Seven simple secrets for success

Mrs Emma Lowry, Associate Dean (Students)

‘The year is what you make it — it’s what you put into it. You, as an individual can make this year your year, and we want to see your uniqueness shine.’ 

Harper McIlroy and Annabel Ryan, Head Girls 2018

A line in the School Song exhorts the girls to ‘draw strength from our diversity’, and indicates the culture of Brisbane Girls Grammar School celebrates each individual’s contributions and dares each girl to let their unique dreams ‘take wing and soar’. Every girl weaves her own thread of the Girls Grammar tapestry — each in her own way contributing to the life of the School — but at the same time paving her own, bespoke way forward. It was with this in mind that our Head Girls for 2018, Harper McIlroy (12W) and Annabel Ryan (12E), addressed the School at the first assembly of the academic year and encouraged girls to harness their individuality to make this year truly unique and rewarding.

The following is a compilation of simple secrets for success to consider as each girl sews her own Girls Grammar thread, and makes this year, one to remember.

  1. Be open-minded toward friendliness

Persisting through awkwardness will allow new connections to grow. Friendships during adolescence have the capacity to provide a sense of belonging and security, bring joy, promote self-esteem, cultivate interpersonal skills, and build a sense of individual and group identity (Preuschoff, 2006). However, making friends takes time and effort. As girls settle into their new house group, or into new core and elective classes, it is normal that they may feel awkward. Friendships are fluid, and with an open mind toward friendliness, girls can create many positive relationships which will reduce stress levels and foster different levels of connection with the School (Fuller, 2016).

  1. Practise doing your best

Strive toward personal bests — in the classroom, in co-curricular participation and in social interactions — by becoming the best ‘you’.  This year’s School motto is based on girls embracing their own uniqueness and celebrating their own individuality. Child psychologist, Andrew Fuller (2016), suggests that each year, students aim to develop one positive aspect of themselves by simply appreciating that quality, and practising doing it well in order to become ‘the best you’ possible.

  1. Be fit for purpose — be prepared for learning

Begin with the end in mind by utilising the School diary and academic care conversations with house group teachers to write down intentional goals for each semester. Written articulation of goals brings priorities to the foreground and enables students to remember what they are striving to achieve as well as serving as a reminder to do their best.

Glenn Capelli (2018), a wonderful guest speaker who presents to Year 7 talks of ‘改善kaizen’, which translates to ‘little bit, little bit improving every day’. Personal bests and goal achievement can be reached if students manage their time and make some progress each day.

Highly effective teens practise discipline and patience, and surround themselves with people who encourage and bring out the best in one each other. Proactive behaviour and initiative in seeking help before problems arise will develop independent learning and increase the likelihood of goal attainment, which in turn can impact on positivity and happiness (Covey, 2005).

  1. Turn attention to intention

Focus on tuning in rather than zoning out. Avoiding distraction is a choice — and it is one that takes intentionality and practice to master. Without a clear intention, it is very easy for attention to become diverted.

Concentration is hard to achieve, and easy to lose. Balancing productivity in the digital era is a challenge for students and adults alike. An interruption as short as 2.8 seconds (the length of time it takes to read a short text message) can double error rates on simple sequencing tasks, and a 4.4 second interruption (such as sending a text) can triple error rates, which is of significant concern when the average mobile phone user checks their phone more than 150 times per day (Blankson, 2017 pp. 28–30).

I always recommend that students find proactive ways to reduce distractions, especially while studying. Resisting alert notifications takes enormous self-regulation, therefore a better approach is to put mobile phones out of reach and turn off alerts on all computer applications. Establishing solid boundaries with technological distractions will positively influence levels of attention, productivity and psychological wellbeing (Blankson, 2017 p. 49).

  1. Create brain downtime

‘On’ is impossible without ‘off’. Brains require downtime to turn off in order to download all of the information they have taken in during the day, to ‘chunk’ information and to form long-term memories. If we fill all of our downtime with digital distractions (social media, playing games or even reading e-books) the brain has no time left for processing and consolidating.

Device-free brain breaks allow time for brain downtime which is particularly important before bed. It is recommended to abstain from using digital material one hour before bed, as the blue LED light from electronic devices inhibits the production of melatonin — which is required to fall asleep —and prevents the brain from entering into a restful state (Blankson, 2017).

  1. Enjoy unstructured, free play

Be active; break into a sweat. While co-curricular activities are an essential part of a Grammar girl’s day, there is value in creating a space for free play in the three-dimensional world, and spending time away from academic pursuits. Active play is essential for healthy neurological development, mental health and wellbeing, physical fitness, social development and academic performance (Lowry, 2015).

  1. Carpe diem

Be grateful for the moment and decide to be happy now. Many people wait to be happy, or lose the moment by thinking about the future. Take stock of what is in your life at the moment and be appreciative for what there is, and who there is, right now. Verbalise your appreciation to those who love you, and demonstrate gratefulness through your language and behaviour. Be kind, be a good friend. Laugh and have fun.

While these secrets for success may appear self-evident, it can be easy to lose sight of them in the busy-ness of a school year. For each and every girl, these simple pointers will resonate to differing degrees, and be interpreted and enacted differently. For each individual girl to add her special threads to the Girls Grammar tapestry, the School’s Nil Sine Labore motto needs to be understood not only in academic terms, but in the context of working sensibly and strategically to be her best self.


Blankson, A. (2017). The Future of Happiness. 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era. Dallas: Perseus Distribution.

Capelli., G. (2018). Glenn Capelli’s Vocapulary. Retrieved from

Covey, S. (1998). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. New York: Simon & Schuster Sound Ideas.

Fuller, A. (2016). Set Yourself Up for A Great Year. [PDF]. Retrieved from

Lowry, E. (2015). Will You Be My PAL-Date? [PDF]. Retrieved from

Preuschoff, G. (2006). Raising girls: Why are girls different – and how to help them grow up strong and happy. California. Celestial Arts.