Step 10: Use your learning to achieve something remarkable

Verity Aylward
Verity Aylward |

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Establish what your principles are and find the courage to make a positive difference to the world.

Verity Aylward

Remember you can use any opportunity to become a lifelong learner and achieve something even more remarkable than passing tests and exams.

Achieving something remarkable is about making a difference. It's about giving: using what you have learned to bring benefit to others.

Action comes from the mind so before we take action, we need to think about the thoughts and qualities (the mindset) that are needed to translate your learning into something truly remarkable.

Being principled

At the core of everyday living, and every decision that you make, are your beliefs. Your beliefs or values are indicators of what you consider right or wrong. They form your conscience - that little voice in your head that makes you feel rotten if you do or say something that you regret.

It's important to have principles or values, otherwise anybody could do anything they wanted, and the world would be a horrible place.

Remember the successful independent learner thinks critically and is open to new ideas but believes in doing the right thing even if they are going against majority opinion. If you are going to be brave, obey your conscience.

Being courageous

There is another personal attribute that the successful independent learner should aspire to have, and that is courage. Courage makes us exceptional. Where good exam grades may be a main priority in schooling, it is courage that makes a person remarkable.

Courage is about standing up for what you believe in despite the fear that tries to stop you.

Can you think of any examples, big or small, where you showed courage? Have you learned about somebody in your community who you think is courageous?

Every year, the Jewish Community Centre here in Hong Kong commemorates the life of Anne Frank. If you have not read her diary, you should - it is a story of her courage.

Our world is full of brave people, many whose stories we never get to hear, but one thing they have in common is they make a difference by standing up for their beliefs.

Practical steps to becoming remarkable

Connect to the bigger picture: Think of yourself as the centre of an onion. All the layers that encase you represent a different setting to which you are connected.

There's your social world, your school and family life that fit within the first few layers.

Beyond that, there's your local community, and then the wider community in which you live in Hong Kong. You are a citizen of Hong Kong, but, beyond that is the mainland, the wider region of Southeast Asia and the farthest reaches of our planet. What encases your outer layers is your global connection, your connection to all of humanity. You should see yourself as a citizen of the world, or a global citizen.

Away from all the daily battles you face is a world that continues to rotate on an axis, but is touched by you. If you can connect with the bigger picture and engage with the social, political or economic challenges of this century on a local as well as a global scale, you will make a real difference.

Join a tribe:

A good starting point is to join an organisation and commit to it as if you were part of a tribe. You may already be a member of Amnesty International for example or an environmental group at school. You need to be committed. Choose your cause carefully. It has to matter to you. Remember, committing to one cause is likely to be more effective than committing to many.

Use your skills to achieve something different:

Just a little research the other day made me aware of the many remarkable secondary school students in Hong Kong. I will mention just a few.

One student wrote his own e-book and it became a best seller. One authored a book about historical hikes in Hong Kong.

Another took amazing photographs to highlight the effects of pollution on his asthma. One composed and produced his own CD and donated all the money to charity. Think about where your skills lie and how you can help and do the best that you can to make a difference.

Focus on what your skills can bring, not just for your future career, but for the betterment of the world.

Verity Aylward has been a secondary school teacher for more than 10 years. She is the author of the book Mind Explosion: Max Out Your Brain for Exam Success. For more information about the author and her book, go to