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Mindset for Success in Study and Beyond

Written by Dr Michael McNamara, Lecturer in Law and Chair of the Student Success Working Group at the College of Business Government and Law

A new semester has begun! Whether you are a new or returning student, it is important to think strategies for success. This may come more naturally for some than others. The most useful advice often seems so simple it “goes without saying”, yet many of us struggle to turn advice into action. In this article, I share some of my “goes without saying” insights gained as a former student myself, a practising lawyer (in my previous career) and as someone who has taught Flinders business students for five years.

Gold Nugget #1 – Read stuff!

There are two parts to this!

Part A: The university (and other large organisations) are structured in a way where you will rely on written communications and formulated documents to guide activities. For example, in every topic you will receive a topic guide. Make sure you take time to carefully read communications and documents devised to help you understand a process or task.

Part B: In your studies you will frequently be assigned readings, not all of which will fascinate you. Whether interesting or boring, develop the habit of reading to exercise your brain! Like it or not, in virtually all professional work settings, you will at some point be required to read large amounts of information, so that you can identify and manipulate particular information for a given objective. Reading for the purpose of deciphering relevant information is probably the most essential transferrable skill.

Gold Nugget #2 – Care about what you are doing, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

In other words, direct your physical and emotional energy towards learning and getting tasks done. Remember you can only do your best, and that is different for everyone. It’s OK to be unsure, it’s OK to feel embarrassed and it’s definitely OK to make mistakes – these slight discomforts only matter if you take yourself too seriously, which is a total waste of energy. This is easier said than done and we are probably all guilty of taking ourselves too seriously at times. The more we can temper this very natural human tendency, the happier we will be. Success follows happiness, not the other way around.

Gold Nugget #3 – Regular effort is the best type of effort

Any worthwhile achievement at university or beyond requires effort. But don’t over-exert! Whatever you do needs to be sustainable in the long-term. The best type of effort is regular effort. It is better to do some study regularly, at least weekly, than over-exert during intense cram sessions. Everyone has natural ebbs and flows when it comes to productivity. Some days you will accomplish more than others. This is why it is useful to break larger tasks into smaller bite-size chunks. On days where life seems to be more of a struggle than usual, you should still try and complete one task, and no matter how small that task is you will still feel better because you have moved in the right direction.

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