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Good habits lead to positive attitude
Self-evaluation is a prerequisite as one embarks on the process of achieving one's goals.

Affirming your intention and sticking to it steadfastly is an essential ingredient of successful goal striving.

THERE IS an essential preliminary step we should take before the task of goal setting. An objective assessment of our weaknesses.

It may be self-assessment or assessment carried out with the help of parents, teachers, or sympathetic friends. We have to be frank in our assessment. The weaknesses may be deficiencies such as poor reading habits, inability to tackle mathematical problems, inadequate drawing skills, examination phobia, hatred of the classroom, want of persistence, poor concentration, habit of making silly mistakes, or lack of self-confidence.

Corrective measures
An appreciation of our weakness and adoption of appropriate corrective measures will develop our confidence in taking up challenges in goal striving. It is important that our early attempts in achieving small goals should succeed. Remember the maxim `nothing succeeds like success'. Looking at our negative aspects is not counterproductive as some may suggest. We are only being realistic and rational when we do this. Our attempt is to correct negative traits and not brood over them perpetually. Sometimes we may write down some of our negative traits that we do not want others to see. But we should see them in black and white in our own privacy. This is only an exercise in facing truths, with the ultimate motive of self-improvement. We have to write out the steps that we intend to adopt for correction.

It is sometimes said that you may know a lot about several things, but you do not have a clear picture of yourself. Thousands of thoughts cross your mind each day, but how many of them pertain to knowing what you are? Reflect on what you want to become in life.

Identify those activities that you enjoy most, and thoughts that offer you delight. These will tell you something about yourself. You feel more energetic when you do things that take you to what you want. Look at school dropouts. They hardly have any passion for schoolwork. They feel that the school will not take them to destinations that they cherish. Normally you constantly talk to yourself and draw mental pictures. Try to write about them even if they are negative in content. When you write out what they are, you gradually realise what kind of person you are. Do you hate regular schedules or strict adherence to a fixed timetable? What are the activities that take you to seventh heaven? Ask similar questions to yourself. The aggregate of the candid answers you give will paint your own picture before you. This helps in effective goal setting and further follow-up action.

One element of follow-up action may be the efforts to change some of your habits that obstruct your easy movement to the expected goals. Good study habits are essential for keeping learning efficiency. Perhaps you may have certain poor study habits. For example, if you have the habit of lying down while reading your lessons, you get no opportunity for making notes or trying to sketch the diagrams that are part of the lesson, or solving numerical problems on paper.

Unless you solve numerical problems independently, you may not be able to do them in the examinations. It is fairly certain that a student, who just reads the worked out examples from a textbook in his relaxed posture and does not take pains to solve them by himself, would regret his poor style when he fails to solve similar problems in the examination hall. Be confident that habits can be changed.

Copying from your neighbour's assignment sheet may ease your work temporarily. Once you do it, it is likely that will you repeat the action. In course of time that becomes your habit. Unless you make a conscious effort, you may continue the unhealthy habit that will ultimately harm your studies. Never be under the impression that habits once formed will always be with you, despite your efforts to change them. It is only a question of will. Remember the pithy saying,

"Sow a thought, reap an action;

Sow an action, reap a habit;

Sow a habit, reap a character;

Sow a character, reap a destiny."

Those who want to attain excellence in any activity will benefit from what Aristotle once said, "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence is therefore not an act but a habit."

It is easy to say that you are changing one of your habits for the better. You may change your behaviour on one or two occasions, but may drift back to the old style.

You have to exert your will to commit yourself to the new habit. Affirming your intention and sticking to it steadfastly is an essential ingredient of successful goal striving. A common illustration is maintaining good handwriting. We know the great benefits of a good hand. Many students often do not secure the marks they deserve in examinations, since they do not write legibly in the examination paper. No examiner would strain himself to decipher what you have scribbled in the answer book.

A neat hand simplifies the examiner's job and creates a good impression about you in his mind; that impression will be of your advantage. Even on other occasions, a beautiful hand may help you in several ways. But many of us have no patience to make a habit of writing only in a good hand.

We assume that we are in a hurry and scribble something even when we have the time for writing it neatly. Keeping a fine hand is a habit. Unless you have some good reason to do otherwise, write only in a legible hand. In other words, you develop a habit of maintaining good handwriting.

Whatever you write should be legible for others to read easily. If a person has the habit of scribbling carelessly, he himself may not be able to read what he had scribbled earlier.

The Hindu - Education Plus - Monday, June 12, 2006