information about your ability, such as aptitude test results or a
respected person's honest opinion. (c) Increase your feelings of
Learn "I value learning"--that you can value studying and
success in school more. How? (a) Write down all the benefits of
doing well in school. (b) Remind yourself that each successful
step in school means three things--you are earning a chance to
continue, you have what it takes to succeed, and you have
done something worthwhile. (c) Make use of what you learn,
e.g. tell others, interact with others who can add to your
knowledge, apply the knowledge in other classes or at work,
Learn "I may deceive myself"--that you, like others, are
capable of remarkable self-deceiving and self-defeating thought
processes which interfere with many important activities in your
life, ranging from doing your best in school to trying out for the
track team or asking the smartest person in school for a date.
How? (a) Observe your attributions, especially your excuses,
and double check their accuracy. (b) Overcome your fears
(chapter 5) by doing whatever scares you (if it is safe)! (c)
Attend closely to your self-concept, including self-efficacy and
attitudes about changing, and find the best views for you (see
You need to realize that change is possible before you can change.
In recent years, a procedure called attribution retraining has been
successful in increasing peoples' motivation to do better in school and
other settings. In most cases, the experimenter persuaded the
subjects that their failure at a task (e.g. grades) was due to a lack of
adequate effort. Not surprisingly, later the subjects tried harder and
did better. In other studies, seniors told freshmen about their grades
improving markedly or a professor described almost flunking out as a
freshman, but, with help of a friend, he started to take his studies
seriously, eventually excelling in graduate school. By implication or
explicitly, these success stories tell us that we too can change and that
good grades result from hard work and persistence day by day, not
just before exams and during the last week of the semester.
Furthermore, the more effort you put in, the more you learn; the more
you learn, the more able you are to do well.
Actually, some researchers have reported that the above success
stories improved exam scores a week later and even GPA and
Graduate Record Exam scores months later. Improvement was greater
in students who believed they had little control over their lives (see I-E
Scale in chapter 8). However, if students can improve their grades
after a couple of effort-improves-grades stories, then why don't the
hundreds of you-can-change-your-life stories told by friends and
parents or on TV or in the movies, have the same effect on all of us?
One possibility is that our belief in our own self-control is very
situation specific, i.e. the success story of an average-turned-super
insurance salesperson would probably not inspire a high school
freshman to study harder.