Mind Over Matter: 3 Mindset Shifts Winners Adopt

Khaleela Hodge (’24) reflects on how our attitude impacts both our success and our happiness. “So, when it comes to winning, it’s important that we see both those big and small wins, because at the end of the day, it’s those small wins that are going to build the foundation for those big wins.”

What if we lose?

What if we fail? 

What if we never make it? 

Every day we ask ourselves these what if questions, dreading the answer.

But what if I told you that you don’t have to do that anymore. 

Instead of worrying about negative outcomes, rather switch your mindset so that you’re focusing on the positive possibilities.

We will win.

We will succeed.

And we will make it.

Embracing a positive mindset allows us to shape our own future, instead of letting worry do it for us, making success that much more tangible. 

This realization truly hit me when I was talking to one of my hockey teammates. We were discussing our biggest rival team, when she asked me “what if we lose?” Considering the circumstances, this was a pretty legitimate question. Our rivals were undefeated in our league for over two years, and now we were supposed to somehow beat them, breaking their winning streak. 

However, the way I see it – and what I told my teammate is – you can only lose if losing is an option. Meaning, if you make losing an option, then you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you have two options, either win, or lose. But, if you eliminate that negative outcome, and tell yourself “I can either win or win,” then your brain embraces a positive mindset, thus only focusing on winning, and therefore doing whatever it can to put you in that winning position.

This idea of “positive manifestation” is super important when working towards success. Even if you think all the odds are against you, simply “tricking” your brain into thinking something can defy those odds. Cognitive psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky explains that by default we believe anything that we hear or see. This can occur because our brains are constantly exposed to truths, so we just anticipate that everything said to us is going to be more truths. So, if we feed our brains information, regardless of if it’s “false,” the odds of our brain registering that as truth is super high. Therefore, when we think positively, and tell ourselves “I can do this,” even if we “can’t,” our brain is going to think we can, allowing us to do things that might not have been possible otherwise. 

Therefore, when we view things (like playing a hard team) with that positive growth mindset, we’re opening up doors that wouldn’t have been there, allowing us to be so much more successful in our lives. 

So, how can we further adopt this winner mindset?

1. Redefine winning. 

Winning is defined as “being successful or victorious.” However, when most people think of winning, they look only at big wins. For example, beating their opponents in a game. But, oftentimes they don’t realize that they can still be successful or victorious with “small wins.” This can be something as simple as learning something new, making progress, or achieving a goal. 

It’s anything that helps you go from your current position to a more improved position. So, when it comes to winning, it’s important that we see both those big and small wins, because at the end of the day, it’s those small wins that are going to build the foundation for those big wins.

2. Set goals.

When you have that big win in mind, you can’t just expect to magically get there. Like I mentioned, it’s going to be those small wins that get you there. Therefore, start looking at these small wins as your mini goals. 

If your end goal is to win state championships, then you’re going to have to develop a series of steps, aka mini goals, to take to get there.

Take time to truly reflect on what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then put together goals to strengthen them. Every day, you should be working towards these goals, ensuring you don’t lose sight of your end goal.

For me, my big goal was to win state championships. Starting from the end of last season, I reflected on what I did good and what I needed to improve on. I found that while my skating and speed was good, one thing that needed improvement was my shot accuracy. Therefore, one of my mini goals was to improve my shot. From the time the season ended through the beginning of the season, I was consistently shooting pucks, each time focusing on improving my accuracy. After shooting over 1500 pucks, my shot has gotten so much better, and has taken my game to another level, putting me even closer to that goal of winning state championships. 

3. Never (ever) accept defeat.

Losing is the worst feeling ever. No one wants to lose. And when you do, it just feels terrible.

But, you know what’s worse than losing? Accepting the fact that you lost, and doing nothing about it. 

Every single day you’re going to face loss, failure, and defeat. This is only bad if you let this become your reality. The moment that you start capitalizing on these losses in order to find out where you need to improve, is the moment that you’re going to see huge growth. 

So, the next time you face defeat, go back to the goal making step, and truly reflect on what went wrong, and then set goals and put in the work to make sure it doesn’t go wrong again. 

At the end of the day, losing isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a wake up call that you can be doing more. It’s what’s going to help you figure out what you need to do in order to get that success and inevitably win. 

And winning, that isn’t the whole world either. It’s more so about constantly making progress and improving yourself so that you can set yourself up for success.   

Both winning and losing come straight back to your mindset. Will you be mentally strong enough to bounce back from a loss? But more importantly, will you take the time to learn the small lessons that will teach you how to become a winner?

My brain is upside down

Sean Weathers (’23) shares a poem he wrote during the Writing Center’s sacred writing time, and reflects on what “normal” truly is.

My brain feels like it’s upside down

But where’s my spinal cord?

The thing that helps me feel

The thing that sends the signal 

If my brain is upside down, did it wrap around?

Around the thoughts in my skull

Maybe it’s keeping them together

Keeping them in check

I know I feel so I know it’s there

But why does it feel upside down

Yesterday wasn’t my day

Maybe today is not my day

Maybe tomorrow won’t be my day

Hey that’s ok

The reality is 

Even though my brain is upside down

Spun around

Rattled around

And flipped inside out

My spinal cord is still there

I’m still functioning

I’m still doing what I can

Even though 

My brain is upside down


I wrote this poem during sacred writing time. I really didn’t follow the prompt, but I just let my thoughts out. It’s a poem relating to ADHD and how the ADHD mind works differently but how it’s not a flaw. As a kid, I understood from an early age that my mind worked a lot differently than those around me, and I always wanted to be “normal”. It took me a really long time to realize that I’m not going to be “normal”, I’m not going to be like everyone else, and really, that’s ok. 

Us as tutors need to understand that people don’t always learn the same way. There will be some students that we tutor that may learn a lot differently than we do, and that doesn’t make them any less smart or any smarter than we are. Everyone should be welcome into the writing center regardless of how they learn, that is something we have to hold on to as one of our fundamentals. 

However this doesn’t need to be for just the students we tutor. As tutors we need to understand that we ourselves may learn differently than someone else. Accepting this fact really aids in our abilities to tutor. Accepting it can help us try to understand people on a deeper level. If you are trying to be someone else, or whatever is considered “normal”, then if someone comes up to you with a similar mindset, they may start to think they aren’t “normal”. We don’t want people to feel like they have to “Fit in” or feel like they don’t belong. 

Everyone fits into the writing center regardless of how you learn. You don’t have to be perfect to be a tutor, you don’t have to know everything about writing, You don’t have to be amazing at grammar. You are you, and that’s what matters.

The Diversity of “Funds of Knowledge”

Charlotte Perry (’23) reflects on an important Skyline Writing Center value: funds of knowledge. “But the part of it that I think a lot of students don’t consider when they first join the Writing Center is that your fund of knowledge can be your people skills, ability to make people laugh/feel comfortable, and being able to rephrase questions.”

When I first joined the Writing Center one of the biggest things that stood out and kind of made me nervous was the whole “we welcome all funds of knowledge” thing. I remember thinking “oh no,I’m not very good at punctuation” blah blah self criticism blah blah. But that’s not what “funds of knowledge” actually means; sure it can mean you are skilled in punctuation and grammar or analytical writing etc. But the part of it that I think a lot of students don’t consider when they first join the Writing Center is that your fund of knowledge can be your people skills, ability to make people laugh/feel comfortable, and being able to rephrase questions. Those are all very important funds of knowledge that don’t necessarily have anything to do with academics but traits like those make great tutors when they are taught that those traits are something to be proud of. 

I used to feel pretty insecure about my tutoring abilities because I felt I wasn’t “qualified enough” to be a tutor at times; before I realized that not only is it perfectly okay to ask for help from other tutors and be vulnerable and say “I’m still learning how to tutor assignments like this” and that in itself is another form of….a fund of knowledge! Advocating for yourself and others is a skill that isn’t inherent for everyone. Everyone in the Writing Center and who comes into the Writing Center are all works in progress. We’re all still learning and no one is perfect and no tutor is going to have all the answers. 

Growth mindset. Shared vulnerability. Funds of knowledge. Community collaboration. That is the Skyline Writing Center.

Ditch the Hustle Mentality: 3 Tips for Students Struggling with Self-Care in an Academically Grueling Environment

Salsabeel Hodge (’23) reflects on her own self-care journey and gives some practical tips to balance academic success and happiness and health. “…students need to take a step back from the noise and learn to care for themselves, so they can show up fully for the important people and areas of their lives.”

Self-care, a word that usually invokes images of a warm environment, lighted candles, and soft music. It’s a way for people to get relief after a tough day. The more adversity someone faces, the more self-care they likely need. 

In an environment like school, which is challenging not only academically, but emotionally, and potentially physically, self-care is vital. Most students turn to instant gratification as a means of self-care, likely because it’s easy, and they might not know better.

However, this can be useless or even more damaging, because instant gratification doesn’t allow you to examine your needs, and determine how to meet them in the future, but rather provides a short temporary fix to turmoil. 

So before I get into suggestions for upping your self-care game, we first need to understand what self-care is. 

Care as defined by Oxford Dictionary, is providing sustenance to maintain someone’s health, well-being, and protection. Self-care, as suggested by the name, is providing that for yourself; Which is not an easy task.

We live in a world, where we’re encouraged to pursue our goals with a ruthless passion, regardless of the effect. Even if that means inflicting pain on ourselves. 

For many students, that means doing anything to get an A, even if means neglecting their health. 

However, this mindset leads to a path of destruction. And to prevent this, students need to take a step back from the noise and learn to care for themselves, so they can show up fully for the important people and areas of their lives.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to implement this practice in my life. I haven’t figured everything out yet, but I did want to share what I’ve learned so far; in hopes of helping others get to a place, where they can achieve their goals, and prioritize their well-being. 

Tip One: Redefine Your Goals

Do well on all your assignments, in order to get good grades, in order to maintain a high GPA, in order get into a good college, in order to get a good job. 

Now when I write this out, it sounds absurd and ridiculously ambitious; but this is the sentiment of many students, even if they don’t want to admit it. 

And regardless of how you look at it, this harsh mindset is damaging l to your well-being. 

Now, I’m not saying to do badly in school; you should strive to do your best work. But what I am saying is this perfectionist mindset is impossible to achieve. 

There is no way you’re going to be able to do well on all your assignments, no matter how hard you try. And if you make the above description your goal, you’re implicitly tying your worth, and likely your confidence to outcomes outside of yourself. 

And if that’s not enough to convince you then consider this. Extrinsic goals, tend to be less fulfilling and decrease your happiness.

I’m sure at some point, we’ve all thought “If I get an A in *insert class* I’ll be happy,” or something along those lines. But after you achieved that goal, you were satisfied for a hot minute, and on to the next goal. And then the next one. Chasing happiness in things that are outside of yourself.   

What you need are intrinsic goals. Goals that are personally related to you, and whose success only you can define. And bonus, they’re are a lot more fulfilling extrinsic ones. 

For example, some of my intrinsic academic goals are:

  • To become a more efficient and skilled problem solver than I was at the beginning of the year.
  • To be able to hold an educated conversation about as many topics as possible. 
  • To build relationships with people I wouldn’t normally talk to in my classes

As you can see, all of these goals are related to things that I value and can carry over in many aspects of school, not just one class.

And even though they’re not outcome-based, I’m still succeeding academically. One, because I’m actually enjoying the process. And two, because these are all goals that are motivating me to learn, and therefore become proficient in my various classes. 

Another bonus is that I get a boost of confidence when I make progress toward these goals. Meaning how I feel is determined by me, and less so by a Powerschool notification.

Because let me tell you, letting external sources define your happiness can lead to a roller coaster of emotions. It might even put you in a state of constant stress, fight or flight mode, which is horrible for your health. 

That’s the opposite of self-care. It’s self-destruction. 

Tip Two: Take Care-Centered Action

Now, let’s say you’ve changed how you frame your goals, first of all, congratulations! You’ve taken a massive step towards becoming a healthier student.

But here’s the hard part: you have to take care-centered action toward your goals.  

Tough love if you will.

This comes back to the instant vs delayed gratification conversation. Are you willing to do the hard things that will benefit your future well-being?

A strategy that I use, albeit a little odd, is thinking of my future self as her own person. 

I ask myself, would future me be seriously irritated, stressed, or have to sacrifice sleep if I didn’t do these assignments now? If the answer is yes, then I’ll begrudgingly complete the assignments, sending love to my future self. If not, then I’ll usually break down the assignment, into smaller parts, setting a “due date,” for each part, so I can complete it in a timely and less stressful manner.

Now, this might seem like a basic strategy for being a productive student. However, sticking to a general deadline, is what makes this an act of self-care. 

Emphasis on general deadlines, because strict deadlines can make you feel guilty for not achieving them, and don’t take into account the need to rest, which I’ll talk about later.

However, it’s important to differentiate between a lack of discipline and the need to rest. 

For example, I tend to fall prey to scrolling on Instagram for hours, instead working on the hard assignment I’ve been dreading all day. This is not needing time to rest, but rather prioritizing the good feeling of scrolling over the better feeling I’ll get from completing the assignment. 

It’s not care-centered, because I’m willingly harming the well-being of my future self. When I should be taking care of her.

That’s why, whenever I don’t feel like doing an assignment, I just try to start it. And usually, once I do that, I’m more likely to finish it, as the assignment becomes less daunting.

This is care-centered because I’m doing what’s best for my future self, even though it’s slightly painful in the moment. Because, no matter what, I’m still going to have to do the assignment. And the struggle of doing it in the moment is usually less than the struggle of doing it in the future.

Tip Three: Know When and How to Rest

There are sometimes, however, when it’s better to do something later and rest instead. So when are these times?

Unfortunately, that’s not a question I can answer for you. It’s something that you need to figure out. 

I suggest becoming mindful of your body. Ask yourself, are there periods of time that you need more rest than others? What type of situations leave you drained? At what times do you function best? Worst?

Once you identify these situations, look at your schedule, and see if you can prioritize this time for rest. Continue to check in with your body, and use it as a guide for this schedule.

It’s important to note though, that rest doesn’t always have to be planned; it can be impromptu. We’re all human. 

Some days your body might feel like giving out. Or it might be emotionally drained. Whatever it is, listen to your body, especially when it’s stressed, and honor it.

Remember, resting is also an act of self-care, and it can do miraculous things for your well-being.

Taking time to rest, however, is half of the battle. How you rest is the other half. 

Before I learned how to rest, I would notice I was exhausted, and decide to take a break. But then, I would spend that time scrolling on Instagram (can you tell this is my crutch?), Only to still feel drained, and overwhelmed, regardless of how long I spend scrolling.

I needed to figure out good ways to recharge, because hint hint, social media is not one of them.

So what are activities that will help you recharge? For some, It could be exercising, for others, it might be talking to a loved one, sleeping, meditating, listening to music, or doing something creative. 

A quick note: self-care doesn’t haven’t be something extravagant. It could literally be sitting in silence for five minutes, and allowing your thoughts to wander. You’d be surprised by where your brain goes without the noise of the world.

Anyways, the key is to do something that puts you in a relaxed state and makes you feel energized. Again, listening to your body can help you figure out what the activities are. 

While resting, however, you may notice that you feel guilty for not being productive. I know I struggled with this a lot. So how do you get that pesky emotion to leave you alone?

For me, it was realizing that resting is actually productive. 

For example, recently I noticed that whenever I do homework for hours on end, I start to get unfocused, or even a little sleepy. In the past, I would push through this, in order to get through my long to-do list. However, more recently, I started taking breaks and I noticed that I worked through my to-do list even faster.

It seems counterintuitive, especially since I believed resting was a waste of time and would slow me down. But it actually allowed me to work more efficiently. 

I would implore you to think about what beliefs make you feel guilty for resting. Is it that hustle mindset, that equates being a workaholic with success? Is it the idea that you don’t have time to rest? Is it pressure from people around you to always be “productive”?

I suggest journaling, meditating, or some other reflective practice to get to the root cause. 

It’s important to realize, though, that you won’t stop feeling guilty right away. But rather, it’s a process. And eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can rest without any guilt.


Hopefully, this post allowed you to see that it’s possible to achieve personal well-being and be academically successful. 

Intrinsic goals will allow you to control your happiness, even when you have to face a little adversity to achieve them.

And most importantly, you’ll know when it’s time to call it quits, and how to make the most of this time. 

This process is not a linear one. But the best thing you can do is to continue to show up for yourself, every single day. And hopefully, with time and effort, you’ll be in a better place than where you started. 

I wish you luck on your journey. 

It’s the monkey’s fault

Joshua Lee (’24) discusses some strategies for self-control from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct. “…individuals can strengthen self-control, similar to how muscles become stronger through exercise.”

I often find myself procrastinating when confronted with a writing assignment. I find writing to be more convoluted than other subjects, such as mathematics. In mathematics, there is one—and only one—correct answer. The subjective nature of writing was causing me to set aside writing assignments until the very last minute. I was searching for remedies to procrastination when I stumbled upon the book The Willpower Instinct. This book has been of tremendous help to me, and with courses increasing workloads, I wanted to share some valuable insights from it.

Kelly McGonigal, the author of The Willpower Instinct, explains that two sections of the brain constantly clash: the monkey and the rational self. The monkey is the obstacle that prevents humans from becoming more fit, spending less, and losing weight; it is the part of the brain that prioritizes instant gratification. The monkey is the reason people binge-watch Netflix shows instead of doing math homework. In contrast, the rational self reflects a person’s true desires and goals. McGonigal asserts that the only way to restrain the monkey from controlling decisions is to strengthen self-control.  

To successfully practice delayed gratification (the act of resisting an immediate reward for a more valuable future reward), people must utilize self-control for the three powers listed below:

  1. The “I will” power: the ability to make decisions that improve quality of life;
  2. The “I won’t” power: the ability to prevent decisions that may hinder success or happiness;
  3. The “I want” power: the ability to make choices that align with long-term goals, not instant gratification.

It takes people immense willpower to consistently make decisions that bring them closer to fulfilling their long-term goals. Fortunately, individuals can strengthen self-control, similar to how muscles become stronger through exercise. Self-control is critical in living a successful and fulfilling life, so what are some strategies to improve it?

Meditation is an effective method for building self-control. With just 11 hours of meditation, the brain begins to increase neural connections between regions of the brain that are important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses. Most individuals avoid meditation because they claim it takes too much time, but five to ten minutes is more than enough to yield fruitful results. Referred to as the “miracle drug,” exercise is another way to train willpower. Not only does it increase gray matter (brain cells) and white matter (nerve fibers that enable communication within the brain), but it serves as a powerful antidepressant. The intensity of exercise can depend on the person. Not everyone is a marathon runner: walking five minutes is better than no exercise. Although strengthening willpower is essential to defeating the monkey, becoming acquainted with the monkey’s deceptive tactics is just as important.

Moral licensing is when the brain justifies a bad behavior by praising good behavior. For instance, a shopper who restrained themself from purchasing fancy clothes may go home and enjoy sweets, or a student who worked hard on a project at school may justify playing video games for the rest of the day. Another common trick the monkey uses to make people relapse back into addiction or break good habits is recognized as the What The Hell Effect. The effect occurs when a person indulges in harmful behavior. For example, if a person on a diet ate a slice of cake, they may feel ashamed that they ruined their diet. The emotions of guilt and shame cause the dieter to indulge in even more unhealthy foods in an attempt to make themselves feel better, resulting in a downward spiral back to their old self.

The information and strategies I shared in this blog post only scratch the surface of The Willpower Instinct, so if what you read here sounded intriguing, I highly recommend reading the entire book for yourself.