Let’s look at how an underachiever – UNDERACHIEVES – and how you can help your teen to overcome those possibilities or tendencies – and MAXIMIZE their untapped potential.
A true story: I’ve spent 25+ years exploring and understanding how an underachiever underachieves – by looking in the mirror! And here’s why that’s valuable to you:
Richard Bach, in Illusions, writes “we teach best what we most need to learn.” Therein lies the value to you. I hereby divulge ways I’ve divined to sidestep and overcome achievement avoidance!
As director of special education in a small school district, managing [not teaching] a gifted program, I saw a slice of me in some of our students: having been told repeatedly how “smart” I was when I was young, when difficult challenges came, I used the excuse “I didn’t have enough time – but if I did, I’d have done A LOT better.” That allowed me to retain my (weak) fragile self-image. Amazing how many years of my life I used that – AND saw it with some frequency in the gifted kids in our program.
About that weak self-image: it may have come from several different sources, but the solution(s) remain the same. Deep, deep inside my brain, I just didn’t believe I was “that good.” Hence, that led me to further rev up the avoidance strategy I noted above.
One more contributing impediment: I didn’t know about nor use goal-setting and self-discipline. I could blame my mother, my teachers, anyone else – but I didn’t have it and didn’t know about it – until I was 26 y.o.
My point? We [I] could spend hours and years in psychotherapy, etc., et al. But here’s the answer, simple as it is:
· Break things down smaller!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
o [I like to make them ‘silly-small’ – so small you’d have to TRY not to achieve them.]
· Set VERY short deadlines – that creates a sense of urgency which is NOT overwhelming but breeds success!!
Note about time estimates: When we start any project, we have a ballpark estimate of how long it will take. Even when someone says “I don’t know how long…” – fact is, they really do have some general idea!
Suggestion: guide your student into breaking it into no more than 15- to 30-minute chunks or bites or less!. Hopefully, that will come close to that ‘silly-small’ I noted above. If you still notice avoidance or procrastination, break them down even smaller.
I’ve been coaching high level business execs for 25 years – and that exact strategy overcomes:
- Poor self-image
- Poor planning
- Weak self-discipline
- Self-denial and inadequacy
Also – reward or compliment your student. Example – they study for 25 minutes instead of the hour they agreed to – notice and compliment them on what they DID do, even reward them – a cookie or [something…]
One more significant revelation: the REBEL syndrome.: by that, I mean there’s a part of my mental processing that says [to me!?] – ‘you can’t make me do that!’ In recent years, I’ve asked a number of professional colleagues and clients – and a significant number agreed - that they see this in themselves as well.
When I start my day with a task list, my UNCONSCIOUS mind seems to wander [or revolt] and instead starts on Task Three or Six or something else, instead of Number One – which I’d planned to start with. MUCH of the time, it’s something else on that list – so that’s a good thing. So – the key is to be sure you START the day with a well-prioritized list – and just let your actions roll…
When I ‘allow this’ to happen, without becoming upset with myself, the day is almost always quite productive!
NOTE – that’s bothered me for years: the “just do it’ syndrome. For many of us, that avoidance I’ve been talking about happens a lot. So some guru or productivity wizard telling me to ‘just do it’ – has NO UNDERSTANDING of the avoidance and self-doubt going on inside my head. It’s SO easy for “the experts” to explain so brilliantly how to overcome these issues – but, be assured, they didn’t start from that defeatist mindset. As always, it’s easier to talk about it than to do it!
At base, under-achievers will ALWAYS find a way out – avoiding achieving! L It’s a deep-set psychological structure that’s probably there permanently – and hence requires DAILY diligence. DON’T believe the urban myth that it takes 21 days to change a habit – that is COMPLETELY untrue.
So if/when you see your teen/student avoiding or rationalizing or giving in to self-defeat, gently try these thoughts/ ideas – remain tactful yet persistent – and you WILL see growth over a period of days, weeks or months. And, as always, the key is CONSISTENT PERSEVERANCE!
So if you’ve got an under-achieving student, try some of these ideas, gently, tactfully. And, BTW – they WILL also work WONDERS for average and high achievers!!
And if you’d like further discussion about these or other teen success issues, don’t hesitate to reach out – email CoachSteve@Launch-Your-Life.com
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