The hardest person to change is yourself… except for everyone else. This weeks question is about trying to help friends help themselves:
I have a couple friends that have been screwing up in college. They do almost no school work for long periods of time but then spend days working like crazy to try and catch up on their overdue stuff. They’re always partying and drinking before big tests. I want to help them out. I’ve tried to teach them ways to study to speed everything up but I just can’t get through to them. Any advice?
Yes. To start: be ready to stop worrying about helping your friends out of this rut. You can’t change other people. Many students drive themselves into this hole in college. Given their first chance at personal responsibility they bomb. This hole usually isn’t a major concern. (If they’re actually getting addictions or other long-term health risks then it might be. If they’re just slacking and partying a bit then it’s usually not a huge problem long term.)
It’s good to worry about your friends but there is only so much you can do.
The first thing you should do, I’m betting, you have already done. You need to talk to these people about your concerns. After you tell them about your concerns, unless they explicitly ask for help, there isn’t all that much you can do.
The second thing you should do is step back, stay away from them, and, maybe once or twice, be there to help them if they decide they need help.
No matter how hard you try to make the case that they’re being stupid, you won’t change them. In fact, many studies have shown trying to change someone’s mind with evidence tends to solidify their previous beliefs even more. So… if you try to convince them the partying will destroy their grades, they’ll just believe more thoroughly that partying has had no negative effect.
This blog is intended to help students study. I try to make the study advice as easy to comply with as possible (or I include some kind of disclaimer saying otherwise.) I do that because getting people to make a small change in their study habits is reasonable. To try to get a person that already studies to study a little more or less is easy. To try and get a person that hardly ever studies to study regularly is waaay harder.
Your friends have a list of problems that need to be solved. They party when they should probably be sleeping. They don’t study. They don’t do school work on time. They try to cram all their work into short periods of time. They likely do other bad things. They have a list of problems that’s likely going to take something very personal to them to stop. A conversation from a close friend may be enough to convince them. That being said, a conversation from a close friend may not be enough. They could require losing a significant amount of time and money failing their classes. They could require doing a few things they regret. You can’t force them to change before they’re ready.
That being said, if or when, your friends decide to get back to a realistic and sustainable school lifestyle, you can be their to help those friends get back on track. When those days come, if they trust you, you’ll be able to help them faster than you could possibly dream of today. Of course, you’re not magic but it can surprise you.
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