How to Stop Worrying and Plan for Success
With the bar exam merely days away, your head is probably crawling with worries. What if I forget an element? What if I run out of time? What if I have to pee? When a student starts listing concerns like this, I call that a bad case of the “What Ifs.” If you are suffering from the What If’s, you don’t even need to ask your doctor about a drug with a spacy sounding name. The What Ifs are curable with a good dose of what I call the Bar Exam Chill Pill. Yes, I went there.
The Bar Exam Chill Pill is a set of steps that I suggest you take anytime before the bar exam, to improve your confidence when you find yourself with What If-like symptoms.
Step One: Understand, Specifically, What You’re Worried About
Make a list of everything you are afraid might happen. Are you worried you will run out of time on an essay because it keeps happening in practice? Worried you haven’t memorized enough and will forget an element?
Many people fear their weaknesses, so they hide them in the corner of their mind and pretend they will just go away. Treating your worries by ignoring them is like feeding a weed and then hoping it will just pack its bags and move on its own. Your worries will just keep getting bigger and scarier and continue to haunt you. If you really want to be decrease your worry and increase your confidence, you must face your weaknesses and worries head on and make a plan for dealing with them.
Step Two: Brainstorm All Possible Solutions
Now that you’ve listed your worries, brainstorm possible solutions. If each worry happened, how could I solve it? For example, if you worry you will run out of time on an essay, brainstorm potential time management techniques and then try them out to see if they work.
If you worry you will panic, think of all the ways you can calm yourself down. In the Mind Over Bar Teleseminar: Test Taking Toolbox, which will be hosted on Sunday night, I will teach specific tools for calming down your body and turning off your stress response so that you can calm yourself down no matter what happens.
Step Three: There’s a Plan for That
For each worry, put together a specific plan on how you would handle it on test day. On test day, you just might forget an element or panic. But if you have planned how you will handle it, even your worst-case scenario won’t knock you out of the game. Once you have your plans, you have ammunition to combat your What Ifs. What if I don’t know the issue? There’s a plan for that!
Write each of these plans down. These will become part of your last minute review before the bar exam. For example, if you fear you will forget an element, your plan may look like:
“If I forget an element, step one, I will take 3 deep slow breaths, then I will tell myself that I can do this, then try again. If I still can’t remember I will make one up and analyze the rest of the essay, then return at the end to see if I can remember one last time. I will not waste more than X minutes on trying to remember an element.”
If you don’t know the issue at all, maybe your plan is to just analyze it using the closest law you do know. If you worry you will have to go to the bathroom, plan your pre-test water drinking strategy.
Step Four: Practice Makes Confidence
Now practice your plans while you are taking practice tests. Try to make each worry happen on purpose, and then solve it using your plan. The more you prepare and practice, the more confident you will be that you can handle anything.
Worried you will forget an element? Pick a practice essay for a subject you have memory problems with and practice what you will do if you don’t know an element.
Worried you will panic? Do a practice essay and pretend you are panicking, then practice how you will calm yourself down.
In the end, when you walk in to the bar exam, you never know what to expect or how you will feel. A friend of mine had to take the bar exam next to a woman dry heaving for 3 hours during the first session. And he still passed! It is what it is, and it if happens you will solve it and you will pass. So take a chill pill man. Sorry, couldn’t help it!
Lauren Fire is the founder of the Mind Over Bar Course, an innovative course that focuses only on the mental challenges of the bar exam. The course teaches in-the-moment practices you can use to deal with any mental challenge and rock the bar exam.