What are you studying?

You think you are studying geography, history, science, math . . . and you are. But the real subject, whatever you are studying in school, is yourself.

Do you know yourself? Do you understand yourself? Do you know what sort of things stress you out? How do you dial the stress down to a manageable level? How do you respond to criticism? Are you a leader or a follower? What do you really enjoy? Why do you enjoy those things? What do you really hate? Why? Are you an extrovert, or an introvert? How do you learn? Why are you the kind of person you are? Are you like your parents, or one of them? Have you been shaped by childhood experiences? Are you like other people in your family? in your ethnic group? linguistic group? Are you like others who share your religion, or your nationality? How did you come to be the person you are? And so on.

The more you understand yourself, the more successful you will be not just in school, but in everything you do. And almost every moment of every day provides a new opportunity to learn more about yourself. Problems, disagreements, difficulties of all sorts offer especially good opportunities to think about how you are responding to a certain situation; and what that response tells you about the sort of person you are; and what that experience can teach you that will be useful in the future. As I used to tell my children when they were young, pain is that little friend waving his hand, trying to get your attention. “Over here!” he calls out. “Look over here, there’s something you need to know about! Something you need to learn from!” If you always run away from the pain, run away from conflicts, ignore problems or just endure them until they go away—then you will miss all those opportunities to understand yourself better.

If you do learn to understand yourself, then everything else you study—geography, history, science, math—will be much, much easier. You will earn better results, and you will enjoy your studies more.

Think of it this way: instead of having to learn six or eight subjects, you really only have to learn one: yourself. And the really good news? It’s a subject that you are actually interested in.

Author: Eric MacKnight

I have been teaching English since 1980 in the United States, Morocco, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, The Netherlands, and China. Good Habits, Good Students is my first book.

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