In my work I have encountered thousands of students over the years and have been able to identify three distinct types of student. Narrowing it down to just three categories may seem like a big generalisation and many of us probably shift between categories at various times. Nonetheless, it is helpful in assisting us to understand some of our tendencies.
When I am in a room full of students, I feel I can accurately categorise each person in the room purely by the way they respond to me during the opening parts of my presentation. They are Proactive, Procrastinators or Passive.
How can I spot the proactive student? From the moment I start speaking, this student starts writing. They know, intrinsically, that the process of learning begins with them and their capacity to focus their attention on the subject in front of them. Writing allows them to take immediate action towards a task or goal.
Other characteristics of the Proactive include:
- Action-oriented: These students go from vision to action in a matter of minutes. They get a vision for their life and act immediately, taking the small steps necessary to create momentum.
- Goals-oriented: They set goals both long and short term and they achieve them through sheer determination.
- Method-driven: Proactive students are methodical. They are systematic and businesslike in their approach to learning which is well thought out and driven by a logical and meticulous plan
- Motivated by achievement: They have a strong desire to set and accomplish challenging goals and are willing to take calculated risks to achieve their aims. They love to win.
- Creators of opportunities: The old adage rings true here. There are people who ‘make things happen’. Even when no options seem readily available, they create or manufacture opportunities.
Unlike the Proactive, the Procrastinator ‘waits for things to happen’. They remain passive to life and just expect everything to fall into their lap.
Other characteristics of the Procrastinator include:
- Fixated on the present: Procrastinators live in the moment with no long-term plan of action. They only do things in order to move through the present with minimum fuss or disruption.
- Delay-oriented: They put off tasks and only complete things at the eleventh hour. They have convinced themselves that they work better under pressure. They do enough to pass but not enough to create something truly epic. While pressure can make anyone begin a task, it also impedes creativity and leads to unoriginal solutions.
- Procrastinator’s motto: “There is always something better to do right now.” Consistently delaying things that require immediate attention becomes a habit.
- Committed to the waiting game: They wait for opportunities to come to them or for their circumstances to be perfect, instead of putting in a little energy and thinking about how to create opportunities for success. Don’t wait for the stars to align. Seize the moment, because, as Leonard Ravenhill said, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.”
- All talk no action: Procrastinators do have one thing in their favour. Often, they will have vision and they will have specific goals. They will even talk enthusiastically about their goals and how one day they are going to get organised and get started. But, sadly, that day never comes.
Lastly, there are those who wonder, ‘What the …? What happened?’ They are not just passive, but indifferent.
Sometimes during my seminars, I see passive students waiting languidly for someone to give them a pen even though the seminar has already been going for an hour and everyone else is engaged and taking notes. Or two hours into a presentation they are still refusing to take any notes or write any strategies down. They may even docilely look to their neighbour because they missed out on a workbook. But then they shrug their shoulders and accept that they’ve been overlooked – again. So, they sit there, indifferent, expecting that they will be okay as long as nobody notices.
Other characteristics of the Passive include:
- Lack interest: They are oblivious to what is being presented to them. Even in the most interesting of discussions or classes they sit unresponsive.
- Disengaged: They do not get involved and only complete the work if it is dragged out of them.
- Lack initiative: Passive students lack the capacity to start anything and to act independently. They have no get up and go.
- Satisfied with a fail: They have neither self-respect nor any level of commitment to excellence.
- Disorganised: Not interested in completing tasks, sticking to schedules or formulating a list.
If this describes you in class don’t get offended, just CHANGE. You have 30 seconds!
Now that we have looked at the three types of student, can you identify which category best describes you? Most people will be a combination of the three and will tend to vacillate between them depending on what task is being performed. But there is no doubt that you will see yourself occupying one of the categories a large percentage of the time.
Within these descriptions there are identifiable actions that you can take today – not tomorrow – to become more proactive and to begin to experience the benefits immediately.
Don’t procrastinate or remain passive any longer. Live with a sense of wonder, awe and curiosity.
As Charles Darwin once quipped: “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.”