Will Your Student Live Up To Their Potential?

Why is it that some students never live up to their potential?

That question bothers me every time I visit with a student who seems to have counted himself out of future success. I recently came across research from Mandy Savitz-Romer and Suzanne Bouffard about this very topic and feel compelled to share it with you.

Romer and Bouffard’s research in their book Ready, Willing, and Able illustrates that a teenager’s negative self-concept of himself is one the main reasons he will not live up to his potential. The scary part? Most teenagers (and their parents) do not even realize they have a negative self-concept of themselves.

Before we dive into how to develop a positive self-concept in your student, I want to share some of my personal story and how different self-concepts have shaped my day-to-day actions.

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Why Self-Concept Shapes Future Success


At different points of my life, I have wanted to be a garbage man, a white water rafting instructor, and a broker on Wall Street (just to name a few). I drove my mom crazy because my levels of motivation/belief in myself were drastically different during each of these seasons of life.

When my identity of myself was ‘future garbage man’ my report cards did not look as sexy as when I thought of myself as a ‘future Wall Street broker.’ My vision of myself in the future was shaping my day-to-day actions, and I did not even know it.

During teenage years, this self-discovery process occurs for all students. Students, whether they are aware of it or not, decide who they are and if they are going to be successful. A lot of factors shape this self-discovery process for teens— some positive, many negative (high school cultures are brutal these days).

If your teenager is not able to tune out negative voices he hears about his future then do not be surprised when he seems lazy or unsure of future success. The secret sauce here is to help your student build a positive self-concept of themselves.

Below are three tips and tricks on how to develop a positive self-concept of your students.

3 Ways to Develop of Positive Self-Concept


Let’s say you have a student named Peyton. You truly believe Peyton could have a bright future, but does Peyton believe he will be successful? Here are some super secret ninja tricks on developing Peyton’s personal identity of himself. 

1.) Uncover the Truth

Identity development starts with Peyton recognizing how he actually views himself. The truth is Peyton most likely doesn’t understand how he views himself because a lot of his identity is deeply ingrained from previous years of life.

Questions Peyton needs to answer to uncover how he sees his future include:

   * ‘Who am I?’

   * ‘What do I believe about college/success in the future?’

   * ‘What obstacles stand in the way of his future success?’

Tip! He probably won’t participate in these activities well with his parents.. have a near-peer, someone you can trust, lead him in these activities

When done correctly, these ‘Who am I’ exercises uncover the limiting beliefs Peyton has embedded in himself. Peyton cannot overcome these limiting beliefs (lies he believes about his future) until he first recognizes them.

2.) Crash the College Party 

After discovering limiting beliefs within Peyton, we can begin to overcome those negative voices through what Romer and Bouffard call ‘People Like Me’ activities.

‘People Like Me’ is simply the belief Peyton has of his future based on his surroundings. We can frame ‘People Like Me’ activities in a positive light by placing Peyton into experiential situations that give him hope.

So if Peyton is in a community/school without a lot of first-generation college-goers, then taking him to colleges allows him to see that the students on campus are ‘just like me.’ When Peyton sees other successful students are ‘just like me’ it allows him to understand those students are no more gifted than he is.

3.) Throw a Family Party 

Guess what the number one predictor of a future entrepreneur is? Family history of entrepreneurship!

Research shows us that Peyton will have fundamental beliefs about his future based on the cultural groups he identifies. If Peyton’s last name happens to be Manning, he probably believes he could be a pretty good quarterback (that is if his father is also Archie).

The takeaway? Place Peyton in situations that will make him proud of his cultural background. The more Peyton is exposed to groups he associates with in a positive light the more he fundamentally believes, deep in his heart, that he will continue to positive movement of his culture.

The above point is similar to my ‘Crash the College Party’ tip above. The key of this ‘Throw a Family Party’ tip is to place Peyton is groups he can connect with generationally and culturally. Point #2 is about the groups Peyton associates with outside of his culture, whereas this point deals directly with his family background.

Building on Peyton’s Foundation

The above three tips and tricks are only three tools you can utilize to build on Peyton’s future. Peyton’s future is a quest, not a destination. So stick these tools in your tool belt and continue to pick up more as you encourage Peyton to be what he is called to be.

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