I am the first to admit that the bar is mentally and emotionally challenging even beyond the amount of law that you need to know. But I have seen a disturbing pattern with some of my students this week (in light of the July bar exam freak-out) and I am hearing a phrase that can be disastrous to your bar prep—“I can’t.”
This phrase comes in many forms. Here are some of the more common ones:
- I can’t learn all of this law.
- I can’t pass the MBE.
- I can’t write an essay in an hour.
- I can’t write a performance exam in the time allowed.
- I can’t practice writing every day.
- I can’t take breaks.
And the list goes on. These phrases sound like nails on a chalkboard to me, because they are evidence that you are losing the mental game of the bar exam. If this sounds like you, that is okay; there is still time to regroup and change your perspective!
Let’s talk a minute about athletes. My husband and I have been watching a lot of the Olympic trials the last few weeks. And in watching the athletes performing at that level, I am really struck by the fact that you can see how mentally prepared they are. Not only can you read it in their faces but you can see them visualizing the race or the routine while they are getting ready to perform.
Now, how many of those world-class athletes spend a lot of time saying, “I can’t”? I am going to guess almost none of them. Why is that?
Because athletes seem to be trained to understand the power of the mind and mental state as it applies to performance.
Some in the bar community understand this as well. But I think everyone needs to appreciate what is damaging about a mantra of “I can’t.”
If this sounds like you, what can you do?
When you hear yourself say, “I can’t …,” stop and correct yourself, with kindness. Change the dialogue. Create a positive mantra that you can say to yourself in response. Start to say, “I can do X, Y, or Z.” If you say it over and over, it is possible you may actually believe it.
Also, when you say things like “I can’t …,” stop and think about what you are saying. For example, “I can’t write an essay in an hour.” Well, actually you can. You may not write as much as you want or get to write everything you want to say, but you can complete an essay in an hour. What you can write in an hour is the best essay you can write. And for most of us that is going to be absolutely good enough to pass.
I have seen how miraculous the change can be when a student goes from “I can’t” to “I think I can” or even “I can!” So take a moment and evaluate your own dialogue. Don’t self-sabotage! Be kind to yourself and appreciate the power of positive thinking!
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If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out these:
- Bar Study Tips: It’s July, Are You Freaking Out?
- Bar Study Tips: Getting Mentally Ready for the Bar Exam
- Bar Study Tip: Establish a Bar Exam Routine
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