We work with a lot of people who’ve failed the bar exam. Most, if not all, of those people struggle – at least sometimes – with self-sabotaging behavior. This can take a variety of forms:
- Avoiding the things that feel most uncomfortable
- Not setting adequate boundaries with work to protect study time
- Staying up super late doom scrolling or looking at social media
- Self-destructive coping mechanisms (excessive alcohol/drugs)
- Unrealistic ideas around time management
- External drama that causes huge distractions
And so on. The list goes on!
The important thing to realize is that all of this is very human, and very normal. No one is perfect! We all struggle when facing a long, hard task like studying for the bar exam. But, if you’re facing down this project, it’s worth it to think about your default tendencies for self-sabotage upfront, and consider how you might rein them in, and start playing to your strengths.
For me, I tend to run myself totally ragged trying to do everything at once, and also procrastinate and am unrealistic about how long things will take. On the plus side, when I have a clear, realistic plan, I can focus and execute with the best of them. Over time, I’ve realized I need to devote significant energy upfront to formulating a very clear plan, so that the actual execution becomes more about checking things off a list or moving cards in Trello. I’m also good at realizing when things aren’t working and iterating, so I remind myself that changing a plan that’s not working is actually a positive. As with most things, it’s a balance!
This month on the Bar Exam Toolbox, we’re diving into self-sabotage. On the podcast, we’re talking about one of the best ways to keep yourself on track and avoid self-sabotaging behavior – which is a solid schedule. We’ll also talk in a Quick Tips episode about ways journaling can help you stay on track, since so much of this is really about getting out of your own way!
If you see yourself struggling with self-sabotage, just know you’re not alone. It happens to all of us, and being gentle with yourself is often the fastest way out. If you’re already exhausted from a long day working and can’t bring yourself to do the practice essay on your schedule, take a break and get some extra sleep! But also re-evaluate your approach and see if it’s really reasonable to try to study every night after a full day of work. You might need to schedule more breaks, shift your study timing so your brain is fresh, talk to your job about reducing your work hours, or even decide not to take the next exam so you can spread your bar study time over a longer period.
In the end, you’re not a robot, you’re a person. You can’t be “on” all the time, but – hopefully – you can find ways to make bar study manageable and effective, and addressing self-sabotaging behavior is a key part of that process!
Best of luck, and stay tuned.