How to feel okay

1. Everyone wants to feel okay.

When we don’t feel okay, we do something to make ourselves feel better. There are good ways, and not-so-good ways, to do this. Good ways include going for a walk, calling a friend on the telephone, eating an apple. Not-so-good ways include making somebody else feel bad, gorging on sweets, and sticking a needle in your arm. So, what do you do to make yourself feel better? Are you really making yourself feel better, or are you just buying yourself some bigger problems down the road?

2. Pain is your friend.

Pain is that little guy jumping up and down, waving his arms, trying to get your attention. “Hey, you! Look at me! You’ve got something to deal with here, and something to learn! Pay attention!” People who are not really our friends will give up on us. If we push them hard enough, even people who really love us will give up on us. Not pain. You can try to ignore him, run away from him, drown him in booze (or any other distraction you prefer) but he stays right there until you pay attention to him. He is trying to make you pay attention to some sort of problem, to fix it if you can and to learn from it so it doesn’t keep repeating itself. So then the question is . . .

3. What is your problem?

We all have problems. What’s yours? How can you fix it? How can you stop yourself from running into it again, over and over? This is the real work of being human, of growing and learning and developing. Think of a baby, just learning to walk. His problem is, he can’t stand up. Or if he does manage to stand up for a moment, he loses his balance and falls down. Over and over and over and over. It frustrates him, makes him angry, makes him want to scream, makes him want to cry. If he stops trying and just cries, he will never learn to walk. The solution to his problem is patient, determined effort; the only way he can fail is to give up trying. Lots of other problems are like this, but not all of them. In other cases, doing the same thing over and over again will get you nowhere. In still other cases the problem may be something we cannot change or control. So, what is your problem, exactly, and how can you best deal with it? That’s what you need to find out.

4. We can all use help.

That baby will learn to walk a bit sooner if somebody gives him a hand to hold onto and keep him steady on his feet. You and I will learn from our problems and move on, instead of staying stuck on them, if we get some help from someone who has been there before us, who can see the situation more clearly than we can, who can point us in the right direction. It might be a friend, a family member, a counselor or therapist or doctor, or a neighbour. Find someone who can help you, and ask for help. If the first person you ask is not the right person, keep searching: someone out there is able to help you and will be happy to do it.

Because we all want to feel okay, and one of the best ways to feel okay is to help someone else.

Have a problem? Tell your teacher! [book excerpt]

Not every teacher will be sympathetic every time. But most will listen sympathetically if you speak with them—in advance, or as soon as you know—and explain the situation. Students who communicate with their teachers usually get the benefit of the doubt. If you have trouble talking with a particular teacher, find another teacher or [...]

Oak Outliner: a great note-taking tool for students

Students who have laptops in class can take notes quickly and easily using Oak, a plain-text browser-based outliner that is free, fast, and easy to use. The commands are quite simple and intuitive. Nothing more than an internet connection is required, and you can save your work simply by copying it and pasting it [...]

Book excerpt: “Have a question? Ask your teacher!”

Good students ask questions.

Are you shy? Find a way to ask questions. Sometimes after class or after school is best. Sometimes a note to the teacher works well. Learn to tell when it’s the wrong moment to ask a question, and ask it later. But never leave a question unasked!

Many students are [...]

The brain seems to like habits

ArsTechnica’s John Timmer reports on a recent study with monkeys showing that when performing a habitual activity, the brain uses less energy to complete the task.

We are seeing more and more of such reports as neuroscience works to discover exactly how the brain works. What’s striking is how often these new studies seem [...]

What are you studying?

You think you are studying geography, history, science, math . . . and you are. But the real subject, whatever you are studying in school, is yourself.

Do you know yourself? Do you understand yourself? Do you know what sort of things stress you out? How do you dial the stress down to a [...]

Finish: a new iPhone app

I have not tried this out myself, but here is the TechCrunch review that caught my eye.

Might be worth 99 cents if it could help you keep on track with assignments and due dates.

The Value of Reading

“Read every day!” is one of the most important good habits that I urge students to practice in Good Habits, Good Students.

Two items recently came to my attention that add to the evidence of reading’s benefits.

First, via Larry Ferlazzo, this study showing that reading actually makes our brains bigger:

Reading [...]

Setting Goals: The Path to Improvement (book excerpt)

Don’t try to solve all your problems at once. Pick just one area that needs improvement, and work on it until you’ve reached your goal. To turn your achievement into a new habit, repeat the behaviour you are practicing until it becomes automatic.

Set a realistic goal. Decide in advance what you need to [...]

2nd edition, revised and expanded, is coming!

I am now working on a second edition of Good Habits, Good Students, which will be updated and expanded, including an entirely new section (more on that, later).

If you are one of my readers and have ideas about what a second edition should include, please share them with me! I want the book [...]

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