I recently worked with a client who could not break out of the 85% overall grade point average. He seemed to be putting a decent amount of effort into his studies, so I was a little surprised that his grades were not rising to the level that we had hoped. What was stopping him?

I started to ask him a few questions about how he viewed himself: “Do you see yourself as an ‘A’ student?” He replied, “That’s so funny because I was just telling my parents that I’m just not an ‘A’ student. I’m a ‘B’ student.”

This was very telling. If he sees himself as a ‘B’ student, he will actually be uncomfortable trying to become an ‘A’ student. He doesn’t see himself as one. It would be foreign to him, and somehow he would find a way to get back to his comfort zone, no matter how much he wanted to be an ‘A’ student.

For example, you may get several A’s at the beginning of the quarter. Then you think, “Wow, I’m doing really well so far, so now I can coast a little.” Then, what happens? You get a couple of C’s and your grade point average falls back to the B level where you are more comfortable.

But as we probed a little further, I asked him, “Do you think that you are a ‘B’ student, or do you think that you have been putting in ‘B’ effort?” He had an interesting reaction. Almost an “Ooohh, you’re right” sort of look on his face. We worked hard the next couple of sessions on focusing on putting in ‘A’ effort ALL the time (one quiz, test, paper, or project at a time) and not coasting once he received a few good grades.

In tennis or paddle, I teach clients to focus on one point at a time. Release the last point, replan for the next point, then refocus on your strategy for that point. Put all your effort into each point. I think of it as each point is its own little match.

For academics, the philosophy is the same: Take each test, quiz, paper, etc, as they come. Ace them all. Put in ‘A’ effort. What happens is that you start to line up A after A. One after another. You will see that you’ll get a 90% or better by focusing on the task at hand as long as you put in the work. After a certain amount of time of receiving good grades, you start to expect it. Then after a little more time you start to see yourself as an ‘A’ student. Once you attain that level, you won’t be happy with a B.

At that point, you will actually be uncomfortable with a B after receiving so many A’s, which was the problem in the first place. Change how you see yourself on grade at a time.

Change how you see yourself on the court by focusing on one point at a time. After putting all your effort into each and every point, you give yourself a chance to play your absolute best. After seeing some success, you will start to see yourself as a new type of player. If you currently see yourself as a B player, focus on one point at time, win those points and you will start to see yourself as an A player the more you win.

Change isn’t easy. It takes work! You must work at it, if not, it’s just happenstance.

The author, Chris Buck, after 11 years on the American Stock Exchange, trading and brokering equity dirivatives, left “The Floor” and earned his Masters in Exercise and Sport Psychology. He is a provisionally Certified Consultant and member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). To learn more about Coach Buck visit getitdoneconsulting.net.