You sign onto your computer at 6:00 pm sharp. Your heart is racing. The internet traffic won’t let you log in. You try again. You type in your name. You wait. Your palms are sweaty, and your heart is racing faster. You finally get your results, but they are not at all what you expected. Your name is not on the pass list. You check again. Your name is really not on that list.
Let’s face it. We all have failed (at least once or twice) since we were born. Most of us miserably. We repeatedly got up to stand and fell down before learning to walk. We got on a bike and could not balance at first. And the list continues. You also may know that some of the most successful people have failed repeatedly before succeeding. Henry Ford’s businesses failed 5 times before he successfully founded Ford Motor company, Stephen King’s first book received 30 rejections before he finally resubmitted it and succeeded in getting his story published. Finally, Michael Jordan, a man often referred to as one of the greatest basketball players of all time was cut from his high school basketball team, but Jordan didn’t let this stop him from playing and was quoted later as saying: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
As Tony Robbins says the key to success is the proper strategy, story, and state. Your strategy here will be the method you use to prepare for the bar exam. Your story is what has happened to you so far. Yes, you failed the bar exam your first, second or even third time. However, your story cannot be that you just can’t do it, aren’t smart enough, or your study plan is not going to work again this time. You need to change your beliefs. How are you feeling? You also need to be in the proper state of mind. Chances are that right after failing you may be feeling frustrated, overwhelmed by the possibility of studying again, angry or sad, and down on yourself. You need to change those feelings in order to mentally prepare for ultimate success. You need to get your positive juices flowing. I have seen plenty of students pass the bar exam after failing the bar exam multiple times. So how did they mentally prepare to study again after repeatedly failing? Instead of dwelling on their failure, they used the energy of those failures to move forward. Here are my suggestions on how to bounce back and prepare to study again:
Take Some Time To Accept The Disappointing News
First, it is important when faced with a setback or disappointing news to take the time to grieve and get into the proper mindset. Experts say that there are five stages of grief. It is hard to deny news like this so we will skip over that. If being angry will help you mentally get where you need to be then take a few days, or a week or two to be angry. Assuming you worked hard (because it generally takes that kind of work to pass the bar exam), you have every right to be angry. If you did not put in the time, then you should skip this one as well. This is the time for you to go to that boxing class or do whatever you need to do to get that anger out. Bargaining with yourself can be productive if you are making promises you plan to keep, but promising to write 100 essays plus 50 multiple choice questions per day the next time you study is likely not realistic. However you grieve, allow yourself to be disappointed and/or angry for a reasonable amount of time. Be extra nice to yourself, and hopefully, your friends will be too. Eat your favorite foods, surround yourself with your favorite people, treat yourself to that mocha, ice cream, massage, or maybe even some retail therapy within your budget. Then, in a timely manner, move on.
Use Your Story And Vow To Learn From Your Mistakes
This is an important one. We usually give our students a self-evaluation form after failing the bar exam, and I can’t tell you how many students tell me that they only wrote out one or two essay questions prior to taking the bar exam. How many of you would get behind the wheel of a car on a freeway without practicing on a quiet side street? For some of you, it will be easy to figure out what happened. It might be as simple as finding a quiet, uninterrupted study space. Did life events (relationship, job, health) get in the way of studying? Did you study the law enough? Did you spend most of your time listening to lectures? Did you create your own outlines? Did you practice enough essays and multiple choice questions? Did you review your answers? Did you get the right feedback on your practice? Either way, you need to figure out what went wrong in order to do better the next time. Use the knowledge from your past experiences to lead you to where you would like to be.
Come Up With A New And Improved Strategy
As Tony Robbins says, it is never a strategy problem. There are always many ways to get from Point A to B. However, you need to find the right strategy for success. Think through what you did the last time because something you did the last time did not work. When you feel like you are ready to confront the reality of studying again, go through your exam answers. Do you see blaring errors and/or omissions? Take out your outlines and highlight what you don’t know. This should be your starting point for studying and practicing. Whatever you do, you need to shake things up a bit from the last time.
Set Specific And Realistic Goals
Specific goals are more motivating than vague generalized ones. Realistic goals will also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. You will feel closer to your goals if you are able to accomplish the smaller tasks you assign yourself. I recommend creating a detailed study schedule including the specific hours you plan to study each day. This should also include time needed to outline, memorize, practice essays and multiple choice, and review those questions. I also suggest going as far as assigning specific essays and multiple choice questions to yourself for practice. I recommend allowing at least the amount of time it takes to write an exam answer for each essay and multiple choice question, and allow half of that for your review. However, I caution you to be realistic. Better that you practice and review fewer questions and leave sufficient time for review, than setting yourself up to feel defeated because you cannot reach your goals.
Celebrate Small Progress
Recognizing progress also increases motivation. Studies show that the brain accelerates as it perceives that success is closer. This explains why marathoners speed up at the end of a race. Plan rewards for accomplishing your daily or weekly goals. We all liked reward charts when we were little. This is no different. Maybe that means a hot bath before bed, or a 30-minute television show after a long day or a few hours of studying. For those studying full-time over a period of six or more weeks, you should reward yourself with a full day off every week. Get outside and/or do something you truly enjoy. Whatever your reward for reaching your goal, you should hopefully feel invigorated to keep studying.
At least once a week, or as often as you need, close your eyes and pretend for a moment that you are back in front of your computer. You type in your name. Except for this time your name pops up right away. You passed! Imagine how you will feel and who you will share your news with first. Memorize that feeling and get started on studying.