“I’m not sure if I can do this.”…. “What if I don’t pass?” ….“I’m just not smart enough or a hard enough worker.”
I hear statements like this from bar exam students all the time, especially as the bar exam time clock starts ticking faster. Self-doubt can invade the thoughts of even the best students, clouding judgment, causing procrastination and eroding confidence. But what can you do about these pesky thoughts? Here is a four-step process for working with self-doubt that can change the game for you.
Step One: Isolate the Troubling Thoughts
If you notice a thought like “I’m not sure if I can do this,” pay attention! Your usual reaction may be to run from that thought, to bury it, or to distract yourself from it because it’s painful and troubling. But that just feeds the monster. If you want to conquer these thoughts, you must first turn toward them. By paying attention to the thoughts that trouble us, we can start to rewire our brain. So next time you notice a thought like that, stop yourself and start to become aware of what’s happening.
Step Two: Don’t Get on the Thought Train
While you can’t control that first self-doubting thought, you can control what happens next. Imagine that first thought as a train passing by. You have a choice as to whether you continue saying negative things to yourself. In other words, you have a choice as to whether you get on that thought train. The destination of that thought train is most likely somewhere that will leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, or bad about yourself. You do NOT need to go there right now. You can visit that place after the bar exam. Right now, you need to study. You need to step up and make this happen. And to do that, you need to build yourself up, not tear yourself down. So don’t get on that train. Just let it pass by.
Step Three: Replace the Negative Thought with a Positive One.
Now, replace that first thought with a positive statement, something that is actually ridiculously positive. If the thought is “I’m not sure if I can do this,” try replacing it with, “I’m sure I can own this test.” Yes, it may sound and feel ridiculous, but guess what, so are the negative thoughts! Neither thought is based in any sort of reality. In reality, you don’t know what the future will hold for you or what you’re capable of this bar exam season. All thoughts are rubbish. So why are you believing the self-deprecating thoughts? Choose to believe the positive ones.
Step Four: Get Strategic
If you doubt yourself more often lately, maybe you need a strategy change somewhere in your study plan. When people start to doubt themselves, the most common reaction is to let the self-doubt win by procrastinating or studying more in an unproductive frenzy. Instead, ask yourself what you’re really worried about? Are you worried you won’t have time to memorize it all? Are you worried about your writing skills? Are you worried about a certain subject? Isolate your worries, and then try to create a strategy to conquer that worry. If you’re worried about time, take out a calendar and set out what you have to do over the next few weeks, and block out the time. Worried about your writing, hiring a writing coach or send your essays to a paid grader. Step up, figure out a strategy, and conquer your worry.
It’s time to take the reins back. Thoughts can only be troubling if you let them. You can feel empowered, confident, and prepared if you start building yourself up with positive language and thoughts, and if you start creating strategies and planning out how you are going to make this happen.
Lauren Fire is the founder of the Mind Over Bar Course, an innovative course that focuses on the mental challenges of the bar exam. The course teaches in-the-moment practices that help students conquer overwhelm, stress, panic, and test anxiety.
Thank you, Lauren!
Interested in more useful information? Check out these links!
- There is just Too Much MBE Law to Learn!?
- Stop Saying “I Can’t.”
- Tips for Getting Mentally Ready for the Bar Exam.
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