Learn How to Help Students Discover Their Potential

, , ,

When you consider the potential your students may hold, you can either view it from a need to change how they perform or how they think about performing. I know from experience it is easier to provide feedback and focus on aspects of how students are performing by discussing content not substantially addressed, while highlighting errors in academic writing. Yet if I want to make lasting changes in how students perform, I know my work with students needs to include helping them think about their potential from an internal mindset perspective.

As an educator, I want students to realize the powerful potential they hold every day, just by the thoughts they are thinking. To accomplish this goal, I try to remind them there is something they have available within which may determine how successful their future can be; and it is the power of their thoughts.

In order to explain how I help students learn about this potential; I will first help you tap into this power, which in turn will allow you to teach your students the processes you discovered.

The Essence of a Thought

If you examine the essence of thinking, it all comes down to a single thought. The reason I begin with a singular thought is simple, you have literally hundreds of thoughts going through your mind at any given time. What helped me, as I studied adult education, was to learn about the mind having neurons or nerve cells with information to be transmitted. Any information, data, or knowledge which needs to be stored and transmitted as thoughts is done so through neural pathways, which are connected to the neurons. This is a very basic definition; however, the brain is filled with billions of neurons and neural pathways, which means the capacity for thinking is limitless.

Thoughts Become Thinking

An individual thought is a singular piece of data, knowledge, information, or an idea. When thoughts are grouped together, you are thinking. Other words used in place of thinking may include daydreaming, formulating, planning, and so on. Thinking occurs when you are involved in a conversation, considering the past, or evaluating the future. You are thinking even while reading these words now. Your mind is processing the information and attempting to make a connection to the words and concepts introduced.

There is an important reason why you need to know about thinking, especially as related to your future. A thought by itself is not particularly helpful or hurtful. But a series of thoughts, or thinking about something, has the potential to be anything but helpful. Take for example a person who continually thinks about the past and just cannot seem to let it go. This may lead to feeling a sense of remorse or guilt, preventing the person from setting new goals.

What you think also has a direct impact upon your ability to successfully complete your goals, dreams, plans, and more. These thoughts project the essence of an inner voice, a powerful source which can be reasonable, unreasonable, believable, or unbelievable, depending upon your unique view of the world. This inner voice can also remind you of the number of successes and failures. If you choose to harness its power for support, you will become much stronger and better prepared for the future.

Four Steps to Discover Your Potential

Now that you understand the importance of thinking, you can learn specific steps to discover the potential power of your thoughts. At first you may need to follow all four steps, in the order provided, but with time you should be able to set a goal and immediately harness your thoughts towards achieving a successful outcome.  

Step One: Develop Focused Awareness

There are more distractions now than ever, trying to get (and hold onto) your attention. Between online sources, news, social media, streaming, and television, your ability to remember anything important has become much more challenging. All of this can overwhelm a person’s thoughts, including their senses and emotions. Successfully completing any of your goals will be much harder if your mind is always cluttered and overloaded with information.  

In order to tap into the power of your thoughts, you must become consciously aware of what you are thinking about long enough to conduct self-assessment, maintenance, and self-care. I refer to this as a time of “focused awareness” or allocating time in which you think about your goals, well-being, and personal development. It can also mean dedicating some downtime for yourself, by allowing time to unplug from technology to regain a sense of balance.

Step Two: Engage in Focused Concentration

Once you learn to become aware of what you are thinking, you can then concentrate on your goals, dreams, hopes, future, and whatever else is important to you. This is why routine concentration time, even just a few minutes to check in, can give you time to think through the details of each of your goals or dreams, the progress made, and what still needs to be accomplished.

One of the most important aspects of focused concentration time is the opportunity to reaffirm your positive beliefs. If you do not believe it is possible to achieve what you set out to do, then it will likely not happen. You must believe in your capacity to adapt and learn because if you do not, no one else will.

You can use the practice of focused concentration any time throughout the day, when you feel your mind is becoming cluttered, you feel doubts or fears, or you experience any other negative emotions. You can stop and reset your mindset by focusing on the best of who you are and what you are capable of achieving. Then think about the future and what you are working towards. This will help keep you on a mental path towards success.

Step Three: Prepare for Purposeful Action

Once you have an awareness of your thoughts, and taken time for focused concentration, you can then consider what action is necessary to turn your goals and dreams into a reality. At first you may not know how this will occur. But the more you concentrate and focus your thinking, the more you will find ideas or new thoughts coming into your mind. This is all part of the creative process and a benefit of clearing out the clutter of your mind.

Another helpful idea is to keep pen or pencil and paper close by, as you may find yourself coming up with an idea (or thought) when you least expect it. This is a process of your mind trying to interact in-between all the information being processed throughout the day. There were numerous occasions when I experienced new ideas at night, just before I was about to go to sleep, and might have forgotten them by the next morning if they were not written down. It is helpful to remember the mind is always active, and never shuts off, even when you are asleep. You may wake up and need to write down a new idea right away.

Step Four: Develop a Personal Mantra

The final step for discovering your potential is to develop a personal mantra, something that helps you concentrate and maintain a positive focus, while supporting the steps already taken. Begin your mantra with the words “I will” and add reaffirming words after it. As an example, I developed the following mantra, which you may also find beneficial.

I Will: Not Falter, Trust Myself, Not Give Up

I Will: Fail if Needed, Believe in Myself

I Will: Succeed

I Will: Be Strong, Look Forward

I Will: Try and Try Again

Here’s How to Help Students Discover their Potential

Once you learn about the potential available to you, through the thoughts you nurture, you can use these strategies with your students. I am not advocating using the four-step process with students, and instead, using the elements you find are helpful to change how they think about their performance. For example, if a student is struggling with their work, you can have a discussion about their study environment and offer tips for concentrating. If you meet with students via Zoom, or some other platform, you could offer suggestions for self-reflection as a means of ongoing self-development and growth.

I use elements from these steps with my students, regardless of the subject matter. For example, I recall a time when a doctoral student told me they were glad I was assigned to them as their dissertation mentor as I had a reputation for being a “motivational guru”, which was a nickname I used for many years with my motivational picture quotes. I want students to remember they have the power of their mind to use as a source of strength and resilience. I try to remind students about the power of their beliefs, especially those who are in an entry-point doctoral class and need a strong belief system to get started successfully.

I tell students they have yet to fully understand how much potential they hold and it all begins with their thoughts. I encourage them to believe in themselves regardless of circumstances, and as a result it can help them discover more about what they are capable of achieving.

For you and your students I want you to remember: Who you are is a direct result of the thoughts you maintain. Teach your students what they accomplish will be determined by their ability, or inability, to control what they are thinking. The true potential any student holds, as to making changes in how they perform, begins with a single thought. When you help students discover how to harness the power of their thoughts, their future potential becomes limitless.

About Dr. Johnson

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has 35 years of experience teaching and training adults. The first half of his career was spent in the field of Corporate Training and Development, with his last role as Manager of Training and Development.

Then in 2005, Dr. Johnson made a transition into the field of distance learning. Over the past 18 years, he has been an online instructor, Faculty Development Specialist, Faculty Development Manager, Dissertation Chair and Mentor, and Certified Curriculum Author.

Dr. Johnson is also an inspirational author, writer, and educator. His life mission is to teach, mentor, write, and inspire others. He has earned a PhD in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement (TPI), a Master’s in Adult Education, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal, and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference, along with presenting at three faculty conferences. He has also published over 230 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and mindset development. Dr. J published three books related to higher education, including two about online teaching.

Getting Down to Business: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Business.

Transform Adult Education: Expert Teaching Strategies for Educators.

Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs.

Come join Dr. J’s group, Motivation for Transformation:

• Any time of the day, visit this group to find your source of motivation, to be inspired and more importantly, have your mindset transformed: Motivation for Transformation

Dr. J offers transformative resources:

Please visit Dr. J’s Books page on his website: Dr. J’s Books

You can also find Dr. J on the following social media sites:  Instagram