Monday, 27 August 2018

Understanding and overcoming jealousy from peers.

Sometimes when you excel in academics, sports and culture you get unfounded criticism from extremely competitive peers or those who don’t do any of these. How do you handle it?

We talked about the importance of extracurricular activities for children and teenagers in our previous blog articles. It is good to do other activities in addition to focussing on school work, in order to live healthy and balanced lifestyles. More than just being fun pastime activities, it helps children to develop important and vital skills. Extracurricular activities are also tremendously beneficial for children’s brain development – which is proven by various scientific studies. Scientists also discovered that it enhances children’s academic performance. We talked about the necessity of finding balance between extracurricular activities and schoolwork as well.

You’ll enjoy reading these incredibly insightful articles if you haven’t already:

·       4 Benefits of music on the brain.

If you take pleasure in learning and doing sport-, art- and cultural activities, the chances are that you spend quite a bit of time doing it. Since you spend so much time on these activities, you’ll naturally want to make progress in your skills. You’ll be driven to work hard, because it makes you feel good and if you do it long enough and work hard enough you will see results and succeed.

To excel in one activity also makes you driven to perform well in another activities and so on. You’ll feel boosted with energy and have a positive mind-set to try out more things. You will likely also perform fairly well the first time you try it and progress more quickly, because of many other skills (such as fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, cognitive abilities, superior memory and concentration, etc.) you already obtained from doing other activities. The more skills you have, the more it will complement each other. It will help you become a better version of yourself. Isn’t it amazing how the human body functions?

However, sometimes there may be a drawback to performing well on so many levels. Some of your peers may perceive you as being an “overachiever”. A derogatory term to refer to you as such in a negative way, because they themselves don’t have the discipline or motivation to do any activities, or because they don’t perform as well as you due to a lack of skills, talent and other reasons. A number of factors can be at play here. Some children may not have the financial security in their households to enable them to take part in some of these activates. Others may possibly have other personal issues to deal with, such as being bullied or abused or their parents are separating etc. Never the less, they might start saying some pretty nasty things about you when you perform well and they don’t. What it more or less comes down to is jealousy.

In this article we discuss the following ways to understand and overcome jealousy from peers:

1. What is jealousy?2. Warning signs when a particular person or group is jealous of you.3. The different types of jealousy and why it happens.4. The effect and dangers that jealous people have on you.5. Do some introspection.6. Reflect on what activities your jealous peers do (or don’t do).7. Talk with the particularly jealous individual(s) to resolve conflict.8. Get others involved or seek professional help when things get out of hand.9. Focus on yourself and your skills. You can’t please everyone.10. Inspire others to reach for their goals in life.

 1. What is jealousy?

Life can sometimes, more often than not, feel like one big competition! Having a perfect life to display for others seems like the end-all and be-all for many people. Especially in a world where everyone is constantly obsessed with flaunting themselves, their achievements, possessions, and relationships in photos on social media. Children are often pushed to perform exceedingly well in school and extracurricular activities – especially to maintain this status of “perfection” for their parents who love putting them on a social media pedestal. There is nothing wrong with parents wanting their children to perform the best they possibly can, and showing off how proud they are of them. Let’s face it though, sometimes it all can become a bit excessive. When children see people which are older than them behave in a way that can be interpreted as “showing off”, they view it as acceptable and will naturally copy them. No wonder they are confused when their parents don’t approve of it when they take things too far and start uploading photos to show off every minute of their “fabulous” lives…

Adults experience pressure, competition and jealousy from partners, co-workers, neighbours etc. from time to time. However, most have learned to control such emotions from either end of the spectrum, not allowing it to affect them exceedingly negative in their lives. Children on the other hand are very frail since they haven’t learned the coping mechanisms yet to deal with someone that is jealous of them. Also they are unsure what to do when they become jealous of other people. For this reason, the life of a child in school can in some cases be even more complex than that of the adults. Being smart, attractive, funny, wealthy, popular, athletic or artistic may very well become a list of tick boxes for children of all ages. When they fall short in any of these it may lead to a number of thoughts, feelings and emotions. When jealousy is the main factor at hand, it can lead to some serious issues for them and their victims when not addressed properly.

Before you can address feelings of jealousy or knowing what to do when someone else is jealous of you, you have to understand what jealousy is.

Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses various thoughts and feelings in a person. These can range from feeling insecure, fearful, concerned, resentful, threatened and envious. Particularly towards someone whom you compare yourself to – over their qualities, personal worth, advantages and possessions. These feelings arise in the sense that you are concerned over your own position. You are fearful of losing what you have as a result of the other person. In other words, fearing that person will take it away from you. Jealousy is often considered as synonymous with envy. However, the difference is that envy is more closely associated with your desire to have someone else’s qualities, possessions and success, in other words coveting what they have, while wishing that they lacked it due the absence of these in your own life. For the sake of simplicity we will use these two concepts interchangeably in this article.

2. Warning signs when a particular person or group is jealous of you:

When you excel in certain activities in school, it its very likely that you will run into a few people who will criticise you for it. Not everyone will actually mean to cause you extreme harm. For instance, some people might just be jealous of your good school marks because they wish they worked harder to achieve similar results. Others may genuinely feel threatened by your good marks, since they believe by doing so you make them look bad. As a result they believe you stole their position to be top in the class – even if that sounds kind of absurd. Instead of being inspired by your own academic achievement they will try to bring you down to their lower level by making you feel bad for working hard. They may even go to extreme lengths to sabotage your future chances for success.

Here are some ways in which you can tell that they are jealous and possibly cause you harm:

·       Being blamed for being unfairly privileged or benefitted.

People that are jealous of you will try to diminish your efforts and achievements by attributing it to mere talent or luck which you were born with and didn’t actually deserve to have in the first place – since they lack talent and the dedication to work on their skills. If they aren’t from a wealthy background, they will almost certainly use the excuse that your parents are rich and can pay coaches and the like to magically transform you to outperform them. They will blame their failures on your parents for being involved in your life and giving you necessary attention and support to work on your skills. They will also try to blame the teachers, tutors, coaches and trainers for favouring you and giving you special attention and secrets to help you beat them.

·       Being threatened by competitors or slackers.

Jealous people might go as far to tell you that you shouldn’t outperform them again or go to the classes or lessons, otherwise there will be consequences… Implying that if you do, they will take dramatic steps to prevent you from doing it again in the future.

·       Being bullied through verbal or physical abuse.

A few name-calling incidents in class, such as calling a bright young boy a “nerd”, may turn into continued threats in the hallway and eventually end with a violent act after school. This could possibly entail a bloody nose and broken ribs as the result of a group beating. People often underestimate the fact that if bullies don’t receive the immediate reaction or no longer find pleasure in a particular action, they will increase the intensity of their.

3. The different types of jealousy and why it happens.

Before we can find ways to deal with jealous people, we have to understand what we are actually dealing with.

·       Material jealousy.

Material jealousy arises when children discover that not everyone has the same living standard or quality of life as theirs and therefore desire what others have. Some children are blessed with being born into really wealthy families. Some are upper-middle class or lower middle class. Then at the other end of the spectrum, some are really poor. Jealousy can arise in all of these classes. Living in a society that is very materialistic and consumerist driven doesn’t help young children’s worldviews. The children that are extremely rich compare themselves with other wealthy children. Just when you think you have it all something new is released on the market and if you don’t have it first you are the lesser for it. The middle classes look up to the higher class’s standard of living. They can be extremely competitive among themselves.
For instance when their parents got a salary raise and bought them expensive new toys and clothes, they are eager to show it off. Isn’t it logical for a poor child, that has very little or almost nothing, to desire that which other people have?

It is easy to become desirous of other people’s possessions if that is your main focus in life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your standard of living by working hard though. Unfortunately when greed and jealousy is involved, it can become a very dangerous game to play. When chasing riches, you can end up being so poor – with money being the only thing you actually have. Never resolve to cheating and stealing from others to get what you want.

·       Academic jealousy.

Academic achievements, general knowledge and overall intelligence can be prominent factors for jealousy in school children. After all, learning and writing exams about the work are predominantly what school is about. It is natural that not all children will develop equally fast or be equally smart. Children’s marks will vary according to each subject. Though, there are some children that constantly find themselves at the top 5 of their class for each subject.

If you are someone that performs well in schoolwork it is wonderful! Unfortunately not all of your peers may be enthusiastic about you doing better than them. A number of things can go wrong. They may start calling you hurtful names. They may steal your books and homework assignments. They may try to sabotage your marks by accusing you falsely of cheating.

·       Talent or skills-related jealousy.

Along with growing up comes the wonderful opportunity for children to discover their abilities and natural talents. They develop these skills by working hard at it and pushing themselves to see how far their limits go. Naturally, when you are exceptionally gifted with a particular skill, some children may get jealous if they cannot do it as well as you, or if they fail completely at it. This often happens if they see you get recognition from others for your talent and don’t get credit for their own traits and abilities.

·       Social jealousy.

Everyone has an inherent need to be liked and loved. It is part of what makes us human. From a biological perspective, infants crave attention from their parents because it is paramount to their survival – for feeding and protection. As they grow a little older they learn skills such as talking and playing, which means that they’ll begin to value relationships other than with their mom and dad. When they expand their social circles, they’ll also discover that not all children are exactly like them. They will like or dislike other children based on their experience with them. They’ll also realise that not everyone likes them equally. Since all of these social constructs are fairly new to children, it may lead to some social drama when they are rejected by other friends. It doesn’t necessarily get any better as they grow older. Teenagers feel just as upset when they aren’t invited to a friend’s party. Also when another person comes in the way of an existing friendship. Not to mention social jealousy due to popularity!

When you are liked by many and have a number of true fiends, other people that are less fortunate to have a social status like you may get jealous of you. Your relationship with others can cause them distress, because they feel less loved and cast out. They believe that you are taking away their possible friends. It is a very difficult situation to be in, because we all know that school children can be very unpredictable. Who know to what extent jealous children will go? One day they’ll adore you, the next day a gossip story about you can spread like wildfire. The fabrications will just become more sensational after every period. You can lose all of your friends like this.

·       Sibling jealousy.

Jealousy between siblings are quite common. The elder can easily feel like the younger has more privileges than they had at the same age, while the younger can feel like the elder are favoured because the get to experience things first. Perhaps they are very similar and thus very competitive. The one will always try to perform better than the other. It gets really complex when one is arguably smarter, more handsome or more popular than the other. When parents, teachers, friends and other peers compare siblings, it doesn’t help. It only furthers the distance between the two.

Your sibling can become very antagonistic and resentful towards you if they feel like others always view you as the more important. If the problem is not addressed, resentment may last for years – long after childhood.

4. The effect and dangers that jealous people have on you.

You can probably withstand one or two unfounded remarks about your appearance, character and achievements. For instance being called a “stupid jock” when you are the school’s star athlete, will likely not upset you that much at first, especially coming from other non-sporty people. However, it will begin to bother you if such name-calling continues and gets more intense. When false rumours are being spread, such as you use steroids to perform better, it can negatively influence your performance in that activity. It is especially worse coming from other athletes that train with you every day. It can even cause you to back away completely. Depending on whether their jealousy for you grows into hatred, they might even “force” you to back away by attacking you verbally and physically. In such cases it can be a very traumatic experience and cause many psychological problems.

Here are some of the effects and dangers of being targeted by people who are jealous of you:

·       Having a lowered self-esteem.

Your self-esteem can take a knock when you are constantly criticised and attacked by jealous people. They will do anything to bring you down. Even if you are genuinely excellent at what you do and the accusations against you aren’t true, you may begin to doubt yourself, your abilities and self-worth. Read our blog articles ‘How to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem’ and ‘5 Tips to build your confidence in and out of the classroom’ for a boost in your self-esteem and confidence.

·       Feeling helpless and inadequate.

You can start to think that it doesn’t matter how well you perform, you will never be good enough or never impressive enough for other people to recognise and acknowledge your achievements. You may feel that there is nothing you can do and no one to turn to for help, as no one will understand.

·       Becoming aggressive towards peers that bully you.

It isn’t easy when people are jealous of you. They won’t easily admit to it, but it shows in their actions. Constantly teasing you, calling you names and even bullying you. When you feel that everyone judges you and are against you, your overall demeanour can change from being usually calm to constantly being agitated and angry. When you walk long enough with such negative emotions, it can change you into becoming very hot-tempered and aggressive. You’ll easily snap at the smallest negative remark or form of criticism – from everyone, even those who loves you and mean well.

·       Bullying and verbally or physically attacking peers in return.

When you are in a situation in which you feel threatened and/or being attacked, there are mainly two ways to deal with it – fight or flight. The former, fight, is a particularly common reaction if things get physical. And by all means, you have the right to protect yourself if you are in danger. Unfortunately, retaliation leads to more violence and the issue never gets resolved if there isn’t an intervention. It may also happen that you begin to attack first, before the other person gets an opportunity to attack you! Later you start attacking everyone that just looks in your direction, despite not ever attacking you before. If this cycle continues, your role changes from victim to being the bully yourself.

·       Becoming isolated.

In hopes of avoiding negative criticism from peers you literally avoid them. You don’t just avoid those who are jealous and mean, but you won’t talk to your friends, siblings, parents or teachers. No one. You believe if you isolate yourself, you don’t give anyone the chance to say anything negative about you, hence you cannot get hurt.

·       Having a warped view of your friends and peers.

You’ll begin to doubt the relationships you have in your life. Are the people really there because they like you for who you are, or are they just your friend for their own personal gains? You wonder whether they are also jealous of you. Do they say negative things behind your back? How long before they betray you?

·       Becoming jealous of others who perform well and don’t get ostracised.

Bullies target certain isolated individuals when they are alone. They don’t bully members of other groups simultaneously. Bullies may be loners, but they are very often part of a group or multiple groups. Due to the influence of one or two particular individuals within that group, they persuade the rest of the group members to act the same way towards their targets.

If you are the target, you will become aware of the fact that you are singled out. It doesn’t happen to everyone. You feel very alone in this situation. You stand the chance of resenting other people who aren’t targeted – especially if they have certain traits, interests and status as you. What makes them so special to be exempted from going through the same hardships as you? You can even become jealous of them. How do they do it while making it seem like it doesn’t require effort at all?

·       Experiencing mental breakdowns and feeling depressed.

When you are singled out by people that are jealous of you and they continuously make an effort to make your life miserable, in order to break you down, you can only withstand it for so long. When you are alone, don’t have many true friends (or none at all) and can’t get help from other peers, parents or teachers, you are placed in a very dangerous position concerning your mental health. You can get a mental breakdown and become depressed. This is no small matter. Read our article ‘Spot signs of distress in teens and how to ensure their psychological well being’ on how and where to find help if you suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

·       Giving up on your academics and pastime activities – and ultimately on living your life.

If you experienced a mental breakdown and are feeling depressed about your circumstances, you’ll be exhausted and mentally drained. You won’t have the same drive you once had to achieve your goals and dreams. Participation in sports and cultural activities will be something of the past. Your mind won’t be clear to focus on academics either. Read our article titled ‘What should a healthy and balanced lifestyle entail?’ to remind yourself to not give up on your academics and other activities that you love just because of what other people say about it. It is important for you to live a diverse, healthy life.

5. Do some introspection.

Introspection means “to look inside”. Introspection involves thinking about your own actions, reflecting on it and analysing your emotions about it. Think about yourself and how you came to be in this situation. When did it start and what could have possibly contributed to it? Did your attitude at some point give them the impression that you think you are better than them and you look down upon them? Be honest, if you did or continue to behave this way you are wrong and have work on it.

Even if you outperform your peers, never think you are “invincible”. Therefore, you can’t just do and say what you want. If you do, you will only give them a reason to dislike you and thus say negative things about you. Remember, there will always be someone better at a particular activity than you. Think about it. If you come second to them, which may feel like losing, how would you want to be treated by them? Your peers have their own talents and interests in which they are more likely to succeed. Just because you don’t like doing it doesn’t make it any less important. Praise them for it.

Be grounded and thankful for the opportunities you were given in life. Yes, you worked incredibly hard, but you aren’t guaranteed success in the future. Sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way you want it to. Should you accidentally break a leg you won’t run the race. Should you get a cold before a singing recital, you won’t even get a note out. If you didn’t sleep the night before your final exam you won’t be able to think straight when you have to answer the questions. Even if you have worked so hard before, the circumstances just worked out this way and unfortunately you failed. You will be at your lowest, because you know you can do better, though not everyone knows that... Therefore you’ll want to have friends and a support group. You will be grateful that you were respectful and supportive towards them. When they go through a rough time don’t abandon them or make them feel worse than they already do. You never know when you will need their support when you go through something similar.

Your introspective answer also doesn’t always have to conclude with it being your fault. Sometimes these things happen and it is beyond your control. None the less, it is good to think about it from multiple angles.

6. Reflect on what activities your jealous peers do (or don’t do).
Ask yourself what activities your jealous peers take part in. Compare it to your own and weigh it up. If they don’t do any extracurricular activities that are similar to yours (or don’t do anything) their jealousy cannot be directed towards you for being better at it than them, because they didn’t allow themselves the opportunity to compete against you. Their reason for jealousy towards you may be related to something other than your talents and skills, perhaps it is your financial position or perhaps their negative reactions are due to something else.

If they actually do take part in extracurricular activities or take their school work seriously, determine whether they only do one other activity or multiple. If they do many, they won’t be equally good in all of them. Perhaps you focus only on one and spend more time practicing those skills. This way you could beat them or took their place in the team. Ask yourself how much time and effort do they actually put into it. If they only focus on one activity and you beat them at it or cost them their position in the team, they are likely to be more upset, because that activity is their whole world. But, maybe you are just a little bit better at it and they haven’t learned how to deal with disappointment and control their emotions. It is not your fault for competing and doing your best.

Is your activity something that can be considered as desirous in itself, such as equestrian or fencing, because it requires a bit more money to do it and/or aren’t easily accessible? If jealous individuals actually perform excellent, but are boastful, proud and incredibly threatened by anyone that can possibly take their title away, they are the ones with a big psychological problem.

 7. Talk with the particularly jealous individual(s) to resolve conflict.

One of the ways to address the issues related to a jealous person is to confront them directly. You will have to handle the situation very delicately as they will likely not expect it and the situation can easily go very wrong.

Invite them to speak with you at a particular time and place. Decide on a good location during the day time. Don’t address them in a group situation where their friends will become part of the conversation. Ask them to step away to have a private conversation, even though your friends and theirs can be close by. Don’t choose a place that is isolated and out of reach of other people, should you require immediate help should they start attacking you verbally or physically.

Prepare beforehand for the conversation. Make a few mental notes of what you would like to address. Be firm but polite about the situation and never resolve to calling them names or attacking them. You want to resolve the issue, not fuel the fire.

When you mention the fact that they are jealous they may initially deny it. They will be upset that you picked up on the fact that they are jealous and have the guts to talk to them about it. However, address specific events and occurrences to back up your claims. Tell them how it makes you feel.

You can lighten the mood by explaining to them that everyone has their own unique talents. Even if you are in competition with each other about something, there are things they can do that you cannot. You should mention that it would be better to be friends, because you have similar interests. Name the qualities they have that you admire. It isn’t necessary to compare each other or start a rivalry when competing against each other. Let them know it wasn’t a personal attack on them for example when you took their place in the team or won the competition. You just worked hard and did your best. You would be happy for them if they won, because ultimately you want the best person to win. If you are willing to build a friendship with them suggest that you start training together or offer to help them out with a training plan and a few tips.

Ask them to take your feelings into consideration in the future. Even if you walk away and don’t speak to each other ever again, you can still treat each other with mutual respect.

8. Get others involved or seek professional help when things get out of hand.

After you have spoken to the individuals that cause you distress and they haven’t showed improvement in their behaviour, you should see guidance from your parents, teachers and the school psychologist. Your parents and/or school can contact their parents to make them aware of the situation. Their parents can speak with them and discipline them. Remember that in some cases, “outing them” can cause them to act even more antagonistically towards you.

If the situation gets to a stage where the harassment and bullying has become abusive and violent, you should seek guidance from professionals, such as lawyers, that can help you to resolve to problem legally.

9. Focus on yourself and your skills. You can’t please everyone.

Some people have a jealous nature. They are dissatisfied with themselves and have deeper underlying personal issues to deal with. You cannot help them with that and if they aren’t willing to accept their flaws and work on it, they most likely won’t change. You should focus on yourself, despite the negativity around you. You don’t have to be afraid to break away from certain friendships. You also don’t have to fit in with the rest. Remember: “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.” ~ Anonymous.

·       Focus on the positive.

Keep your focus on the friends and family that uplift you and support your goals and dreams. Don’t quit the activities that you love doing just because other people are jealous of your accomplishments. That is all they want – to bring you down. Perfect your skills and prove all of your critics wrong.

·       Refrain from negativity.

When focusing on the negative, you will become negative and it may impact your performance and happiness.

·       Express gratitude.

Be thankful for all of the opportunities that you were given. Compete and give your best in everything you do. Never hold back and apologise for who you are.

 10. Inspire others to reach for their goals in life.

The painter, artist and spiritual teacher, Satsuki Shibuya, said: “By doing what you love you inspire and awaken the hearts of others.” You should always give your best no matter what. When you give your best you will encourage and inspire others to also follow their dreams. The amount of people that you will inspire will be far greater than the amount of people that are bitter, resentful and jealous of your achievements.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Finding balance between schoolwork and extra mural activities.

Sports, arts and culture have many benefits, but it shouldn’t hinder you from doing your homework.

There is pressure all around us to perform. Academically, on the sport field, on the stage and even socially. We are met with expectations in every activity we choose to do and sometimes those expectations come from ourselves. We somehow look around at our peers and see them doing well in tests, becoming captains of their sport teams, sing in the choir, participate in the debate team, and somehow they have a large circle of friends. How do they do it? How do they balance school, sport, culture and leisure? Where do they find the time?

Zig Ziglar once said “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” We believe that balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities comes down to time management. Time management is the process of planning and taking control of the time spend on specific activities. Time management increases effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. We believe when all your activities are planned out and executed in their specific timeframes, there will be enough time for relaxing and fun activities too.

In this article we’ll look at the following important ways to maximise your time and balance schoolwork and extra mural activities like a pro:

1. Prioritising your activities.2. Managing your time.3. Coping with pressure and reviewing your plan.

1. Prioritising your activities.

When it comes to your activities, you need to categorise them from the most important to the least important. This way you will easily know which activity you need to allocate more time to when making a schedule. When prioritising your activities you might want to ask a parent, teacher or guardian to help, because when you are in school you may think playing a video game is the most important thing, but in reality your maths marks aren’t what they ought to be. A parent, teacher or guardian can help by giving guidance with the bigger picture.

Don’t prioritise an activity as a whole, but rather break it up into components to better understand where you need to focus on. For example, of course schoolwork should be your most important priority as a growing child. However, you should break schoolwork into its different subjects. You can even divide different subjects into their different modules to better prioritise your activities. If your Life Orientation marks are very high, because this subject’s content comes naturally to you, but your English marks aren’t good, then prioritise your English homework above Life Orientation. Remember you still need to complete your Life Orientation homework, but you need to spend more time on English.

We suggest you make a long list of all the activities you will be doing during the month. Then evaluate the importance of a task with these four questions:
  • ·       How important is it to you?
  • ·       How well you are currently performing in it?
  • ·       How much time does it require to be good at this activity?
  • ·       Does it contribute to your success in the long term?

When you have answered those four questions, rank the activities and start planning a schedule to allocate more time to the activities that take up higher priorities.

2. Managing your time.

Managing your time effectively will make a great difference in your productivity. You will achieve more in a shorter period of time, simply because your time won’t be wasted. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any free time or time to relax, it simply means that the time you take to relax will be scheduled. In fact you will be able to enjoy your leisure time more, because you know it is well-deserved and appropriate to take a break. This prevents procrastination and overall lowers your stress because you know when it is appropriate to do all the fun activities you love to do.

There are many ways to set up a schedule. In our previous blog post ‘4 Tips to help you set up a schedule for a successfulschool year’ we discuss various ways of setting up different types of schedules and how to stick to it. 

A great way to manage your time is through Covey’s time management matrix. This grid was created by Stephen Covey who wrote the bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In this matrix he explains that your time can be effectively managed through a table that shows Important, Not Important, Urgent and Not Urgent activities. When you list your activities into the table you clearly see what you need to focus in. Below is the visual representation of the time management matrix.

Stephen Covey’s time management matrix.

In the table, you can see there are four quadrants. Quadrant 1 represents the Urgent and Important tasks, Quadrant 2 represents the Not Urgent and Important tasks, Quadrant 3 represents the Urgent and Not Important tasks and Quadrant 1 represents the Not Urgent and Not Important tasks.

Quadrant 1:

Quadrant 1 contains tasks that are Urgent and Important, tasks that are for example graded, and will have consequences if they aren’t completed on time. This quadrant is for deadlines and important crises that have to be solved immediately. These are tasks that aren’t supposed to take up too much time and can be completed quickly and efficiently. This list should also be as short as possible (because you ideally want as little as possible crises or problems). You should always complete these tasks first. Examples of quadrant 1 tasks: Homework due for the next day; last minute preparation for an upcoming test; an assignment that you need to complete for the due date; a task you forgot to do but needs to be completed now.

Quadrant 2:

Quadrant 2 contains tasks that are Not Urgent, but very Important. These are tasks that you need to perform for your long term success. These tasks aren’t urgent, with a deadline, but it is definitely important. This block contains tasks that you can plan for and usually help prevent crises and deadlines from getting too close when you work in advance. Most of your time should be spent here. In this block you will build discipline and perseverance as it normally contains long term goals. For example: If you dream of becoming a tennis champion, then you need to train 4 – 5 times a week. Use this block to add tennis practice times in. Another example is preparing in advance for a test cycle or the exams. You may have a goal of 4 distinctions at the end of the year, but you need to keep your focus by making summaries every day.

Please remember that quadrant 2 focuses on long term goals, this includes relationships too, so schedule quality time here for friends, family and your parents. If you fail to schedule relationship-time into this matrix, you will most likely be deprived of social interaction and become lonely or depressed. Schedule time for you friends and fun things you want to do – this keeps you healthy and motivated too.

Quadrant 3:

The third quadrant is for tasks that are Urgent but Not Important. This can be seen as the interruption or distraction block, because unforeseen and unimportant things can happen that you should add into this block. This block usually steals a lot of time, because we might think something is very urgent to complete (like the fifth student council meeting in a week or when you go to a study group just to re-learn old work that you already understand) but it doesn’t really contribute to our long term success. Therefore, try to minimise your time spent in this block.

Quadrant 4:

Quadrant 4 is where all the procrastination and time wasting happen, because these are things that don’t help you achieve your goals. This block contains tasks that are Not Urgent and Not Important. For example, being on Facebook or Instagram for hours, watching YouTube videos where you’re not really learning anything new, or binge-watching a series. Even hanging out with friends while you know you should rather be studying for a test that you write the next day. This doesn’t mean friendship isn’t important (it is very important), but even fun activities with friends can be scheduled when it is well-deserved. Make sure you spend the least time in this quadrant, or rather, make sure the time you spend here is well-deserved leisure time. Schedule things in this block like a new movie you want to watch, and make sure you only go watch the movie after everything in the first quadrant has been completed.

When you learn how to effectively apply Covey’s time management matrix, you will perform tasks without panic or stress, because you know the importance of each activity and how much time to allocate to it.

3. Coping with pressure and reviewing your plan.

When you take on many extra-mural activities, you can often start feeling stressed because you are tired, there’s a lot of pressure on you and you might feel like quitting some days. This means you may need a little break or you might have bitten off too much at a time. Evaluate your priorities list and determine if you really love all the activities on the list. For example, you might love playing in the school band, but you really don’t enjoy choir practice. These two activities are both musically driven, so you are allowed to say you want to leave the choir group because it doesn’t contribute to your happiness or success. Choose your extra mural activities wisely and don’t keep performing certain activities that doesn’t contribute to your wholeness.

Another example is if you really want to go study in a competitive field, like medicine, and you know you need to get your grades up. Getting good grades by itself is already a lot of pressure, therefore you need to minimise the pressure of other activities. You should then rather choose to leave one sport activity and go to extra mathematics and science classes instead, because that will take the pressure off of your studies.

Lastly, don’t be pressured by what other people say if you either have a lot of extra mural activities or very few. We are all individual. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others. If you only wish to participate in 1 or 2 extra mural activities, that is perfectly acceptable. If you want to try every extra mural activity available at school, then try it out. Don’t be afraid of what other people think or say, you are unique and you can make your own choices about how you spend your time. With time you will learn what you can and can’t do.

Balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities can be quite daunting because we all get distracted and lose focus sometimes. The best way to get back on track is to simply list your priorities, set up a schedule and then stick to it. Victor Hugo said “He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.”

How are you balancing schoolwork and extra mural activities and what other techniques do you use to keep your priorities organised?

Monday, 13 August 2018

4 Positive effects of visual art on the brain.

Drawing and painting aren’t just merely fun pastime activities, but incredibly valuable for brain development.

Visual arts consist of a diverse spectrum of art forms that are visual in nature. These include drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, ceramics, photography, film, architecture and design. Applied arts such as graphic design, interior design, industrial design and fashion design also fall within the category of visual arts.

From this list it is evident that we are surrounded by art. Granted, not every piece of visual art you come across in your daily life has the significance attributed to that of works you will find in a museum or gallery, but visual art, in all its forms, makes life more beautiful, interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. By creating art you’ll receive much more benefits of the brain, as well as improvement in other lifestyle qualities, than just looking at art. Though, to look at art can also be an enjoyable experience that can broaden your worldviews and influence your emotions positively.

Even though art is all around us, influences our societies and is also one of those things that is inexplicably awe-inspiring, it is not always seen as a fundamental aspect of education or in the workplace. For instance, art education won’t get placed first on the podium in an academic context when paired against science and mathematics, or even against other extracurricular activities such as sport – especially when budgets are involved. Some of these arguments are valid within reason, however there is much evidence to suggest that the benefits of art can help you on a personal level, as well as help you to connect to the world around you on a greater level. Even though these benefits cannot be expressed in the same way as standardised test results, the positive neurobiological, cognitive and psychological effects on the brain are well documented. The Renaissance man – inventor, painter, sculptor, engineer, anatomist and mathematician, among other things, Leonardo da Vinci, said the following: “Principles for the development of a complete mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.”

An art brush won’t necessarily save a patient’s life on the operating table, but the creative thinking skills that were fostered in art class can very well lead to medical professionals having a more unique approach to finding cures for diseases. The same is true for many other professions. The key is finding ways to incorporate art into your life that will help you to become a better version of yourself, and change the world around you for the better. Allow art to stand on its own merit for what it does for you as a person and what it does for humanity as a whole.

 In this article we discuss the following benefits of visual art on the brain:

 1. Neurobiological Benefits.2. Cognitive Benefits.3. Psychological Benefits.4. Lifestyle Quality and Performance Benefits.

1. Neurobiological Benefits.

Neurobiology refers to the biological study of the brain’s anatomy, physiology and nervous system. The brain is the most complex organ of the human body. It consists of the cerebrum (divided into two hemispheres), brainstem, cerebellum, complex organisation of grey and white matter and neurochemicals. The brain processes, coordinates and integrates information and controls most of the body’s functions.

·       Creating visual art increases brain plasticity.

Neuroplasticity, also called brain plasticity and neural plasticity, is the brain’s ability to undergo changes throughout your life. This function enables the brain to grow new or modify its connections (by means of synapses, the structures that enable neurons to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron), almost as to “re-wire” itself. Plasticity determines the number of connections and how these connections are affected and how long these connections will last. Brain plasticity also allows for change in the volume of grey matter. Without plasticity it isn’t possible for the brain to develop from infancy to adulthood. Neither would the brain be able to recover from an injury.

When you engage in an unfamiliar or complex activity, your brain creates new connections between the brain cells. A German research team published an article titled ‘How ArtChanges Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and CognitiveArt Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity’ in which they compared the creation of art and the evaluation of art. Their findings concluded that when you create visual art, it stimulates communication between different regions of the brain, which forces the brain to modify or create new connections. Through fMRI, the researchers could see greater spatial improvement in functional connectivity of posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and precuneus (preCUN) to the frontal and specific parts of the parietal cortices. Art evaluation did not yield improved results in this area.

2. Cognitive Benefits.

Cognition is the mental action or process of obtaining knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and senses. When you create art, your brain’s cognitive abilities is exercised in multiple ways, which leads to improved brain functioning.

·       Creating visual art improves memory.

The neurological benefits of creating art include the promotion of brain plasticity, which plays a big role in connectivity between the various parts of the brain, as mentioned. These connections also impact the way in which our brains take in new information, process it, retain it and the duration for how long it will last – in other words the cognitive abilities related to our memory.

The medial temporal lobes are central components in processing memory. In the same article ‘How ArtChanges Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and CognitiveArt Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity’, researchers expressed that the creative process of producing art leads to enhanced memory processing, as it requires stored information to be connected with new information. This is evidenced by the increased functional connectivity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and precuneus (preCUN) in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG).

·       Creating visual art improves geometric reasoning through visuospatial abilities.

Visuospatial function, also called visual spatial function, refers to the brain’s cognitive processes regarding visual perception of spatial relationships. This involves the ability to identify, integrate, and analyse space and its form, details, structure and spatial relations in more than one dimension. Such skills are required for movement, spatial navigation, and depth- and distance perception.

Art is very reliant on forms, shapes, spaces and lines. These elements are also present in geometry, albeit these serves a different function. Geometric reasoning uses critical thinking, logical argument and spatial reasoning to find relationships and solve problems. A study by Pablo Tinio, PhD, and Roni Reiter-Palmon,PhD, tested the relationship between visual art studies against drama studies to the geometric reasoning performance of children, starting in their grade 9 school year until the end of grade 10. The results showed that children that engaged in visual arts studies improved more in geometric reasoning than children engaged in drama studies. Visual art can thus be a means to improve mathematic scores in school, but also useful for other professions that heavily make use of geometry in their work.

·       Creating visual art improves your coordination.

When creating art, fine motor skills and superior hand-eye coordination are required for the use of various tools. Such as drawing with pencils, pens and crayons, or using a brush to paint, or sculpting a statue using clay etc. Art coordinates the small muscles of the fingers and hands with the eyes and promotes dexterity and precision of these skills.

·       Creating visual art correlates with higher academic performance.

A study published in 2007 by Ellen Winner andLois Hetland of the arts education program, Project Zero, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, stated that there is no substantial evidence that engagement in visual arts, such as painting, drawing and sculpture, can directly improve academic performance. Their findings suggest that when a child struggles for instance with maths, enrolling in an art class isn’t an appropriate and effective way to solve those problems. Furthermore, their findings on the effects of art on other non-arts-related skills were also inconclusive.

Naturally they received some counteraction for their report, with some referring back to studies prior to theirs, like the report by the Arts Education Partnership, that have concluded positive academic benefits for literacy and mathematics. Some also raised concerns about the lack of replication of the outcome of their studies, stating that much research on the subject is still to be done.

Never the less, Winner and Hetland did not back away from their findings. They themselves are deeply passionate about art and said that art should garner merit on its own terms, not in relationship to other academic subjects. Just the same way science doesn’t need ‘validation’ from other disciplines (though it is influenced by and influential on others). There are many greater benefits to be obtained from arts that cannot be obtained otherwise. Such benefits also cannot be quantified through standardised test scores. These benefits can include aspects like connecting you to the larger world, as noted in the report from 2005 by Rand Corporation.

It is evident through an abundance of reports that art helps children to perform academically in a way to which the mystery has not yet been scientifically solved. TheNational Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) that took a sample of 25 000 American students with high levels of arts-learning experiences, revealed that these student earned higher grades and scored better on standardised tests compared to students with little or no involvement in the arts. Many similar assessments came to the same conclusion. TheCenter for Arts Education published in their 2009 report that there is a positive correlation between arts education and graduation rates. This means schools that offered the least amount of access to arts education had the highest dropout rates and schools that offered the most had the highest graduation rates. While there are many other variables at play here, these findings imply that integrating arts with other subjects assists with academic achievement.

·       Creating visual art improves your language and comprehension skills.

For young children that are still in their developmental stages, the act of creating art provides the opportunity to learn words for various colours, shapes, materials and actions. They will eventually start using these descriptive words to talk about their own art works, as well as being able to verbally express their feelings about artworks and other things related and non-related to art. These topics may include emotions, innovation and creativity, abstract concepts, and intelligent reasoning.

This is supported by an artstudy program called Learning Through Art that was done at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The study involved artists teaching children about art and helping them create their own works. Their findings showed the children that took part in this program scored higher (more so in the oral exam, than the written exam) on six different categories of critical thinking and literacy skills than the children that did not take part. It is suggested that they scored higher because they learned valuable critical thinking skills during their discussions about art.

3. Psychological Benefits.

The brain is responsible for your mental states. Art can influence the psychological aspects of your mind, such as your mood and emotions, in various ways, since it can be so diverse. While art certainly doesn’t have to be only about uplifting or tranquil subjects (like rainbows and waterfalls), the actual creative process of making art can be. Creating art is intellectually stimulating as it allows for self-expression, creativity and innovation. Producing art alleviates stress and yield many other positive mental outcomes.

·       Creating visual art reduces stress.

Dr. Girija Kaimal, assistant professor at the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, Drexel University, recently published the findings of a study she led for the effects of art on stress in an article ‘Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ ResponsesFollowing Art Making’. The study concluded that 45 minutes of creating art resulted in significant lowered cortisol levels in the body.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which regulates a range of processes. These include metabolism, blood sugar levels and immune response, as well as reduction in inflammation, and assistance with formulating memories. Cortisol is also often called the “stress hormone” due to its connection to the stress response. Higher cortisol levels correlates with higher levels of stress.

The scientific study by Dr. Girija Kaimal’s team showed that 75% of the participants had lower cortisol levels, indicating lower stress levels, after they created art. Their heart rates and blood pressure was also lower. The calming and stress-relieving effect was corroborated through written documentation by the participants themselves.

Neither the participants’ experience with creating art prior to the study nor their natural artistic talent (or lack thereof) had an effect on the outcome of the results. For some this might be great news, as it means you don’t have to be a spectacular sculptor and painter like Michelangelo to experience the stress-relieving benefits of being creative.

·       Creating visual art builds your confidence and self-esteem.

While the confidence and self-esteem are related, it is not exactly the same. Read our blog articles ‘Howto develop a healthy sense of self-esteem’ and ‘5Tips to build your confidence in and out of the classroom’ for details on the differences and how you can improve it through other means.

Creating art is a wonderful way in which you can build confidence in your own abilities and also your self-esteem. When creating art you allow yourself and others to learn more about you, though self-expression. It is a great way to expose yourself and your work. Art allows you to start conversations and engage in discussions about your art and other artworks and artists. It is a way to learn how to critically judge your work, learn what others think of it and grow in the process. You will learn that not everyone will like your work and not everyone will like or dislike every piece the same. You will learn to value their opinions – sometimes you can learn valuable things from their experiences and receive great advice. You will also learn to listen to yourself and often times go against what others say. This is how many great breakthrough-works was accomplished – by artists being unique and taking risks. Art will help you find and affirm your own identity.

4. Lifestyle Quality and Performance Benefits.

Visual arts can improve other aspects of your life and allow you to live a happy, balanced and fulfilled life.

·       Creating visual art enhances your creativity.

Creating visual arts obviously require some amount of creativity, if that wasn’t already clear. But, creativity isn’t just a skill you were born with or not. Creativity can be learned and improved, just the same way exercise improves muscle strength. Art encourages you to find out things for yourself. These skills and abilities can often only be obtained by doing it yourself, through exploration. Every artist has a unique way of thinking, working, operating etc. which contributes to the uniqueness of a piece.

Art education is a platform that allows children the opportunity to learn, grow and develop beyond the skills taught in class. The mere act of mixing different colours of paint encourages young children to take risks, which will foster a sense of curiosity to find out how far they can push boundaries to create something new. Ultimately it teaches them to push themselves in ways beyond the scope of just mixing paint. This mind-set is a great asset to have as an adult.

Being creative, inventive and innovative in society means that you will be able to find solutions to problems in ways that are unique and more effective than just following traditions and directions. These qualities allow you the ability to improve and positively contribute to society in multiple ways. Think about the ingenious inventions and services which altered our world. Many hours of hard work and a creative problem solving went into it.

Art class may very well be a valuable contributing factor whether a company decides to appoint you as their Chief Executive Officer (CEO), instead of an equally hard-working, but non-creative, employee which also opted for the same position. This statement is supported by more than 60% of 1 500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide that took part in the IBM 2010Global CEO Study. They selected creativity as the most crucial factor required for success in the future.

Through this article we hope to inspire you start creating art, by also making you aware of the many benefits of art. It is a great outlet and wonderful way to express yourself. You will discover a world in which you can find wonder, and bring back some of that wonder with you and share it with the rest of humanity.

Let us know what type of visual art you enjoy creating the most.

If you enjoyed this article about the brain, you will enjoy these articles on brain and other extra-curricular activities: