Studying remotely

This article is about studying remotely and developing our ability to be successful in a new environment or context. It is part of a series of articles and resources on the topic of the students’ academic journey.

This year studying may happen in a very different way for some of us students, since a majority of academic programs are moving online due to the pandemic.

Is this causing you stress? Fear? Demotivation? Doubt? Frustration? Anything else?

This is an important question to ask yourself because the first step towards success is knowing where we are, what we think, and what we feel during a challenging time. Not investigating what creates our frustrations or what is blocking us prevents us from figuring out small changes in our actions or habits that create new ways of working and studying that can be life-changing.

Know thyself

I’m also starting school again this year with a master’s degree and I’m excited by the idea of going there to meet new people. However, I want to let go of the desire to do things as I did in the past and I know that if I want to be successful, I have to adapt to the situations and challenges that are outside my control, like this pandemic. I’m also a certified coach and so I have a very helpful background and set of skills, and instead of keeping them for myself, I want to share all possible tips with students, graduates, and young professionals.

Why am I studying? What’s my goal? What do I want to do for myself? What are the things in the world that grab my interest or attract my attention? If I don’t know anything yet, what am I trying to figure out, learn, test, or decide for myself?

I’m choosing my studies because I have a vision, I have ideas of what I want to achieve for myself and who I would like to be in the future. I have a feeling for some topics that inspire me, encourage me to be more curious and more excited to know about them. I also reflect on what I want to know to achieve the dreams that are forming in my mind and heart. If you don’t have any ideas yet, as is the case with some of my friends, it’s fine! We’re all different, we don’t follow the same paths, ideas, stories, motivations, ambitions, etc. and everything we do every day gives us – consciously or unconsciously – an opportunity to collect new information, new experiences and learning that in the end contribute to our choices and understanding of who we are, why we do what we do and what truly motivates us. However, that process or that mindset of “figuring things out with ourselves and our surrounding world” is something that many of us feel challenged by (not something we were taught in school) and even when we know it, it’s sometimes complex and difficult so we need to use friends, teachers, mentors, strangers, tools or any kind of activity to help ourselves. That’s why, as a professional coach AND a student, I’m working on a self-coaching technology to help students, graduates and young professionals make it easier to know themselves, figure out why and what to learn, increase motivation, creativity, confidence, and develop the most important skills for today’s world: the 21st-century competencies (critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, technology literacy, social and emotional skills).

I also believe, and I have learned from coaching, that the best outcomes come when we do things for ourselves and not for others. I know this as a “personal ecology” concept. Doing things to please others disconnect us from who we are, what we want and our existing talents, so this makes our talent harder to express and reuse. When we choose things based on what we want – even if we don’t know it right away and go step by step or go a little blindly – we naturally and automatically increase our competencies. Some friends of mine are just like me, they are the decision-makers of their life and their projects. It is not always easy because most decisions are important and challenge us. Some of my friends are not like me and are not yet sure who they are or what they want to do, and they are still great people, it’s okay… Some of them are pushed or helped by other people to make their choices and perhaps they want to follow what they hear to make their life easier… I don’t have the answers 😊 but I have great questions to use to help myself and others!

For those who know and decide for themselves, they must develop their inner coaching capacity, their driving force, and self-management competencies. Even though we know what we want and even though we have a vision for ourselves, things can be very hard to manage sometimes.

For those who don’t know or don’t always make their own choices, it is equally important to check in with yourself regularly, check your ideas and thoughts, check what you feel, what you are learning, review your decision-making process and above all: what sense things make for you, only you. If things don’t make sense ask yourself more questions to accelerate your problem-solving capacity; if things make sense, ask yourself questions to integrate and reinforce your ongoing efforts.

Whether we’re in the “know” or “don’t know”, it’s “okay” to be where we are, and that’s why I’m creating the self-coaching capacity (use it for free here). Having a sparring partner, a sounding board or a mirror is a huge benefit that the best athletes and business people get with their coaches. I want to make this available to all of us because we can all develop our talent and success. We’re human beings and no matter where we go or what we do, we all follow the same pattern here, we all create our meaning, we all go through our sense-making process. It’s human, it’s psychological, and we all do it in our way because we’re unique individuals! Developing our self-coaching capacity is key to managing our path.

How does this fit with studying remotely: developing autonomy and your competencies?

Whether you study in person or remotely, what you know about yourself, your vision of the world, your aspirations and motivations, your capacity to manage your life and success, still develop the same way, and it is not a matter of being remote or not. You are the person deciding whether or not you want to be moving forward in life. We have to go WITH the constraints, do you think that the biggest or most famous inventors, artists or business owners never had constraints? You’d be so wrong! They often had much bigger constraints than you think. Well, you may not want to be that famous or successful, it’s fine (we don’t need to be famous or recognized to be happy and successful!). But we do need to develop our capacity to go with the constraints, especially when we don’t choose them or when we can’t control them because they are bigger than us.

How can you study remotely in the best possible way then?

Here below are a few elements that I think are worth understanding for everyone:

  • Develop your curiosity, critical and creative thinking capacities
  • Self-organize, plan, do it your way
  • Set your own goals
  • Self-motivate and inspire yourself
  • Socialize, communicate, build collaborative attitudes, online or in-person
  • Be willing to feel challenged, build resilience and adaptability
  • Accept that pleasure and success come after feeling challenged, build patience
  • Know yourself, build self-awareness, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-management
  • Create meaning, build self-regulation

Studying remotely doesn’t mean you’ll not meet people or make new friends; it doesn’t mean either that you will learn less or that learning will be more difficult. It’s interesting to see how many people in the workplace felt that it was harder to collaborate at a distance while others managed it well. If you are good at communication and collaboration, whether remotely or in person, you have skills and you can use them. If you lack competence in this area you need to develop it to adapt to the new context. The same thing applies to making friends, being patient, or being attentive. Putting more attention on listening, questioning, and noticing the situation others are facing, are elements that will help you meet people where they are and develop a higher level of understanding of who they are (if you make this choice). Also, doing things remotely can offer various benefits that can play to your advantage and create opportunities for you to live a more balanced life based on the projects you wish to develop. If you want to practice other activities like art or sport, if you want to run a business alongside your studies, if you want to avoid commuting every day or avoid too many frustrations while you are building up your confidence, remote studies can become an advantage for you to build skills and experiment with new ideas in your life that you would not be doing if you were going to campus daily.

This pandemic is challenging us because it requires us to modify our habits. The truth is, this is great news. Do you know why?

Because changing habits is one of the hardest things for we humans. That’s where we all fall into a trap many times in our lives and where we can all make an effort. Nature offered us this way of functioning, to build habits. But at the same time, as human civilization evolves, we can quickly see how habits can become our blocks because they prevent us from changing or make the change so hard, while it is sometimes needed and beneficial. So, in the end, being forced to change our habits, can be turned into a huge benefit. It can make you more competent in figuring out how your mind and body work, and help you understand and then master your preferred way of functioning, thinking, feeling, reacting, making decisions. Building and breaking habits can give you the keys to ongoing progress.

The personalized opportunity for all of us

What this new and unknown context of today is bringing us is strongly linked to how we want to go through it and what we want to make out of it. If you want to create opportunities for yourself you can step into the challenge and regularly ask yourself useful questions that will contribute to developing your cognitive and emotional mechanisms. Here are examples of questions that asked regularly, will start building new capacities, hence new outcomes:

  • What am I learning today?
  • What did I learn yesterday?
  • What are the differences I can see today compared to what I thought last week/month/year/decade?
  • What do I feel when X happens, what is the emotion, and what is the hidden message?
  • What am I telling myself when X happens and how is this making me positive or negative, constructive or destructive, creative or not, happy or sad, energized or tired?
  • What do I want instead of what is happening right now, what would help me more?
  • What are the activities that are helping me express/connect with my best attitudes?
  • Why am I choosing to do X today, what do I want to gain from it?
  • What it is that I don’t know yet?

Research is teaching us that asking questions can help us create new, or reinforce existing behaviours. Questioning also triggers learning and creative and motivational mechanisms. But it can be hard. That’s why I’m creating the self-coaching technology, that you can use here any time by creating your own topic/issue. You can use this technology to shift your mindset, change your perspectives and figure out what needs to change so that you can facilitate and accelerate your learning and the development of your competences.

From this blog post, you can get started on your self-coaching journey, and you can get further coaching or mentoring with options.
To read about other challenges that students, graduates and young professional face and get some tips, visit the different topics here and check again regularly to follow the topics and stories we add from time to time.

If you want more information feel free to contact us.

Olivier Malafronte, master’s degree student, founder CEO

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash