The path to the bar exam is littered with challenges: stress, family, fatigue, friends, and the fear of an uncertain future (this is by no means an exhaustive list). The loss of motivation can creep into your life without warning. It probably hit at some point in law school too, but the fear of the final exam helped you pull the nose up. With the bar exam, the test is the ever-present juggernaut sucking your will to move forward. You’ve got to find ways to stay motivated and stay on track with bar prep. This is most critical in the final few weeks before the big show. Below are several things that can help you rise like the phoenix from the test-prep burnout pit. Let’s reignite the fire and finish bar prep strong!
Crush Negativity Like a Worm
It’s easy to get lost in the darkness of bar prep. The light can seem so far away. Negativity is a killer of success. You’ve got to push the negativity away and force positivity into your mind. Take time to strike a power pose, confront your image in the mirror, and say (out loud) positive things about your abilities and your certainty (not probability) of success on the bar exam. You alone can evict the negative voices in your head and provide space for self-affirming thoughts and mantras.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
It’s easy to get bogged down in the endless grind of daily bar prep. Instead of spinning your wheels in the muck of the difficulty of bar prep, focus on the “why” of bar prep. What is the prize at the end? Remember why you’re going through this. You have suffered through three years of law school and the last hurdle is the bar exam. The exam is all that stands between you and a law license. Focus on what you get at the end: to be an attorney. Ignore the pain and difficulty of the process (to the extent possible).
What About a Support Group?
I’m not suggesting that you get distracted during bar prep by spearheading the establishment of a bar-prep support group. I am suggesting that when your motivation and drive have left the building, look to your support group: law school colleagues and the people that you know have passed the test. These people can provide a little release, positive reinforcement, or just a sympathetic ear. Let them know you’re struggling and could use some help. A short chat with someone who is sympathetic can go a long way at re-energizing your bar prep. Don’t start comparing with other bar preppers, just focus on empathy and getting moving again.
Something Has Gone Right, Right?
At several points during bar prep, you have experienced success. It may be small. For example, maybe you finally remembered a rule that has eluded memorization since 1L year. It doesn’t matter that it’s a small victory. When your motivation wanes, it’s time to celebrate and embrace the successful moments and accomplishments you’ve experienced throughout the process. These successes, especially as you collect more and more, will outweigh the failures and should motivate you to attain more.
What Inspires You?
Find inspiration somewhere. The future? The past? Succeeding where others have failed? Succeeding where others have also succeeded? Or maybe just doing better than that gunner in your class that you can’t stand (I know that’s petty, but desperate times call for desperate measures). Whatever it is, wherever you go to find it, find something that can motivate you to sprint all the way through to the finish line. This is something you must be deliberate about. In other words, consciously think about what motivates you and find renewed drive from that source.
Refocus on the Goal
The goal is passing the bar. Maybe you’ve lost sight of that during bar prep, because you are bogged down by what’s right in front of you (torts, contracts, con law, etc.). Don’t lose the forest for the trees. Your primary objective is to take and pass the bar exam. Think about that goal at the beggining of each bar-prep day. After that, get excited about that goal. Talk to the people who know what you’re going through about the process and the end goal. Get motivation from their support and excitement for you. Their excitement for you attaining your goal goes beyond just being excited that you’ll be done and working again. If you listen closely, the people that are closest to you, who care about you the most, are going to be genuinely proud and excited about what you have accomplished; what you are about to overcome. Find excitement in that support.
Shout It from the Rooftops!
You’ve identified your goal. You’ve found inspiration and excitement in your goal. You’re a bar-prep machine. Now, create a constant reminder of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you’ll achieve when you (with certainty) attain that goal. Print out, in huge letters, a banner that states your goal: I will pass the bar exam and nothing will stop me! It’s cheesy, it’s corny, but it can be a great reminder that can ignite the fires and make you feel ready to re-enter the arena of bar prep.
Finally, I present a tool from my own toolbox. Find someone else’s words to inspire you each day and help to pull you out of your funk. A poem, a great speech, a mantra, or wise words from Confucius. It doesn’t matter what it is or where it comes from, it just has to push you forward a little bit. I love “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley – it motivates me to push on even when the tank is empty. You can do this. Good luck.