Ever heard the phrase “turn that frown upside down”? That’s sort of what one needs to do when you receive negative feedback on your performance. This feedback can be in the form of your exam results, a one-on-one assessment or a meeting with your parents and teachers. For this post, let us focus on the scenario that you have received your mid-year results and they are less than stellar or you did not get the grades you desired.
Firstly, this is a good point to start turning things around. You still have half a year left to work towards attaining more favourable results. You can divide the remaining portion of the year into working blocks, for example weekly chunks, with detailed plans and time management to help you cope with your workload and responsibilities while still allowing time for doing the things you enjoy. Remember though, that for next year you should start with an academic plan so that you do not need to embark on a rescue mission 6-months in.
One of the first things you can do is some introspection. This is when you observe your thoughts, feelings and mental and emotional processes. Think about what your attitude to your work has been. Identify your strengths and weaknesses such as your optimal learning styles, your talents, your distractions. Weigh up all your responsibilities and activities to see if you have too much on your plate. Consider what you have prioritised for spending time and energy on and whether they have been the really important things that will contribute to building the future you want for yourself.
As you are doing your introspection, reflect of the feedback you have received regarding your performance. This is a difficult one. Often, when we receive negative feedback we become defensive. We have an internal story about ourselves, that justifies why we have done what we have done. One defensive mechanism is to blame those giving the negative feedback or criticism. However, responding in this way does not help you progress. The people giving you feedback more often than not want to see you succeed. While there are reasons and maybe even external factors that contributed to how you performed, there are steps you can take in the future to improve. Try viewing negative feedback, where applicable, as constructive criticism. Reflecting on constructive criticism gives direction for where to start working on delivering productive results.
Once you’ve thought through your internal processes, considered your work load and reflected on the feedback you received it’s time to strategize. This involves projecting a long-term goal, for example you want to complete a process of training and enter a specialised career path, and then working backwards to identify the path to attain that goal. A strategy always consists of a multi-pronged approach. It will not be enough to just spend more time on homework, assignments and exam studies. You will have to plan around your extra-curricular activities, relationships with friends and family and connecting with people that are going to help you achieve your goal. It may involve gaining more knowledge about the field and career you are interested in. Gain an understanding of what subjects and activities will prepare you for that career. By doing this, there will be added motivation to focus on those subjects and you’ll understand them in relation to the work you want to do.
A key resource to help you will be to develop a plan of action. It’s a good idea to write it down/type it up/draw it out so that you have a map of where you are going and how you are getting there. Your plan of action will help you to prioritise your time and efforts, identify the most important tasks to get through and hopefully provide a framework for remaining disciplined on your journey to achieving your goals. It can be a map of what you are promising yourself, which will keep you motivated when things get difficult or you slip into old patterns.
Remember that asking for help is a strength. Nobody can do everything alone. Surround yourself with people that will contribute to your positive growth. This does not mean drop all your friends and family that are not involved with your life plans. Rather, include people into your circle that are specifically going to help you along the way. These can be study partners, mentors, people who are good at listening and giving advice or people who can introduce you to opportunities. Ultimately, you are responsible for working towards your dreams and goals. Knowing that, and accepting the challenge, will benefit you and see you rise to every challenge and occasion.