The benefits of positive thinking for your studies

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Your thoughts and attitude play a big part in your success in achieving your goals. As an online student, you may need to draw on your confidence, positive mindset and self-motivation strategies during your studies. However, when you are juggling multiple responsibilities and stressors, maintaining a positive attitude can be challenging.

We chat to Mark Howard, a former Olympic athlete in Sydney 2000 who has been working in the Australian online education space for six years, supporting universities in their transition to online delivery. As a promoter of positive thinking, Mark has some tips on how you can use it to help you through your studies.

What is positive thinking and how does it work?

There are many ways to describe positive thinking. For me, positive thinking is the ability to project a proactive productive mindset particularly during times of stress. I call this out as it’s easier to form a positive position when things are great or less stressful in your life. The power of positive thinking really becomes significant during challenging times when the situation is tense and negative. There is no real science to positive thinking. It’s simply looking at the glass that is ‘half full’ instead of ‘half empty’. During times of stress it’s assessing each situation for its own merit and not arriving at an Everest to climb. If I approach a situation in a positive way, I’ll automatically widen my lens, looking at all the options and variables at my disposal. By analysing the various options, solutions and outcomes, you’ll be much better equipped to separate what’s in your sphere of control and what’s not. Assess and reflect on what failure looks like. Become comfortable with that, rationalise it and exercise your best efforts toward your preferred outcome. Now it’s about execution – “I can” achieve this goal if I conduct myself in this way. I am not defeated, I can succeed, I will succeed, I will rise above this and come out better.

What is negative thinking and what is its impact?

Negative thinking is the complete opposite of the above. For me this means you are defeated before you even line up. Negative thinking is poisonous and can disable your ability to advance forward in any situation. Negative thinking also prevents you responding to a situation in a broad lateral way of thinking, but instead you close up and narrow your focus towards a do or die type outcome before you’ve properly assessed the situation for it really is. Negative thinking can also close others off to you as quite often your negative ‘energy’ is perceived as limited and highly restrictive.

Why does having a positive attitude matter for online students?

A positive attitude is very important for online students as they will be required to self-manage and prioritise their workload far more than that of a typical on campus student. If we use the case of a part-time online student who is working full time, we can already appreciate how important time management is. If we throw into the mix a busy family life we can see how quickly things can spiral out of control. A positive attitude that is motivated and energised towards the desired outcome will be much better placed to achieve their goals than that of someone who is negative and perceives the journey to their qualification as an impossible uphill struggle.

How can our online students change their thinking and stay positive in their daily lives throughout their studies?

One of my favourite “habits” taken from Stephen Covey, author of the popular “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” book, is: “Start with the end in mind”. This will act as a good motivator as you study.

Secondly exercise is a good motivator, as healthy body = healthy mind. Positive energy recruits positive energy.

My third tip is to get enough sleep, at least eight hours per night. This helps reduce fatigue and limit the build-up of stress.

Finally, associate yourself with like-minded ‘positive’ people. Build a good support structure around you, and have people who believe in you and support you during your studies.

Are there any resources that our students can use to help them change their mindset?

My favourite recommendation right now is a book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr Carol Dweck. This is an excellent book, which explains the differences between the fixed mind and the growth mind. It’s very inspirational and highlights how anyone with the right ‘mindset’ can exceed their goals and ambitions.