Make a step-by-step plan

Planning is obviously vital to academic buoyancy, after all, coordination (one of the 6Cs) is all about planning. If we desire some kind of outcome (such as good exam grades) we need to not only visualise the end result (the goal)

SMART objectives

Figure 6.1 SMART objectives

but also the route we take to get there (intention and implementation). If we choose our goals using a SMART model (Figure 6.1) then we are in a position to make a detailed step-by-step route-plan.

Planning also helps reduce anxiety because we feel more confident in both our ability to succeed and our ability to recover from failure or cope when the way towards our goals become blocked. Extreme athletes (such as those discussed in Chapter 9) aren't fearless daredevils; indeed, they are often perfectionists, studying every detail of, for example, a treacherous rock climb, before making any physical attempt.

Tell other people

Telling other people can help to build a support network where those with whom we shared our goals become invested in witnessing us realise them. We could also use other methods to tell people about our goals, such as blogs, discussion or support forums and social media.

Think about the good things that will happen when the goal is achieved

Thinking about the good things that will happen when we achieve our goal is more effective than thinking about the negative aspects of not achieving it. Research has found that so-called fear-appeals (for example, telling students about all the bad things that might happen if they don't work hard) do little to motivate and can often backfire disastrously (Putwain & Remedios, 2014). However, emphasising the positive aspects of reaching a goal have a far better rate of success. This could be something tangible, such as being able to study a subject at a higher level or be accepted onto a training course, or it can be more abstract, such as the feelings of achievement or pride.

Rewarding completed sub-goals

Rewards are also important, and rewarding ourselves for a job well done is always a good idea. A small reward at the end of each sub-goal drives us forward and makes us feel good about our achievement. The type of reward will depend on age range and individual characteristics.

Recording progress

This is perhaps why fitness trackers have become so ubiquitous. Similarly, dieters who record their weight on a chart are more likely to succeed because they can see the change taking place. There are many ways to record our progress, from daily journals to stars stuck on fridges or simple charts and graphs. Again, social media can be an invaluable tool due to the feedback we might receive from friends and family. Certainly, social media platforms and old-school online forums have been found to have a positive impact on people's mental health when used as a support mechanism. Of course, when considering social media, it's worth emphasising that closed groups are preferable to open ones and that what and how we divulge personal information should be carefully considered.


We can further increase the possibility of goal success by employing doublethink (the name is taken from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty- four). The concept was developed in response to several studies conducted by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen (for example, Oettingen et al, 2009). By holding both optimistic yet realistic beliefs regarding our ability to achieve our goals, we actually make success more likely. This means that not only do we need to visualise the positive impact of achieving our goals, we also need to think about the barriers that might be experienced along the way.

Doublethink is particularly important for academic buoyancy because it encourages us to consider what we might do when (rather than if) we are presented with a setback. By anticipating these setbacks we can formulate a plan that will help us to cope with them. At the same time, we imagine all the benefits that could flow from reaching our goal, motivating us to keep going when things divert from the plan. For example, perhaps a student has been working towards a grade A essay or other assignment task. Our student is doing well and his grades are steadily increasing, but then they plummet and progress appears to be going in reverse. By anticipating this event, the student is able to trigger strategies to correct the problem. The belief in our ability to overcome setbacks is one of the major hallmarks of an academic buoyant student.

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