned skill, not something you are born with.

Additionally, research evidence shows that organizational skills and time management strategies are strong predictors of academic achievement (Britton & Tesser, 1991; Garavalia & Gredler, 2002; Nonis et al., 2006).  More good news here: both organizational skills and time management strategies can be learned.  No one is born a good organizer, and no one is born to be talented at time management.  You can learn these skills quickly and make a conscious effort to keep organized and to manage your time efficiently.  Unfortunately spending your evenings online or in front of the television are not an efficient use of your time.

Researchers have also determined that grades and enrollment at college courses can be predicted depending on the motivation and value students have toward the class (Bong, 2001; Eccles, 2005).  You have probably seen this in your own experience at school.  Think about your favorite class.  It can be anything; gym, art, drama, music, math, or any other class you’ve really enjoyed.  If you valued the class and you were motivated, you probably did well.  This is another variable that is not related to your intelligence or anything you were born with.  You can change your attitude towards your coursework and your teachers.

Similar to becoming a great athlete, most of the aptitude comes from practice and not superior genetics or natural ability.  It is possible to achieve what you previously though unobtainable, but it is going to take some hard work.

The best approach is to start visualizing yourself as a soldier training for a battle, or an athlete preparing for a competition.  You need the same level of discipline to keep a regimented study schedule and not let assignments and responsibilities fall behind.  It’s a hard pill to swallow, thinking about the amount of time and energy you’re going to have to devote to your studies, but ultimately it’s the path of least resistance.

You are going to have to give up some of your favorite television shows, or maybe some time you would normally spend in front of the computer.  Or, maybe you spend a lot of time with your friends and you are going to have to give some of that time up.  However once you go down this road there is no turning back.  Like many before you, once you experience the rewards of hard work it is highly unlikely you will go back to a disorganized and unregulated approach towards your coursework.