Studying is an intellectual recreation – an alternative way of studying

© Jorgan Harris

 1. Introduction

Stephen* is a very competent and intelligent student. Stephen performed reasonably well from grade 1 to grade 3. One of Stephen’s teachers was strict but allowed his students a certain level of freedom to do their own thing. The teacher then accepted another post at another school and a former high school principal was temporarily appointed to replace him. He forced the children to write unprepared quick tests every day for a period of time.

Stephen became very anxious about these tests and eventually told his father about them. He frequently failed these tests. However, if the same questions were asked in the classroom, Stephen could answer each one correctly. His father met with the teacher and it was found that Stephen suffered from dyslexia and that he could not keep up. Stephen was then transferred to a special class. He attended this class with boredom until grade 7.

Stephen started to think negatively about himself and his studies.

There is no such thing as a stupid person. There are people who will work with the resources available to them and people who squander them. There is always potential for something more, we just need to learn how to use it.

2. We are stressing too much

Peter* started to fail his mathematics during his matric year. As his stress levels climbed, so his marks dropped. He came to see me shortly before the matric examinations. He did not need mathematics to pass matric. He could fail mathematics and still pass matric. I suggested the following: “Accept that you are going to fail mathematics. However, I still want you to study for your mathematics.  Make it a personal challenge to see how close to ‘a pass’ you can get, but accept that you will fail it”. We have now removed all the pressure from his shoulders. Peter’s tension around mathematics has completely disappeared. Peter got 65% for of his mathematics during the final exam!

To learn or study is as easy as life itself. People say too easily that it is difficult to learn or study. You’ll have to concentrate. You’ll have to spend a lot of time studying and you’ll have to spend many hours studying and you’ll have to revise your work over and over again.

However, when you go and see a movie you are relaxed and you eat your popcorn; you sit back in your seat and relax. When you return home, you can almost recite the full story to anyone who wants to listen! Is it that hard to learn?

Have you ever wondered why there are people who are not studying much and still doing well in their exams? The reason for this is that they are relaxed. When you are tense, you immediately lose concentration and retention. This is just not worth your stress. Please have a look at my article on general anxiety disorder on my website: You will see that your attention and concentration will be affected when you are anxious.

Anyway, it is not as if you have to connect the blue wire to the red wire to avoid a nuclear war. It is just another exam. The future of mankind does not depend on your results!

It is rather difficult not to learn. Imagine how difficult it is to shut your five senses off and keep the: status quo. To keep your eyes and ears shut and to maintain a low self-esteem if you did not learn anything! If you did not learn to walk as a child, you still would have crawled. It is indeed difficult to learn!

3. Characteristics of a good learner/student

A brilliant student:

  • Believes in him or herself;
  • is not bothered about willpower. A good learner does things naturally;
  • sees his or her learning experience as relevant;
  • focuses on what he or she really wants to do or achieve;
  • is focused in the here-and-now;
  • does not care about the past or the future. It’s about what they’re experiencing and learning in the here and now;
  • is relaxed when they are busy studying;
  • believes that life is easy. You are absorbing so much more when you are relaxed. You are losing too much brain power and concentration when you are tense;
  • is interested in the work he or she is studying. Research has pointed out that being interested in a subject is the greatest measure of success;
  • enjoys his or her studies;
  • uses all their senses in the learning process;
  • gets a reward for his or her efforts;
  • congratulates him or herself with each success achieved;
  • thinks in terms of success;
  • has success and success only, in mind;
  • does not pressurise him or herself too hard. They are just themselves and they meet their needs in the here and now. They enjoy the learning experience;
  • sleeps and relaxes enough.

4. An alternative idea

According to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), people roughly fall into three categories – the Visuals, the Auditories and the. Kinesthetics. (Read more about this on my website: The Visuals experience their world in images or pictures. They remember in pictures and they describe their world in terms of images. Then we have the Auditories who experience their world in terms of their experiences of sound and they will react strongly to how you would say something. Finally, we get the 3rd group, the Kinesthetics, who would experience their world on how they feel about something. They experience their world in terms of feelings, their physically experiences, as well as smell and taste.

How have you always studied? How have you been trained to study? If you think back to your school days – the classrooms were probably covered with the most of beautiful educational posters.  Unfortunately, it will only help the people with a visual preference. Sometimes videos and DVD’s were shown and it helped people with a visual and auditory preference. Not much provision was being made for people with a kinesthetic preference. It is furthermore interesting that most learning difficulties happen with people who have a kinesthetic preference. How do you teach someone with a preference for a feeling or a smell or a taste?

The Visuals

Those with a Visual preference learn best through their eyes. They therefore respond best to what they see and they are learning/studying by forming pictures in their minds.

They respond well to flow charts and diagrams and recall colours and forms easily. They also learn faster because a picture is worth more than a thousand words.
They learn best by moving their eyes upwards. People with a visual preference’s success come from the fact that they see the task and they go for it. They see opportunities around themselves and they are so focused on the goal they are seeing that they would not even hear you when you try to point out the possible dangers.

Suggestions for learning from those with a visual preference:

  • use colourful pictures and diagrams;
  • keep your material above eye level;
  • sit up straight.

The Auditories

Those people with an auditory preference learn best through hearing. They therefore respond best to what they hear and repeat things for themselves aloud. They will first look sideways (as if they are looking at their ears) before they give a reply to a question.

They therefore remember best by moving their eyes in the direction of their ears and then to hear the answer. They respond well to CD’s and any information in an auditory form.

Suggestions for people with an Auditory preference:

  • keep your material right in front of you, almost in line with your ears and preferably a little bit to your left; repeat what you read aloud to yourself;
  • play baroque music. Not only does it stimulate the Auditories, but Auditories can also be easily distracted by background noise that can be eliminated by the music;
  • sit comfortably in order to be able to get into rhythm with the material you learn.

The Kinesthetics

Those people with a kinesthetic preference learn best through their bodies. They therefore respond best to what they feel, sense and will get a feeling about the question. They will first look down right before they give you a reply to a question.

They recall best by moving their eyes to their dominant hand and then get a feeling about the answer.

Suggestions for people with a Kinesthetic preference:

  • ensure that your body is comfortable. Many Kinesthetics may prefer to lie on their bed to study;
  • ensure your environment is comfortable. A comfortable chair, the right temperature, etc. will help you here;
  • keep your material under eye level so you can get the feeling of the work;
  • when you study, get a feel where and what you feel while you are studying something.

Are you not doing well at school? You may not have addressed your modality of preference. What made you believe that you are not a good student or a student? What made you believe that you are not that smart?

5. Finally

Stephen* began to believe more in himself. He got rid of those negative views. He studied in a way that suited him, made enough time for other activities and didn’t study too hard. He passed matric with a 65% average and is currently a student at a renowned institution.

* Not their real names.