When you’re a student, education is your life. You’ll spend years going through the school system in preparation for tests, college, work, and adult life in general. Thus, for most students, the last thing they want to do in their spare time is study even more. But that changes later in life. Many adults go out of their way to continue learning. For various reasons, they regret not having acquired specific knowledge or skills sooner.

Some people grow their own vegetables, raise livestock, and draw water from well pumps. Going back to basics can be about saving money or returning to simplicity. But mostly it’s about self-efficacy. It enables them to cover their needs regardless of what’s happening in the big picture.

Our world is changing so rapidly that schools are often forced to play catch-up. Employees find that they need to learn vital skills on their own to stay competitive because these weren’t covered by the education they received. While you’re still at school, taking charge of your learning might be the most important thing you can achieve. Here’s how you can ensure self-efficacy in a changing future.

Know yourself

While your teacher gives lessons, look around, and you’ll see a variety of responses from your classmates. Some of them will display interest. They can be actively engaged, flipping through the textbook, making notes, or asking questions. Others will appear to be bored, distracted, or daydreaming.

Those reactions will shift across teachers and subjects. Students will find specific issues more or less interesting. The teacher’s approach to instruction can also be a matter of preference. Some methods will resonate with greater success, while others fail to connect.

student in class

Young people are always in the process of learning about themselves. But not every student focuses on discovering how well they learn and respond to instruction. Conduct an honest self-assessment; which subjects are you genuinely interested in? Which ones are you indifferent to? Is it a matter of how the teacher delivers the lesson?

Some schools are working to implement personalized learning. But it’s not yet a widespread practice. If you take the time to know yourself as a student, you’ll understand what approach works best for you. Of course, you can try to request that teachers at your school be more accommodating of individual learning styles. But more importantly, with this knowledge, you can begin to craft a personalized learning environment and progression for yourself.

Set your goals

In some ways, our education system might be facing an unfair challenge. The pace of growth in technology is so rapid that new apps and systems are being developed and released even as the old ones are being taught in school. Old subjects compete with new lessons for time and attention. Life and vocational skills tend to make way.

Students only get to spend so much time under the supervision of their teachers. You get to decide what to do in your spare time. Take away whatever is necessary to review, do your homework, and fulfill responsibilities around the house, and you’ll still have far more time than the average adult who works a full-time job. Do you want to spend this free time aimlessly enjoying yourself, or do you want to approach it with intent?

Set your goals early, and you can avoid missing the great opportunities of your student years. You might never have this much spare time on your hands. Even if you haven’t formed a clear career path yet, you can start learning useful skills for any occupation. Better communication or time management will prove essential in any line of work. It can even be fun; playing video games helps develop problem-solving skills, for instance. But it has to be intentional.

Create your curriculum

Students often feel that the subjects taught in school have little relevance to what they intend to do with their lives, or what it takes to succeed in the workplace. This is your chance to make a difference and spark renewed interest in your education.

When you take charge of your learning, you’ll get to craft the curriculum. It can be as simple as going beyond what’s in your teacher’s lesson plan for a current subject. Or you can study things that won’t be covered by the school curriculum.

Coding is one example of a skill you can learn on your own. Even if it is taught at school, you can choose a different language. You also get to work on a project you love. For example, you can try to develop a game for Android and have fun with the finished product.

Through this sort of customization, you can align what you learn with your interests in a way most teachers wouldn’t permit. And in the process, you’ll be prepared for the dedication to continuous learning, which leads to success as an adult.

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