This post is divided into three distinct parts:


Dear Reader: This post is slightly longer than usual – my apologies.

As a High School student you will write at least 20 to 50 essays by the time you graduate. This could be in the form of a class task, a homework exercise or timed-essay in the exam. Essay writing can be quite a demanding and daunting task and, as a result, many students go through High School without having grasped the essentials of a good essay.

Ever TriedTo avert such a catastrophe befalling on you, here are useful ways on how to successfully write a brilliant essay. Following the hints suggested here, step by step, is crucially beneficial in the short and long run.

You will definitely ace it if you follow these time-proven ideas! Good luck in all your endeavours.

Dispel Some Misconceptions

An essay should be written in a formal and impersonal way. This means it must be objective in its expression of ideas. Furthermore, it also means that specific reference to your personal opinion or to yourself as a performer of actions is usually avoided.

Personal Writing (To be avoided) Objective Writing (Instead, try this)
In my opinion .  . . It has been argued that . . . .
I believe that . . . Some writers claim . . . ./It is proposed that . . . .
In my view . . . . Clearly, . . . / It is clear that  . . .
I undertook the survey/study . . . . There is little that . . . .
I propose to . . . The survey/study was undertaken . . . .
In this essay I will examine . . . . This essay examines . . . .
In this report I will show… This report presents…
 I noticed… Analysis of the raw data indicated…

A note on paragraphing is also essential here:

Parts of a Paragraph

A paragraph is a group of sentences that communicates one main idea. Most paragraphs have three parts: a topic sentence, several supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

The topic sentence is the most important sentence in the paragraph. It is often the first sentence in a paragraph. It tells the reader what the paragraph is about.

Next comes the supporting sentences. These sentences give details, examples and reasons to explain the topic sentence. All of the supporting sentences must relate to the topic of the paragraph.

Some paragraphs end with a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence restates the main idea in different words. Here are some common ways to begin a concluding sentence: All in all …, As one can see …, Accordingly… .

Writing An Essay Plan


The Question: This starts with the question you are going to respond to. Read it carefully. Then UNDERLINE THE KEY WORDS that will tell you what sort of approach to take (Analyse, Explore, Discuss, etc).

Lastly, HIGHLIGHT key words relating to the question.

The planning gives a basic outline of your essay. Try using a “Spider diagram” or a “Pattern plan”- listing your points down – or “Mind-mapping” to brainstorm relevant ideas. In some circles, this means, make an outline!

Why should you plan?

  • To ensure that you include all the information you will need.
  • It sets out your main ideas clearly.
  • To make sure that your essay has got structure by taking the reader through your answer in a logical and progressive way.
  • So that you answer the question fully.
  • So that you don’t run out of time in an examination.
  • You can also select your connecting words and phrases, as well as quotes (if any) to each point/idea to earlier and later points.

The Introduction

Writing an effective introduction is one of the most important skills you must learn. A good introduction should:

  • give your reader a taste of what your essay is about
  • lead your reader into the rest of the essay
  • encourage them to continue reading, because what you are writing seems clear and interesting.

Another important sentence is your Thesis Statement – usually, the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. It must present the TOPIC of your essay and also make a comment about your POSITION in relation to the topic. It must tell the reader what your essay is about. It is very important!

Take Note: An introduction must connect back to the question being asked. A simple way to gauge how good or bad your introduction is, is to try this simple technique: “Remove the introductory paragraph and show it to another student and have them tell you what the essay question is. If the answer is NOT quite what the actual question is, then something isn’t right.” REVISE IT!

Usually, you will not use any quotes in your essay’s introduction. An introduction should be entirely in your own words.

The Body/Supporting Paragraphs – Follow the PEEE Technique!

This is the main body of your essay which should:

  • be clearly structured into well-organized paragraphs. A general rule is “one point = one paragraph”.
  • start with a topic sentence (POINT) making it clear what the paragraph is about.
  • have EVIDENCE to support your point. You do this through selecting a well-chosen quote; the quote should demonstrate the point you have made. It could be a sentence; phrase or a word.
  • EXPLAIN the link between your point and the evidence – how does the evidence support the point you have made?
  • What EFFECT does this have? How would the audience feel about this? Look at the author’s choice of language – what words does s/he use? What effect do these words have? Is what the author has done effective? What’s your personal response?

Here too, you may need to consult transitions (connectives) and phrases to spruce up your essay and become more scholarly. A whole list of them is available BELOW.

The Conclusion

A conclusion should not be a reworking of everything you have previously stated in your essay.  It is, instead, as crucial to the overall success of your essay as the other sections.  The conclusion needs to be a carefully constructed paragraph that ‘completes’ your argument.  It is an opportunity to leave the reader with a set of final, original ideas about the text that you have created yourself.  You should try to make a lasting impact in your conclusion, creating a paragraph that your reader remembers and show your own individual, intellectual and emotional engagement with the text that you are writing about.

Writing a good conclusion is important because it will:

  • round off your essay well, perhaps echoing your introduction to do so, usually in about 3-5 sentences in length.
  • leave your reader with a clear sense of what the essay was all about.
  • summarize all the points you have made clearly and concisely.

The format in writing a conclusion can be seen in three stages as:

  • A ‘general’ comment summarising the content of your essay.
  • A brief reference to one of the major points made in your essay.
  • A final summing up, perhaps including a specific, interesting detail.

You may find that you need more than one sentence to cover each point. As a rule of thumb having 3-5 sentences is fine.

Thus, a conclusion should contain NO new points and, so, no reference, as well.


Quotes are useful in writing because they serve to validate your point. Choose your quotes carefully, however; the best quotes are the ones that if you tried to paraphrase them, they would lose some of their power.

There are several ways to quote:

  • Quote a word/s
  • Quote phrases
  • Quote sentence(s)
  • Embed quotes into your sentences

ALWAYS explain the effect(s) of words; phrases or sentences to the question asked.

When using quotes, it is important to incorporate, or “blend” them seamlessly into your own words within a sentence. Do NOT put quotes alone in a sentence. Instead, introduce them in a way that they are part of your own sentence.

Remember, a quote should never appear in a sentence by itself, because then there is no context for the quote.

Use Signal Phrases

A quote can be smoothly integrated into the sentence by using a signal phrase.

The signal phrase can be a phrase, clause, or even sentence which leads into a quotation or statistic.  These generally include the speaker/author’s name and some justification for using him or her as an expert in this context; it may also help establish the context for the quotation.

Verbs in Signal Phrases

X states, “….” or According to X, “….”

X himself writes, “….”

In her book… X maintains that “….”

In the article… X claims that “….” In X’s view, “….”

X agrees/disagrees when she writes, “….”

X complicates matters further when she writes, “….”

According to…/ In her article…

In the opinion of (author’s name)…

(Author’s name) suggests/ argues that…

adds admits agrees argues asserts believes criticizes proclaims

claims comments compares demonstrates denies emphasizes

illustrates implies insists notes observes points out complains

reasons says states suggests thinks proposes comments

announces concludes predicts declares claims replies responds

remarks estimates presents observes exclaims writes acknowledges

grants  refutes illustrates

Never insert a quote or a paraphrase abruptly into your writing without first introducing the quote (or paraphrase), citing it, and explaining it.

This means that you will never begin or end a paragraph with a quote.

This method is often referred to as the ICE method of integrating quotes: Introduce, Cite, and then Explain.

ICE: Introduce, Cite, and Explain Your Evidence

Body paragraphs in academic essays contain evidence that supports debatable main ideas that appear in topic sentences, and responsible writers make sure to introduce, cite, and explain quotes and paraphrases used as evidence.

INTRODUCE: Introduce all your quotes using introductory phrases.  Here are some examples:

  • According to Michael Smith, “you should use the author’s first and last name when you cite that author for the first time in your paper” .
  • As Smith explains, “you can introduce your quotes with a number of different phrases” . 
  • Smith suggests that “if the introduction to your quote isn’t a dependent clause, it doesn’t need to be followed by a comma”.
  • Smith observes the following in his article: “When you use a colon to introduce a quote, you need a complete sentence preceding the colon”.

CITE: Provide appropriate parenthetical citations for all quotes and paraphrases (but not summaries).  Check the appropriate style guide for guidelines, e.g. MLA, APA, and Chicago.  Here are some guidelines for MLA style citation:

  • If the author’s name appears in the introduction to the quote or in the paraphrase, it doesn’t have to appear in the parenthetical reference, as the citations above illustrate.
  • If the author’s name does not appear in the introduction to the quote, the name must appear in the parenthetical reference.  See the following example of a cited paraphrase:

EXPLAIN: Make sure to explain your quotes.  Provide analysis that ties them back to your main idea / topic sentence.  In other words, comment on the evidence in order to incorporate it into the argument you’re making.

Never leave any room for interpretation. It is your responsibility as the writer to interpret the quote for your reader and provide the significance.


Ellipsis Points

If you want to make a long quote shorter in order to present the reader with a more concise quotation, do so using an ellipsis, which is three periods, each period having a space before and after it (example: “ . . . ”).

Example: When Fuller (2005) returns home, she explained, “…I was dislocated and depressed” (p. 72).

However, be careful not to cut words that change the tone or meaning of a quote.

Adding Text to Quotes

The quote you use should make grammatical sense with the rest of your sentence. Therefore, you may sometimes have to add words to a quote, or modify the verb form in the quoted text.

You do this by enclosing the added material in square brackets (like this: [ ] ).

Example: “I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.”  Og Mandino

 Blended:  Even though times may be difficult, it is important to be positive and “love the light for it shows me the way [while] endur[ing] the darkness because it shows me the stars” (Mandino).

Notice that brackets [    ]   were used to show that words were added or changed. You would do this when the quote as written does not flow well with your sentence. Use brackets if needed to change or add words and make the sentence flow!

Block Quotes

If you are quoting four or more lines of text, indent the quoted lines ten spaces from the left margin. Double-space the quote as you do the rest of your essay, and do not use quotation marks.

Quoting Poetry

Use the poem’s line number instead of page numbers to identify the quote. If you are quoting three lines or less of poetry, put a slash (/) between the lines to mark the line break

If you are quoting more than three lines, you must block quote them. However, do not double-space a block quote from a poem. Rather, you must attempt to recreate the line spacing and indenting of each line as it is in the original.

 Integrating Quotes Into Your Writing

 Quote the Good Stuff

Beware of using quotations that do not mean anything or add substance to your essay.

If a source says something so well that you couldn’t possibly change it, use it! If a source backs up a point you made, use it!

If you understand what a source is saying, use it! You will have to analyze it later, so understanding it will help you.

Avoid Over-Quoting

Remember “less is more.” Do not pad your essay with other people’s ideas.

Keep Quotations Short

Keep your quotations 1–2 sentences long or use a few key words/phrases. If you need it all, turn the quotation into a “block quotation,” but use them sparingly! “Block” the quotation if it’s more than 40 words long.

Block the quotation by having it start on a new line and in the same position as a new paragraph.

Copy Quotations Correctly

Misspellings and use of incorrect grammar when it’s obvious that the source couldn’t have made those mistakes affects your own credibility as a writer. Accuracy indicates care for one’s work.

Use brackets when you alter a word or phrase from the quotation. Use an ellipsis when you omit words or phrases from the quotation.

Use an ellipsis with brackets […] when you omit words in a sentence.

Do Not Start a Paragraph with a Quotation

A paragraph should begin with your ideas. The first sentence of a paragraph is known as the topic sentence or assertion, both of which support the focus of the essay. In turn, the quotation supports the topic sentence.

Do Not End a Paragraph with a Quotation

Always conclude the paragraph with your ideas. The last sentence should be part of your analysis of the quotation.

As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting. Your essay develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing – how the text “works.”

You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you SELECT, PRESENT, and DISCUSS material from the text specifically to “PROVE” your point – to make your case – in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.


Connectives connect and relate sentences and paragraphs. They assist in the logical flow of ideas as they signal the relationship between sentences and paragraphs.

In essay writing, the material is supported and conditioned not only by the ordering of the material (its position) but by connectives which signal order, relationship and movement.

Some of the more commonly used connectives are listed below.
Note especially how these connections function to develop, relate, connect and move ideas.

Introducing an Additional Point

These connectives are used to add further information/ideas.

  • in addition to
  • moreover
  • of equal importance
  • also
  • again
  • then
  • as well as
  • furthermore
  • the following
  • what is more
  • to complement

To Contrast or Balance

We use these connectives to compare two different ideas with each other to show that they are different.

  • but
  • actually
  • alternatively
  • despite this
  • the opposite
  • on the other hand
  • although
  • to balance this
  • however
  • in fact
  • to turn to
  • on the contrary
  • disproving
  • whereas
  • apart from
  • disputing this
  • nevertheless
  • nonetheless
  • yet
  • as for
  • instead
  • otherwise
  • equally
  • though

Indicating Sequence

  • These help to develop the logical sequence of your ideas.
  • They enable you to show chronological order.
  • initially
  • so far
  • finally
  • subsequently
  • in the end
  • succeeding
  • prior to
  • firstly
  • afterwards
  • secondly
  • meanwhile
  • eventually
  • following
  • previously
  • then
  • at last
  • next
  • at length
  • since
  • later
  • to begin with

 Making a Comparison

We use these connectives to compare two different ideas with each other to show that they are similar.

  • equally
  • in comparison
  • likewise
  • in juxtaposition
  • in contrast
  • similarly
  • comparatively
  • as with
  • by way of contrast
  • compared with
  • an equivalent
  • to balance this

 Introducing an Illustration

These connectives are used when we want to give an example of something.

  • for example
  • as revealed by
  • to take the case of
  • in other words
  • above all
  • specifically
  • in fact
  • for instance
  • to show that
  • to elucidate
  • a case in point
  • in particular
  • especially
  • that is to say
  • such as
  • thus
  • notably
  • significantly
  •  an instance
  •  explicitly

 Introducing Details or Examples

These connectives are used when we want to give an example of something.

  • For example
  • In fact
  • For instance
  • In any event
  • As evidence
  • In support of
  • Such as
  • To illustrate
  • In this case
  • As stated in / by
  • According to
  • As a result
  • In any case

In Persuading

These connectives are used when we want to give detail to our examples/explanations.

  •  of course
  • clearly
  • decidedly
  • no wonder
  • luckily
  • admittedly
  • naturally
  • surely
  • indeed
  • strangely enough
  • fortunately
  • undoubtedly
  • obviously
  • certainly
  • virtually
  • oddly enough
  • unfortunately

Indicating Time

These connectives are used to express time and are usually used to explain when something happens/has happened in relation to something else.

  • finally
  • later
  • last, lastly, at last, now,
  • then
  • when
  • soon
  • next
  • afterward
  • Thereafter
  • after a short time
  • the next week
  • A minute later
  • in the meantime
  • meanwhile,
  • on the following day
  • at length
  • ultimately
  • presently
  • subsequently

Indicating an Opinion/Interpretation/Qualification

These connectives help to explain why something may change because of something else.

  • it would seem
  • on the strength of
  • improbably
  • incredibly
  • imagine
  • presumably
  • one might consider
  • suggest
  • propose
  • suppose
  • deduce
  • conclude
  • theoretically
  • literally
  • obviously
  • possibly
  • maybe
  • contrary to

Indicating Cause and Effect

These connectives help to explain why something happens.

  • consequently
  • thus
  • so
  • hence
  • as a result
  • because
  • Therefore
  • Accordingly
  • since
  • whenever
  • until
  • as long as
  • effectively
  • of course
  • depending upon necessarily
  • eventually
  • inevitably
  • it may happen


In Conclusion or Summary

These connectives help to show that you have come to the end of an idea/sums up your essay.

  • to conclude
  • finally
  • on the whole
  • summarizing
  • throughout
  • undoubtedly
  • In any case
  • obviously
  • in conclusion
  • in the end ultimately
  • overall
  • to recapitulate
  • briefly
  • as noted above
  • In any event
  • after all
  • in brief
  • to sum up
  • in a nutshell
  • in summary
  • unquestionably

Connectives make your writing more powerful and help the reader move smoothly from one point to the next.

Always REMEMBER  to use connectives to make your ideas flow and to improve the structure of your writing.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!




High school students will soon be on the job market. Some, after work experience in the summer, will get a weekend job while others will have to spruce up their curriculum vitaes (CVs) waiting for the next job opportunity.

However, many jobseekers are ruling themselves out before they even get called for an interview with a string of mistakes, bloopers and howlers on their CVs, which can easily be avoided.

So don’t be found wanting when you do your CV no matter what type of opportunity you are seeking.

Here are some of the common mistakes, bloopers and howlers you need to avoid on your CV:

1. Including Irrelevant Personal InformationRecruiters are inundated with CVs for every job available so it is normal for them to spend just ten seconds looking at CVs. So don’t clog up your CV with irrelevant information that’s not going to help your application – and may cause recruiters to miss the really juicy contents. This means unless it’s directly relevant to the position you’re applying for, leave out details like your religion, political preferences, height, weight and the story about the time you met one of the celebrities.

2. Poor Spelling And GrammarThere are no excuses for spelling mistakes – even if English isn’t your forte. An error-free CV is vital in showcasing your precision and attention to detail, so check everything – even your contact details. Spellcheck and proofread your CV yourself before asking others to cast their critical eye checking it over for you.

Consider these sentences – Can you identify where the errors are?

  • I am a prooficient typist.
  • Socially I like to dine out with different backgrounds.
  • I left last four jobs only because the managers were completely unreasonable.
  • I have excellent typong skills.
  • While working in this role, I had intercourse with a variety of people.

Thus, it is essential to minimise the risk of making mistakes by taking your time – never leave writing your CV to the last minute. Rushed examples are easily spotted and quickly dismissed.

‘Careless errors are rarely tolerated. So, avoid needless rejection by slowly and meticulously checking over your CV.’

Having good written English is a skill that most employers look for, so make sure that you don’t do what one candidate did and write your entire CV in abbreviated text language throughout.

3. Using One Version Of Your CVIf you have just one version of your CV that you are using to make multiple applications, the chances are that this is not working for you. Every job description is different – address the person specification succinctly – so you need to focus and target your CV each time you make an application.

Some recruitment experts believe that spending quality time on fewer applications is generally more effective that the scatter-gun approach. This also means . . .

4. Failing To Tailor Your ApplicationWhen it comes to CVs, one size doesn’t fit all. Everything that you include must be completely tailored to the company and role that you’re applying for. This actually makes it easy for the recruiter to see that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.

By looking closely at the job description or person specification helps you in sensing whether you’ve sufficiently assessed the job requirements. Through evaluating which of your skills match the job specification most effectively will give you the best chance of success.

‘Don’t be afraid to remove irrelevant experiences, even if you’re applying for similar roles with different organisations, check their specific requirements and tweak your CV accordingly.’

5. Info Graphics And Overly Designed CVsKeep your CV format clean and clutter free. Use a sensible amount of white space and don’t cram too much into a small space.

Your CV will not get noticed more because you’ve coloured it purple and made the headings exceptionally large. Don’t use graphics to self-certify your skills, employers don’t buy that. Also, graphics aren’t easy to read so they are likely to be entirely missed by initial filters.

6. Poor Formatting And Unnecessarily Elaborate DesignCVs that aren’t clear and easy to read are a huge turn-off for employers. Research shows that recruiters spend an average of just about ten seconds reviewing each CV that they receive – which leaves you precious little time to make a good first impression.

These days, the chances are your CV is going to be judged on a screen. So don’t take the opportunity to play with fancy fonts and colours – stick to typefaces that are screen friendly (like Ariel, Times New Roman or Verdana) and use a font size of 10 or 12 for body copy, and slightly larger for subheadings. If you’re sending it as an attachment, use Word and avoid backgrounds and ornate borders. Let your experiences and achievements be the star.

Before printing or submitting your CV, save it and spend some time away from it. Going back to it for a second time to scrutinise how everything looks on your computer screen is a good advice.

 Thus, cluttered, disorganised and messy are three characteristics that your CV shouldn’t possess.

7. Lying Or Manipulation Of The TruthWhen you’re trying to get a foot in the door and impress potential employers, it’s tempting to be economical with the truth, because who’s going to check, right?

Wrong! The facts on your CV are easy to corroborate so never assume that recruiters won’t make enquiries to do so.

Giving yourself a grade boost, fibbing about your current job title or embellishing a period of work experience won’t do you any favours in the long run. At best, your lies will be obvious and your CV will be rejected out of hand. At worst, you may be invited for an interview where you’ll either trip yourself up or be asked questions that you’re unable to answer.

While your CV should absolutely be the best, shiny version of you and your experiences, making up qualifications, experiences or achievements will invalidate any of your real, hard won successes. Recruiters are on the lookout for anything that seems out of place, including salaries and job titles (and are often expert at spotting them), so be honest and ensure that you give your real attributes a fair chance of getting you the job you want.

Instead of using your time and energy to concoct half-truths and complete fabrications, use it instead to really sell the qualifications, skills and experience you do have.

8. Lack Of EvidenceIt’s easy to make generic, empty statements on your CV when you’re trying to meet a tight application deadline. However, failing to effectively evidence your skills, achievements and experiences can be a fatal mistake.

Always try to quantify your successes whenever possible – but never at the expense of the CV’s readability. Recruiters will be assessing not just what you’ve done, but also your written communication skills so writing concisely but meaningfully is crucial, as this is a central element of many jobs.

9. Not Explaining ‘Why’It isn’t enough to just state your credentials; you need to prove them by justifying why you’ve chosen to undertake certain activities in terms of your personal and professional development. You should then elaborate even further on the resulting skills you’ve gained.

As for High School students, discussing your extra-curricular activities is very important providing you pay particular attention to any positions of responsibility you’ve held and outline what you’ve taken from the experience.Ever Tried

As a general rule, okay CVs give you the ‘what’ – for example, the degrees or jobs that person has held. However, great CVs also give you the ‘why’ – for example, why that person has chosen that degree or society.

10. Copied And Pasted Job DescriptionsThis is a big no, no! A CV is a personal document and should provide evidence of what you have done, your own individual achievements. It’s not simply about reciting a list of job responsibilities. Think about it, if every ‘customer service assistant’ copied and pasted their job description into their CV how would an employer ever choose whom to interview?

11. Ignoring Gaps In Your Work HistoryGaps in employment history are fairly common and rarely a problem as long as they’re explained.

You don’t need to worry about gaps of a couple of weeks but if you’ve been out of work for months (or even years) you need to clearly and concisely explain why. Any unexplained absences of this length will be looked upon with suspicion by potential employers and will give the impression that you’ve been idle during this time.

Don’t be afraid to let recruiters know that you took some time out to volunteer, look after a sick relative or travel the world. There’s also no shame in informing employers of a period spent away from work due to illness or redundancy or . . .

12. Mysterious Gaps In EmploymentIf for any reason you’ve taken a break for employment – whether it’s for travel, study, volunteering, redundancy or simply to care for your child – explain it. If you don’t, recruiter may jump to their own, less flattering conclusions and pass your CV over without a second thought.

13. A Meaningless IntroductionIf you include an introduction in your CV, make sure it’s to the point, and accurately sums up the key qualities the recruiter is looking for. Avoid meaningless phrases like ‘dynamic, results-oriented, driven, personable team player’ and instead clearly outline your key qualification for the role. For example, ‘Part time sales manager with 16 years’ experience in the commercial sector’. If a recruiter looks at one thing on your CV, it could well be your introduction so ensure it tells them as much as possible.

14. Being Too VagueUsing phrases like ‘several’, ‘a few’ and ‘numerous’ can come across as too vague on a CV. So if you spent three years working on a project, say so. Or if you exceeded a sales target, include how much it was by. And if you say you delivered more than a client was expecting, briefly explain how. If you’re too vague it can seem like at best you’re exaggerating, at worst, making something up completely.writing-notes-idea-conference.jpg

15. Including ReferencesYou’ve little enough space on your CV to ensure you are able to portray yourself as the full package, so don’t waste any with lengthy references. Most recruiters don’t expect them, and a simple note saying ‘References available on request’ is enough. If a job advert specifically requests references, you can include them on a separate sheet.

16. Hiding Important InformationJust as you need to declutter your CV by leaving out anything irrelevant, it’s vital to highlight the key points that may help swing an interview for a particular job. So think about the design of your CV and ways you can bring important details to the fore, for example by putting key achievements in bullet points or bolding your previous job titles.

Finally note that . . .

We all make mistakes. That’s just part of being human. The important thing is that we learn from them. If you have been firing off your CV and getting no response, it may be time to reflect and ask yourself why? Just go through the list of common mistakes, bloopers and howlers on CVs, which you can easily avoid. Correct yourself and see what you can achieve.

In one of my forthcoming instalments, I am going to look at the format of a good CV. In other words, what do I have to include in my CV, or what topics or sub-topics do I have to address?

Until then, good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.




The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any ~ Fred Astaire.

Whilst preparing this post, I kept on thinking about questions which would start me off. I finally settled on four important ones:

  • Is society better when people treat each other with respect? If so, why?
  • Is a classroom better when both students and teacher show mutual respect?
  • What does the saying: “Good manners are one of the most important keys to success in life” mean?
  • Which impresses people more — being “COOL” or being “COURTEOUS”?

High School students are no exception when it comes to manners. My watchwords to my students are always:

  • To boys – Manners will make you a GENTLEMAN. Rudeness is never manly.
  • To girls – Manners will make you a LADY.

No one ever went wrong by being polite – Hal Urban

Children are a reflection of where they are coming from. Thus, helping your children master the simple rules of etiquette will get them noticed — for all the right reasons.

In most cases some of our High School students’ rude attitude isn’t always intentional. Sometimes our students just don’t realize it’s impolite to interrupt, or pick their nose. Our teens are consequently affected negatively in the hustle and bustle of daily life, where busy parents don’t always have the time to focus on etiquette.

Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go ~Margaret Walker.

But if we – I mean both mum and dad or guardian – reinforce some must-do manners, we are bound to raise polite, kind and well-liked students who will have a great time in High School. I teach manners to my High School students and being a well-travelled teacher as well as teaching in diversified classrooms, I find that teaching and modeling certain mannerisms and behavioural ettiquecy help a lot.

Manners are minor morals. They are the everyday ways we respect other people and facilitate social relations. They make up the moral fabric of our shared lives. They need to be taught – Thomas Lickona.

17 Classroom Manners & Etiquette

IN MY CLASSROOM I insist and demand from my young ladies and gentlemen that:

Love Sign

  1. When asking for something, say “Please.”
  2. When receiving something, say “Thank you.”
  3. Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.
  4. If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.
  5. When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.
  6. Knock on closed doors — and wait to see if there’s a response — before entering.
  7. When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.
  8. Never use foul language in front of adults.
  9. Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.
  10. Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.
  11. If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me” or “Sorry.”
  12. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.
  13. As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.
  14. If you come across an adult working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — you may learn something new.
  15. When an adult at school asks you for a favour, do it without grumbling and with a smile.
  16. When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!
  17. Teach the hello-goodbye rule -When you enter somebody’s space, it’s common courtesy to greet them. You should do the same thing with your parents whenever you come into your house.

My other rule is my Hello-Goodbye Rule. When students come into the classroom, I’d like them to say, “Hello/Good morning/afternoon, Mr. Chimbizi.” I will, of course, return their greeting and say hello back to them. And when they leave the classroom, I like them to say, “Goodbye, Mr. Chimbizi.” I may follow it with a good-bye handshake.

At Home: Respecting You and Other Adults

It is essential to remember that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

At home things may be slightly different as our teenagers of High School going-age’s respect towards us and other adults might waiver but we must never let them get away with being rude or blowing us off. Maintaining good manners at this age will set them up for more successes in adult life.

Family Education places a high priority on teenagers’ behaviour and set aside time to teach them about the importance of good manners and proper social conduct.

 Without good manners, human society becomes intolerable – George Bernard Shaw.

  • Listen to your teen and expect them to listen to you in return. Mutual respect is more important than ever during your child’s teen years.
  • Tell them that being on time for appointments and other plans is a sign of respect, so don’t be late.
  • Encourage them to help older people when they need a hand. Volunteering is a great way to practice good manners and interacting with different kinds of people.
  • Give your teen time for privacy and using new media, like mobile phones and music players. But ask for them full attention when you’re talking or eating with them. Most teens are obsessed with media, so setting rules for appropriate use will help them learn good etiquette.
  • Teach them the three R’s before they get to school: Respect for self; Respect for others and to accept Responsibility for all their actions.

A – Z Guide to Manners and Etiquette

Grow Learn Explore

The A – Z Guide to Manners and Etiquette looks at the new forces shaping the way we live, as well as some old ones, and suggests the best ways to behave. It’s not about pointing the finger at people and calling out bad behaviour; it’s about using common sense and thinking about how your actions might make other people feel in that situation.

Teens’ Manners – Show everyone how grown up you are by demonstrating good manners.

That’s just good manners which, alphabetically are:

  1. A       — ACCEPT a compliment graciously.
  2. B       — BE on time.
  3. C       — CLEAN your hands.
  4. D      — DO chew with your mouth closed.
  5. E       — ELBOWS off the table.
  6. F       — FRIENDLINESS to others.
  7. G     — GOOD grooming shows self-respect.
  8. H      — HAVE a go with humility.
  9. I       — INTERRUPT only for a very important reason.
  10. J       — JOIN in and include everybody.
  11. K       — KINDNESS to all living things.
  12. L       — LEND a helping hand.
  13. M      — MAGIC words: “Please” and “Thank you.”
  14. N       — NEVER point or laugh at others.
  15.       — OBEY the rules.
  16. P       — PLEASANT tone of voice is a plus.
  17. Q       — QUIET when others are working or sleeping.
  18. R       — REMEMBER others on special occasions.
  19. S       — SIT up straight.
  20. T       — THANK the host or hostess.
  21. U       — USE your beautiful smile.
  22. V       — VISIT a friend who is lonely or sick.
  23. W     — WATCH out for little ones.
  24. X      — “X” out bad habits.
  25. Y      — YAWN if you must but cover your mouth.
  26. Z     — ZIP your zipper.

There is no right or wrong way to walk and text simultaneously. There is, however, a way to do it that will cause the least inconvenience for everyone else using the footpath. You can work out what form that takes by having a little empathy for your fellow humans.

Some people will have bad manners, no matter what. That doesn’t mean you have to respond to bad manners with more bad manners. When someone else is being rude, avoid lowering yourself to their level.

By sending home a copy of the A – Z Guide to Manners and Etiquette the students are being taught, gives parents an unspoken invitation to do the same at home.


Being polite, respectful, and pleasant is essential in all social and professional situations. Thus, it is never too late to teach good manners to our High School students. After all they are still children, and need guidance from us to prosper in life.

On a final note, please remember that  . . .

Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities. – Judith Martin

Good luck in your endevaours.

My next post on this exciting topic is entitled:

How To Make Our Students & Children Do Anything We Ask Of Them.

Until then, . . .

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.



I have had two posts on the subject of Critical Thinking entitled:

True courage is a result of reasoning. A brave mind is always impregnable. – Jeremy Collier

Being willing and able to think well, engaging important issues and resolving key problems, is vital for a student’s academic success. This means both parents and teachers need to reinforce a positive critical thinking mindset from an early age.

In order to engage students in successful critical thinking skills development and to reinforce a positive critical thinking mindset, there are a few basics to keep in mind as Dr Carol Gittens suggests. Dr Gittens came up with a list of suggestions that are useful techniques to promoting strong critical thinking and reasoning skills among students:

Effective Techniques for Building Reasoning Skills

  • Use silence to allow everyone time to think through the question before the conversation begins.
  • Pose thoughtful or insightful questions and intentionally allow 10–15 seconds of silence to elapse before calling on students to respond.
  • Work from example to theory – Discuss the examples in the text first, and then draw out the concepts they teach. This technique practices students’ inductive reasoning skills and promotes active engagement and inquisitiveness.
  • Make the language of thinking a familiar vocabulary – Use critical thinking vocabulary when posing questions to students to reinforce conceptual understanding and promote recognition of reasoning. Use the names of the skills and the habits of mind that are found in the textbook. For example, use phrases such as: “What is your reason for that claim?” or “Let’s interpret this statement . . .” or “What inferences can we reasonably draw from these facts?” or “Let’s be systematic in our analysis of . . . ”
  • Engage students in dynamic learning activities that promote independent thinking or exposure to the thinking of others. This may include maintaining a reflective journal, conversing with a partner, small groups, or the whole class; investigations, inquiries, and informed conversations; debates, simulations, role playing, fishbowl activities, panel discussions, brainstorming exercises, case studies, individual or group argument mapping or social networking features.
  • Expect students to provide reasons or explanations for all of their claims, interpretations, analyses, evaluations and decisions. Ask why and expect a good, well-reasoned answer. Don’t let students get by with shut-down clichés such as, “That’s just how I feel about . . . ” or “I was brought up to think that . . .” “My parents always said that . . . ” or “It’s common sense that . . .”
  • Model strong critical thinking for your students – Your students watch you to see if you believe in the value of critical thinking, so what you say and what you do might be more powerful in motivating them to build their critical thinking skills than anything they read or hear in a lesson. If you show that you practice the positive critical thinking habits of mind and that you engage in problems and decisions by applying critical thinking skills, that message comes through to them. If you do not, you reflect a negative message.

Thus, once the parameters have been set up for developing critical thinking among students, it is equally important to instill in students the reasoning behind certain assumptions.

8 Reasoning Capacities For Students To Observe

Observing the following suggestions will enhance students’ reasoning capacities beyond the classroom:

1) All reasoning has a PURPOSE. For example,

  • Can you state your purpose clearly?
  • What is the objective of your reasoning?
  • Is your goal realistic?

2) All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some PROBLEM. For example,

  • What questions are you trying to answer?
  • Are there other ways to think about the question?
  • Can you divide the question into sub-questions?
  • Is this a question that has one right answer or can there be more than one reasonable answer?
  • Does this question require judgment rather than facts alone?

3) All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS. For example,

  • What assumptions are you making? Are they justified?
  • How are your assumptions shaping your point of view?
  • Which of your assumptions might reasonably be questioned?

4) All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW. For example,

  • What is your point of view?/What insights is it based on?
  • What are its weaknesses?/What are its strengths?
  • What other points of view should be considered in reasoning through this problem?

5) All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE. For example,

  • To what extent is your reasoning supported by relevant data?
  • How clear, accurate, and relevant are the data to the question at issue?
  • Have you gathered sufficient data to reaching a reasonable conclusion?

6) All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by CONCEPTS and THEORIES. For example,

  • What key concepts and theories are guiding your reasoning?
  • What alternative explanations might be possible, given these concepts and theories?
  • Are you clear and precise in using concepts and theories in your reasoning?
  • Are you distorting ideas to fit your agenda?

7) All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data. For example,

  • To what extent does the data we have support your conclusions?
  • Are your inferences consistent with each other?
  • Are there other reasonable inferences that should be considered?

8) All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES. For example,

  • What implications and consequences follow from your reasoning?
  • If we accept your line of reasoning, what implications or consequences are likely . . .?

Having high reasoning skills for High School students can help them in their working situations be it at school or home as well as in their interpersonal relationships. Of course, the above points offer a variety of ways to change your reasoning skills for the better. By engaging in activities that encourage critical thought, working on altering your thought patterns, and learning to recognize irrational thoughts will certainly see a change in you. Try it today and see the differences.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!


In my first post on Critical Thinking, my focus was on:

  • Defining it.
  • The benefit of foresight
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Critical thinking at home

In this second post, my focus is on:

  • Asking questions – Reasoning and Problem-solving
  • Developing Critical Thinking Skills
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking
  • Questioning To Develop Critical Thinking
  • 18 Ways To Develop Critical Thinking Among Students

Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you ― Richard Dawkins

Asking Questions To Model The Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is a self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically, consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably and empathically.

Teachers model critical thinking by the type of questions they ask. By framing questions that explore each of the critical thinking skills, one at a time and by referring to Bloom’s taxonomy to help them set the correct level of challenge through reasoning and problem solving that will make students thrive in this challenging world.

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking

Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives (1956) provides a useful way to think about when and how to use questions in teaching. As the following shows, Bloom identified six types of cognitive processes and ordered these according to the level of complexity involved. Ideally, teachers should combine questions that require “lower-order thinking” (often “closed” questions) to assess students’ knowledge and comprehension with questions that require “higher-order thinking” (often “open” questions) to assess students’ abilities to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.


REMEMBERING  – This means memorizing and recalling facts by recognizing, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving or naming, eg:

  • What do we already know about . . . ?
  • What are the principles of . . . ?
  • How does . . . tie in with what we learned before?

UNDERSTANDING  – This is interpreting meaning by describing, generalizing, explaining, estimating or predicting, eg:

  • Summarize . . . or Explain . . .
  • What will happen if . . . ?
  • What does . . . mean?

To develop critical thinking skills, teachers model the thinking processes necessary for the development of the skills. The thinking process is cyclical, containing several key steps, starting with an issue or focus, before then questioning and analysing the evidence, then empathising and defining possible hypothesise, before forming a view or reviewing the evidence.


APPLYINGThis means applying knowledge to new situations by implementing, carrying out, using, applying, showing, solving or hypothesizing, eg:

  • What would happen if…?
  • What is a new example of…?
  • How could … be used to…?
  • What is the counterargument for…?

ANALYZING – It is breaking down or examining information through comparing, organizing or deconstructing, eg:

  • What are the implications of . . .?
  • Explain why / Explain how . . . ?
  • What is … analogous to . . . ?
  • How are … and … similar?

EVALUATING – This is judging or deciding according to a set of criteria by checking, critiquing, concluding or explaining, eg:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement…?
  • What evidence is there to support your answer?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of . . .?
  • What is the nature of . . .?

CREATING/SYNTHESISING  – This is combining elements into a new pattern by designing, constructing, planning or producing, eg:

  • What is the solution to the problem of…?
  • What do you think causes…?  Why?
  • What is another way to look at…?

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking has been an important issue in education, and has become quite the buzzword around schools. Critical thinking is a skill that young minds will undeniably need and exercise well beyond their school years. Experts agree that in keeping up with the ever-changing technological advances, students will need to obtain, understand and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. It is our job as educators to equip our students with the strategies and skills they need to think critically in order to cope with these tech problems and obstacles they face elsewhere.

18 Ways To Develop Critical Thinking Among Students

These techniques can generate ideas to develop critical thinking in students:

  1. BRAINSTORMING before everything you do – One of the easiest and most effective ways to get students to think critically is to brainstorm. Regardless of subject, have students think about what they’ll be doing, learning or reading before actually starting each activity. Ask a lot of questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me three things you think you will be learning in this lesson about . . .” Give students every opportunity you can to be critical thinkers.
  2. GUIDING them as they gather and question as much relevant information as possible/sufficient to inform thinking, eg: mind map or visual organiser, pair-share or collective memory.
  3. USING SCAFFOLDS to organise their thinking, eg: listing evidence For and Against.
  4. BALANCING VIEWS and contradictory or opposing evidence, weighing one set against another, eg: ideas on post-it notes, info-graphs or role play.
  5. CONFERENCE STYLE LEARNING – Another strategy to develop critical thinking in students is for the teacher to avoid “teaching” in class, but play the role of a facilitator in a conference, where you guide the class along even as students are the ones who do the reading and explaining. It is important that teachers’ do not misinterpret their role to be passive but remain in control of the lesson while letting the students do the thinking.
  6. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS – By giving students broad writing assignments allows them to think through an issue. Teachers should encourage students to reason and argue both sides of the issue as well as subjecting thinking to challenges and hypothesis forming.
  7. EXPLORING ideas from different perspectives and empathise, eg: imagine a situation from the perspective of others or arrange a debate.
  8. Asking students to JUSTIFY THEIR REASONING and the views they arrive at, eg: hot-seating or debate.
  9. AVOIDING BEING JUDGMENTAL, eg: empathise and continually test their own perspective.
  10. AMBIGUITY – Being a little ambiguous forces students to think for themselves. Remember though that there is a difference between being ambiguous and simply confusing your students.
  11. MODELLING the use of good critical thinking questions, to find out more and think problems through.
  12. Providing GROUP OPPORTUNITIES – Group settings are the perfect way to get students thinking. When students are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think and that their way is not the only route to explore.
  13. MAKING CONNECTIONS – Encourage students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look out for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.
  14. Designing QUESTIONNAIRES by students for an interview that is part of a project based learning or for a guest speaker talking on a specific topic of interest followed by analyzing and interpreting their findings make the students active learners. This, in turn, would aid in making meaningful connections, proving and altering their hypothesis and drawing relevant conclusions.
  15. COMPARING and CONTRASTING – Much like classifying, students will need to look closely at each topic or object they are comparing and really think about the significance of each one.
  16. CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES – In this technique, the teacher lets the student assess the lessons on an ongoing basis. Posing questions like ‘What’s the most important you learnt from today’s lesson’ will get into thinking critically.
  17. CLASSIFYING and CATEGORIZING – Classification plays an important role in critical thinking because it requires students to understand and apply a set of rules. Give students a variety of objects/ideas and ask them to identify each one of them, then sort them into categories. This is a great activity to help students think and self-question what objects/ideas should go where and why.
  18. CASE STUDY/ DISCUSSION METHOD – This technique helps to foster a discussion or present a case study in the classroom. The teacher does not present a conclusion but would let the students wander through the discussion or case and think their way to a conclusion.

Surely, the development of critical thinking skills like any other skill needs adequate exposure and opportunities to apply them. All this demands teachers’ use of innovative and creative mode of teaching and learning in this ever-changing world of education.

 Do you have some strategies that you can use to encourage critical thinking in the classroom? Please share your ideas.

Closely related to the benefits of teaching Critical Thinking skills among OUR students and children at home is the issue of REASONING. Hence, my THIRD post is entitled:

Amazing Ideas On Training Reasoning Skills Among Students

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

REALISING YOUR FULL POTENTIAL – Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals – Stephen Covey-

Dr Stephen Covey (1932-2012) was a highly influential management guru and author of the now classically regarded The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. First published in 1989, the book has become an international blueprint for personal and professional self-development, leadership, time management, effectiveness, success and even love and family.

The principles as outlined in the book may be used for life in general – they are not limited to workplaces, management or leadership. Covey’s concepts actually can help people to grow, change, and become more effective in really any other aspect of human responsibility that you might imagine.

Although critics have argued that Covey’s work is nothing more than good common sense, the book has remained in the bestseller charts for many years.

I am giving you here an overview of the seven habits philosophy and practical suggestions for how those habits can be used as part of a self-development strategy.

Finally, I have also presented the main criticisms of Covey’s work.

An Overview Of The ‘The Seven Habits’

The book offers a philosophy for life based on seven fundamental principles. These can be applied in a professional context and also to family/personal relationships. Central to the book is the idea of making a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way we think and act. By adopting each of the seven principles or habits, as they are known, Covey encourages us to change our internal mindset and become more effective in all aspects of our lives.

The ‘Habits’ seem very simple, and in many ways they are, yet to varying degrees, they may entail quite serious changes to thinking and acting.

What Is A habit?

At the beginning of the book, Covey defines a habit as a combination of:

  1. Knowledge (the ‘what to do’ and the ‘why’)
  2. Skill (the ‘how’ to do)
  3. Desire (the ‘want to do’)

In order to make something a habit in our lives, we must demonstrate all three areas.

Habits 1, 2 and 3 are about moving from a state of dependence on others to complete independence (or self-mastery, as Covey calls it).

Habits 4, 5 and 6 are about improving our interdependence, that is, our ability to work well with others.

The seventh and final habit is about looking after our physical and emotional well-being.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are as follows:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

This is about taking personal responsibility for our own lives and how they develop. This is the ability to control one’s environment, rather than having it control you, as is so often the case.

If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting  – Stephen Covey –

Rather than simply reacting to things that are beyond our control, Covey explains that we should focus our energy and time on the things over which we do have control. As he explains:

Your life doesn’t just happen. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose success. You choose failure. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice.

By making a conscious choice to be a proactive person, rather than someone who is passive and reactive in life, Covey suggests that we can start to create opportunities to do things differently, and so produce better outcomes for ourselves. The decisions that we make in life are the primary factor which determines how effective we will be, so it makes sense to take personal responsibility over our choices.

Habit 1: Putting It Into Practice

One of the most powerful ways we can develop a more positive mindset is to consider our overall outlook and the language we use to describe situations. For example, when faced with a difficult challenge or conflict at work, a reactive person might say, ‘There is nothing I can do’, and so takes no action to try to improve the situation. However, a proactive person strives to adopt a positive ‘can do’ outlook, so might instead say, ‘Let’s look at our options here’, and then decides to take action to move towards a positive solution. When a colleague or friend causes upset, a reactive person might say, ‘S/he makes me so angry and annoyed’ whereas a proactive person would think ‘I can control my own feelings and responses.’

If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm – Stephen Covey –

What to do:

  • Think about the way in which you describe difficult or challenging situations you find yourself in.
  • What does your choice of language say about your approach?
  • Do you tend to let situations wash over you, or are you someone who tries to make the best of things?
  • Why not ask a trusted colleague or mentor to give you some feedback about your general outlook and the type of person you are perceived as?
  • Try to make a conscious effort to use more positive, proactive language and to gradually become more proactive in your overall approach to problems and challenges.
  • Another way to become more proactive is to consider our Circles of Concern and Circles of Influence. We are all concerned about different things in life, such as our families, our health, problems at work, as well as much bigger issues like global warming or the debt crisis. Proactive people channel their efforts within their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about, i.e. improving their health, nurturing their children, and working to improve issues or problems at work. By contrast, reactive people focus their efforts in the wider Circle of Concern – areas over which they have little or no control.

What about trying these?

  • Take a moment to consider your own personal Circles of Concern and Influence.
  • What do you worry most about?
  • Are you focusing your energies on areas where you really can make an impact or on things which are outside your control?
  • Actively focus on expanding your own personal Circle of Influence. The opportunities you have are a result of the people you know or are connected to.
  • In order to develop greater opportunities and expand your horizons, it is a good idea to try to strategically increase your connections to the right people, and bring them within your Circle of Influence.
  • You can do this by making the most of opportunities to build trusting relationships with the people you need to influence.

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall – Stephen Covey –

Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind

Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership – leading oneself, that is, towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.

Habit 2 is about creating a personal vision about how we want our lives to be. Central to this habit is the idea of centredness. This describes the things we choose to make the focus of our lives. For example, many people place greatest importance upon areas like their family, status or position at work, money and wealth, material possessions or following a religion.

Covey argues that by thinking deeply about our most important values and life goals, we can then make a conscious effort towards making them a reality. He says we must first conceptualise and visualise what it is we want to achieve in life, and then create a plan to make our goals a reality. This can be done on a personal (individual) level, as well as at a wider organisational or team level.

Habit 2: Putting It Into Practice

One of the best ways to incorporate Habit 2 into our lives is to develop a Personal Mission Statement. This should focus on what we want to be and do with our lives. Covey says that developing a mission statement cannot be done overnight, but takes time and thought to develop. He advises breaking the mission statement (or personal constitution, as it is often known) down into the specific areas of our lives and considering the specific goals we wish to accomplish within each.

A mission statement is not something you write overnight… But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life – Stephen Covey – 

What to do:

Consider the different roles you have in life.

  • What is your professional role?
  • What is the role of your team?
  • What role do you play within your personal relationships, social circle or local community?

Think about the things that are most important to you in each of these areas. What goals do you want to work towards in each area? Identify the ideal characteristics for each of these roles, and use them to guide how you will think and act.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Covey’s third habit is about developing the skills needed to achieve the vision and life goals set out in Habit 2. This is the habit of personal management. It is about organising and implementing activities in line with the aims established in Habit 2. Covey says that Habit 2 is the first, or mental creation; Habit 3 is the second, or physical creation.

To help us do this effectively, Covey asks us to consider two key questions:

  1. What one thing (that you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?
  2. What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

Habit 3 is about helping us to make the answers to the above questions a priority, instead of putting them off because we are distracted by crises or much less important tasks.

Habit 3: Putting It Into Practice

To help put Habit 3 into practice, Covey suggests using a tool he has developed known as the Time Management Quadrant. This can be used to help plan, prioritise and implement tasks and activities based on their overall importance (e.g. how closely they are aligned to our key goals and values) rather than their urgency.

Covey uses a simple four box matrix to convey this. Using the matrix, tasks are prioritised as:

  • urgent/important,
  • not urgent/important,
  • urgent/not important and
  • not urgent/not important.

Covey believes that the key to success is concentrating on highly important but non-urgent issues, across all the identified activities. These, he argues, are the most important in terms of self-development, but are also the ones that are most commonly ignored.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.  -Stephen Covey –

What to do:

You can use Covey’s quadrant to improve the way you manage your own (as well as your team’s) time, in order to free up more resources to concentrate on achieving wider goals. First, consider all the tasks and projects you have on at present according to their importance and urgency. You should aim to concentrate the majority of your (or your team’s) time, resources and personal effort on the highly important but non-urgent issues, as these are the areas most likely to be neglected.

Habit 4: Think ‘Win-Win’

Habit 4 is about developing a personal leadership philosophy which is based on ‘win-win’ thinking. Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.

Covey explains that when we interact and collaborate with other people (be it within family relationships, at work or socially) there are six ways in which we can approach situations and challenges:

  1. Win-win. This means that all agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying for all parties.
  2. Win-lose. This is a highly authoritarian approach, in which one party gets their way, and other party loses out completely.
  3. Lose-win. This is seen as capitulation, or giving in to another person’s preferred approach.
  4. Lose-lose. This is a philosophy of adversarial conflict, where people are desperate for the other party to lose out, even if it means losing themselves.
  5. People with this mentality simply think about securing their own success, but they don’t necessarily want the other party to lose – they are focused on securing their own position and leaving it up to others to secure theirs.
  6. No dea This means that where parties cannot find a solution that is mutually beneficial, they agree to disagree on the issue.

Adopting a win-win mindset means that whenever we face conflict or a divergence of opinion or approach in any walk of life, we genuinely strive for a solution which is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Covey says:

One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of others. All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the plan.

Win-win is about thinking beyond doing things ‘your way’ or having to submit to doing something someone else’s way, but rather looking for a solution which works for all parties.

Habit 4: Putting It Into Practice

When it comes to implementing a successful win-win agreement, whether in our professional or personal lives, the following guidelines can be helpful:

  1. Desired results. It is important for both parties to spend time considering the end result or goal that they wish to achieve as a result of the collaboration, agreement or negotiation.
  2. It is also important to consider whether the agreement is governed by any rules, procedures or operational guidelines.
  3. As an integral part of any agreement or negotiation, both parties should consider the resources that are available to help make the agreement or decision a reality (e.g. people, money, expertise, technology, etc).
  4. How will the parties determine how well the agreement is progressing?
  5. What are the rewards of achieving the desired outcome? It is also important to consider the consequences of not achieving the goal you have in mind.

When one side benefits more than the other, that’s a win-lose situation. To the winner it might look like success for a while, but in the long run, it breeds resentment and distrust – Stephen Covey –

Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

Habit 5 is perhaps one of the great maxims of the modern age. It is Covey’s most commonsense pieces of advice.

Quite simply, it is about taking time to listen and understand the views of others. In the competitive rush to have our voice heard, we perhaps don’t always take time to fully appreciate what other people are saying. Covey argues that positive relationships are built on mutual trust and a sense of mutual understanding, which only comes from a true appreciation of the other person’s perspective.

By being a good listener first and foremost, Covey says that we put ourselves in a better position to be able to effectively communicate our views, plans and goals to others.

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems – Stephen Covey –

Habit 5: Putting It Into Practice

Active listening is a technique you can use to deepen your understanding of what another person is saying, ensuring that their key messages are fully received and understood.

Follow these tips to improve your active listening skills:

  • Maintain your attention. Focus on what the other person is saying at all times, and try not to let your attention wander. Let the other person speak without interruption.
  • Use positive body language. Make frequent eye contact and adopt an open posture to demonstrate your interest in what the other person is saying.
  • Use reflective listening techniques. Ask open questions to draw more information from the speaker, and try to develop a sense of empathy to understand how the other person is feeling.
  • Build on what has been said. Active listening is not just about passively listening to the other person’s point of view, but adding to their ideas with comments of your own, while taking care not to hijack the conversation.
  • Summarise their key points. A good way to test your understanding is to summarise the main messages. This clarifies and reinforces the message for both parties.

When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen – Stephen Covey –

Habit 6: Synergise

Habit 6 is based on the principle that when it comes to working effectively with others, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

To synergise with others means that we develop an approach based on creative co-operation with others, rather than relying on our own ways of making decisions or solving problems.

Within a team or professional environment, a synergistic culture is created when everyone, regardless of their status, position or rank, is encouraged to contribute their views and experiences in a collaborative way.

This allows creativity and innovation to flourish, by opening our minds to new perspectives and possibilities that we couldn’t have conceived alone.

Synergy is what happens when one plus one equals ten or a hundred or even a thousand! It’s the profound result when two or more respectful human beings determine to go beyond their preconceived ideas to meet a great challenge – Stephen Covey –

Habit 6: Putting It Into Practice

If you are a senior leader, or a manager of a team, becoming more synergistic is really about creating the right conditions within which people feel empowered and encouraged to actively participate. For example, consider how decisions are made in your team at present – do you actively seek out the views of your team members and take their opinions into account? How often do your team members approach you with new ideas and suggestions for improving how they work? As a starting point for developing team synergy, Covey suggests getting a team together (perhaps outside the formal day-to-day working environment) to work on creating their own mission statement. Your role should be to set out some broad parameters at the beginning and to facilitate an active, open discussion.

Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw

This is the habit of self-renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing.

Habit 7 is about making time to look after our physical and emotional well-being. We are often so busy trying to develop the other six habits that we can sometimes forget about looking after ourselves. Put simply, the seventh habit involves investing time and energy in our best asset – ourselves!

Habit 7: Putting It Into Practice

To maintain our physical and emotional well-being, Covey advocates taking action in four areas:

  1. Healthy eating, exercise and adequate rest.
  2. Making social and meaningful connections with others.
  3. Investing in our own learning, e.g. by reading, writing and teaching.
  4. Spending time developing our interests in nature, culture, music or art.

Criticisms Of The Seven Habits

It is important to bear in mind that Covey’s work is not without its critics. The major criticisms are summarised as follows:

  1. The habits are just common sense. Since Covey’s book was first published, many commentators have argued that the seven habits can simply be boiled down to good management and leadership practice. This may be true, and indeed Covey himself has said that he didn’t invent the seven habits – he just pulled together existing wisdom into a binding philosophy for others to follow. He also pointed out that common sense does not always equal common practice.
  2. The book is overly complex. The second common criticism is that the language used in the book to describe the seven habits is often cumbersome and long-winded. Critics argue that Covey’s approach makes personal development far more complicated than is necessary. The habits themselves have been criticised as too abstract and that they don’t connect well with each other. This may be true to some extent; however, the real value of the book lies in the reader’s ability to understand the essence of each habit and apply it to their own personal circumstances. To Covey’s credit, the book contains many practical case studies and examples of how the habits have been used in practice, by Covey himself and also within the organisations and teams he has worked with.


By applying his seven habits to our lives, Covey argues that we can develop a framework for improving our effectiveness both in a professional and personal context. By first developing a sense of personal independence, we move from being dependent on others for our successes to taking personal responsibility for making success happen ourselves. The habits also teach us the importance of working collaboratively and harmoniously with others in order to develop more effective relationships. The final habit relates to the need to continually invest in ourselves as we maintain and develop our personal philosophy.

As of old, Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!


Human nature has got certain attributes which are just hard to erase. These traits are wired in us so much that they are part of who we are. But, if you want to make the most of your career and life in general, JUST WEAVE these two words into the fabric of your approach to LIFE in 2018: “CHALLENGE YOURSELF!”

There is nobody who can doubt that setting goals is one of the most important life-changing scenarios. Regardless of whether the life-changing scenario is big, with audacious goals or just a small adjustment, it takes a lot of courage to get committed.

Whilst we seem to have no problems identifying goals we want to accomplish, putting these plans into action is frequently much more difficult than we think. Why?

This is essentially because of two issues:

  • There is lack of self-discipline and motivation contributing to this behavior.
  • It could also be because of low self-efficacy as deep down one doesn’t believe that one can achieve their plans.

SELF-EFFICACY as an individual’s belief that he or she will be able to accomplish a specific task. It is believed that an essential component to accomplishing something is our confidence that we can. Thus, self-efficacy drives one’s motivation – Albert Bandura.

Dear Reader, try to ponder on these questions as honestly as you can:

  • What are the factors affecting your self-efficacy?
  • How can you develop more confidence in your abilities?
  • What are the most important things you need to know about the influence of your mind on your achievements?

There are some ways of challenging yourself that are better than others. Research seems to agree on three fundamental conditions on changing yourself:

  1. They take you out of your comfort zone without putting you in serious danger.
  2. They provide you with an intense, accelerated learning experience.
  3. They help you develop skills and attitudes that are highly valuable to you in life.

 12 Ways To Challenge Yourself

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” -Leonardo da Vinci

Introducing your own challenges at work or at home will not only improve your career performance, but also provide the perfect opportunity to enhance your skills and future career prospects.  By adopting this approach in your current role, you will gain invaluable skills and experience in 2018 that will seamlessly transfer into your next position when you’re ready to move on.

  1. Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I have stepped outside my comfort zone enough to know that, yes, the world does fall apart, but not in the way that you fear. Tan Le

Every job or task has certain tasks that involve a bit more thought and time investment, which many of us tend to shy away from during our day-to-day work life.  In order to challenge yourself, you have to take these tasks head on; embrace the challenge and learn something new from it.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted your own role and the responsibilities within it, try to take on new projects and opportunities that are not normally expected of you.  Specifically consider projects that push you out of your comfort zone, challenge your strengths and address your weaknesses.

But it’s not being out of your comfort zone that gives the results, it’s the length of the stretch you are about to make when out of it.

I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about. Joel Osteen

2. Be Competitive

I am competitive and I feel bad when we lose. You can see it in me when we’ve lost. I’m in a bad way. I don’t like to talk to anyone. Lionel Messi

A little competition can go a long way at work.  This doesn’t necessarily mean trying to beat other employees as this can generate conflict and make you unpopular in the office or staffroom.  What you need to do is to simply try to be the best that you can be. Try to consider your past achievements and use them as a basis to define new goals to work towards.  Always try to push yourself that little bit further.Stay Connected

It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you. Mike Davidson

Most of our engagement at work may only be within your team so what about learning from others. It really plays a vital part in your overall career success.  Make sure you stay connected not only with your own team members, but also with the wider corporate network. It is an excellent way of selling yourself. You just never know what is around the corner but colleagues whom you have known for years may just be the antidote for a career change.

By communicating with other departments and colleagues in different positions, you will gain a different perspective, which you can then apply to your own processes and make your job better or safer.

  1. Don’t Procrastinate

Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill. Christopher Parker

Everyone is guilty of procrastination at work from time to time.  We put off tasks that we don’t want to do in favour of more mundane tasks, which quickly makes us feel bored at work. In order to combat procrastination, a shift in attitude and the way you approach towards work is necessary.  Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something.  Seize the moment and try hard to do things as they occur rather than putting them off and waiting for the perfect time to occur.

  1. Be Independent

We all need assistance from colleagues time to time, but try to fulfil your job responsibilities with minimum help.  Completing a task on your own from start to finish, will not only make you feel more challenged, but will provide a greater sense of achievement on accomplishment.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

Remember that your success and devotion not only benefits the company, but also advances your own skill set and increases your employability.  In this instance, it’s important that you don’t always wait for your boss to delegate tasks to you.  Take initiative and look for new tasks that you can take on.  Be open to change and always give 100% at work to make the most of every opportunity.

  1. Evaluate And Re-evaluate Your Skills and Flaws

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

Don’t wait for a work review to evaluate your performance, instead you should constantly evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to your position.  By fully understanding your competencies, you are better able to overcome the negative aspects of your performance and utilize the positive ones.

Pay particular attention to your flaws and try to take on different roles that can help you to improve upon them.  Always be open to learning new skills and building upon your existing skill set in order to enhance your current position as well as future career prospects.

  1. Figure Out What You’re Scared Of – And Do It For One Week Consistently.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” -Napoleon Hill

If you’re in sales, and you’re scared of talking to people personally or over the phone, then you have a problem. You can’t just relate with your clients online, can you? Now, instead of crippling in fear and automatically thinking you’ll fail, spend at least five minutes a day to pick up the phone and make a call to a prospect. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, you may embarrass yourself. And yes, someone may hang up on you. But don’t stop on the first try just yet! You’ll get the hang of it eventually. After a while, you can look at fear in the eyes and say, “Go on, I’m not scared!”

  1. Aim High in Your Career

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” -Les Brown

Big, bold career goals can really challenge you and help you grow as a person. But I’m not talking about theoretical goals though that you dream of achieving, all the while spending most of your time watching TV. I’m talking about well-defined career goals that you work to achieve.

These goals can relate to the amount of money you make, the number of people you impact through your work, the role you play in a company, or the magnitude of the projects you manage. Whatever floats your boat.

The main point is that by setting and pursing such goals, you will be forced to develop as a person. You’ll need to study, to develop your expertise in your field, to innovate and to take calculated risks. All of this implies unbelievable self-growth.

  1. Have A Positive Attitude

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” -Audrey Hepburn

Having a positive attitude is one of the most attractive assets in an employee. Always approach tasks – even difficult ones – with a positive attitude and a belief that you can do it.  Don’t underestimate yourself or your abilities, and carry out your position with dedication and enthusiasm.

By making these simple changes to your position, you will not only feel more challenged at work through the tasks that you take on, but you will also improve your own skill set and future career prospects.

  1. Physical Exercise

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi

Physical exercise is often talked about as a way to be healthy and stay in shape. I see another side to it though. I see it as a good way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Ever since August 2015 when I challenged myself to walk 30-35 kilometres a week, I have never faltered. I walk everyday and the benefits have been astounding!

This is because when you exercise, you put in some degree of effort. Whether you’re running, or lifting weights, or jumping rope, some sort of physical and mental exertion is involved. And this exertion has many benefits in terms of self-growth.

Through regular exercise, not only that you train your body and you develop your strength, speed, endurance and so on, but you also train your mind. You develop willpower, vigilance and confidence. And there are now studies that show regular physical exercise is associated with a higher level of perseverance and determination, which you know, how important can be in life.

Aside from the obvious reason that exercise can help you maintain your regular weight or shed those unnecessary pounds, it can also aid in making you feel better about yourself by releasing endorphins.

  1. Make Failure A Learning Process

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Regardless of how smart or hardworking one is, failure is inevitable. Everyone makes mistakes or fails to meet expectations at some point in their professional lives, and it’s important to frame those situations correctly or a career can be sidetracked. Again, the leader has much power here.

Employees will go further for a leader who they know has their back. It’s important to build your employee back up after a failure and get them back on their feet again as soon as possible. Discuss the failure as a learning opportunity, and avoid being overly critical or berating them about the issue. Make sure they know that you view failure as a necessary part of growth and innovation, and that you see great things for the person ahead.

  1. Push Yourself Out Of Complacency

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean

There’s a natural tendency for us to gravitate toward what we’re good at doing. Then we get stuck there because we’ve gotten comfortable.

This kind of stasis can be too much of a good thing and inhibit growth. Try pushing yourself to try things you have potential for and give yourself the opportunity to take a risk.

Remind yourself that it’s about the effort, not just innate skills.

 “Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an over-emphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.” – Stanford Psychology Professor, Carol S. Deck

  1. Travel And Allow Yourself To Be Interested In New People

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We’re not talking about the expensive kind of travelling here. Something cost-effective like going to your local museum or visiting the resort in the next city can all count as travelling! Here, don’t just limit yourself to your fellow travelers – try to connect with the service staff, like the lifeguard, or the receptionist, or the tour guide. You never know what kind of people they’re going to be. Get out of your house or go online right now to book your class.

Start now and learn to challenge yourself from time to time. We all need a little push once in a while.

Surely, our challenges are way out there, seemingly unrealistic at the time being. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone in a resolute manner, reaching further than we were used to that we begin in earnest to yearn for more.

I don’t know about you, but I find the strategies above are like the pieces of a puzzle. Putting them all together and what you have is a lifestyle that entails constantly challenging yourself and growing in all the relevant directions: you grow socially, you stimulate your mind and body, you develop your expertise and you get wiser each day.

Good luck in all your endeavours. Any comments of yours on ways you are challenging yourself in 2018 would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!