|Today, a student not only carries the burden of clearing his/her examinations, but also of excelling in the many entrance examinations to professional courses.
Competition has taken its toll on students. Every year, before the exams and after the results, many students commit suicide, are treated for depression, some even run away.
A young adult faces stress because of continuing sense of uncertainty, because of failure, not getting admission to professional colleges, rejection in an interview, failing to get a job. Failure is seen as the end of life.
Are you feeling dejected and desperate? Have you taken up courses, which in your opinion are “second rung”, just for the sake of having something to do, or are just sitting at home idling your thumbs.
Failing at exams doesn’t define who we are, where we'll go or who we'll become. It only reminds us that we're not alone. That we share the legacy of all humankind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and is wounded in the fall. Failure is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it. This feature tries to guide you to make success of your failures.
The first thing that someone who has failed should do is to make sure he/she does not get into a chain of negative thoughts, or get into a vicious cycle of self-blame. Replace self-criticism with self-correction. Judging yourself harshly now won’t help you do better in the future. Instead, focus on what went wrong and how to correct it.
The impact the failure is sometimes more disastrous than the failure itself. So we need to clarify and approach the problem carefully, so as not to become victims of our own thoughts.
The feeling of failure is a subjective reaction to the unexpected, unfavourable outcome. Perception of failure cannot be generalized since the mental make-up, attachment towards the task or importance attached to the outcome varies from person to person, from situation to situation and from time to time.
How we handle failure is critical. An achiever acquires confidence and pride by taking on challenging life goals, by using good models and methods for getting there, and by putting in the time and effort to make the accomplishments meaningful. In contrast, a low achiever, preoccupied with avoiding failure, will either choose an extremely easy task or a very difficult one. Neither task puts him/her to test.
The achiever is
“mastery-oriented”; the low achiever is “performance-oriented” i.e. he/she is most concerned with avoiding failure and looking good, and not with learning or mastery. In contrast, the mastery-oriented person welcomes tough challenges because he/she is most concerned with learning something worthwhile, and not building an image. After a failure, such a person would say, “Okay, I didn’t win but what a learning experience! I’ll practice another approach and then try again.”
This latter healthy optimistic attitude leads to “interest” with exploring the world, taking on difficult tasks, and achieving well, and thus, coping.
Coping means tackling the state of one’s mental or physical dis-equilibria by adopting the next best possible alternative.
The innate drive of every person to reach a balanced state of mind is nature’s gift to help us out of an unwanted situation. Every person’s growth has a history of coping behind it. For a student, who has less experience and more expectations in life, they will have to be properly trained to cope with unexpected outcome. Inability to cope with failure may result in low self-esteem, dejection and, ultimately, in depleting one’s sense of competence.
Allow yourself time to deal with the emotional response you may feel—such as anger, shock, shame or disappointment—before making your next move.
Emotional reactions precede rational considerations. Inappropriate responses show that there is scope for reality therapy.
Counsellors agree that a period of grieving is critical. Tears aren’t a sign that you’re simply feeling sorry for yourself, but are an expression of sadness or emotion that must find an outlet. How you handle failure in examinations also depends on how you dealt with small disappointments during childhood. If in pre-teens sulks went on for a day or two, tears used up a box of tissues, and you swung a lot of doors, then failure linked with adolescence is likely to be a combustible combination.
If you think you are at the combustible end of the spectrum, help with dealing with your emotions is needed before failure can be dealt with effectively. It is important to keep on talking to a supportive parent, sibling or a friend, which allows you to share your distress and disturbances so that your feelings get ventilated.
Express your anger. Neither holding anger in, nor blowing up is constructive. However, there are other alternatives. Some young people (men in particular) find a range of rigorous activities (such as sport) allows them to ‘cleanse’ themselves of emotion. Others may drive, walk the dog, fish or climb, which again allows them to chew over events, situations and disappointments. If this works, then the ability to articulate emotions is still useful, but not always essential.
Keep calm. The more stressed out you are, the less efficiently your brain works.
Relax! Don’t try to force an answer. Your mind will recognize the solution when the right time comes.
Avoid making important decisions during stressful times. Exercise on a regular basis and maintain a healthy diet.
Get all the sleep you need, but don’t use sleep as an escape.
Avoid non-prescribed mood-altering drugs (including alcohol, which is a depressant).
Lastly, admitting failure is the toughest part—but it has to be done before you can get on with your life.
Reflect on the situation. George Kirpatrick once said, “Nature has given men one to sit on and one to think with. Ever since then man’s success and failure has been dependent on the one he used most.”
After a disappointing performance, it is important to ask yourself, “Honestly, now, what were the causes? What can I do about each of those causes?” You should use the experience to try to figure out what went wrong so you can avoid the same mistake in the future. Did you wait until the last month to study for a test? Was there some other problem?
Were there topics that you neglected to study? Did you “skim” some chapters because they seemed boring, too difficult, or because you assumed you already knew the information? Once you determine what went wrong, you can work on doing better the next time.
To the extent that more effort and learning better skills would significantly improve your performance, it is important to take control of the situation, rather than blaming our poor performance on factors that are not under our control. In short, to manage our life we have to take responsibility for it—take charge. It is the reason we give ourselves for the failure that determines how we feel.
A wise person will guard against assuming unchangeable factors are the sole causes of his/her problem and learn instead to concentrate on the factors (causes) he/she is able to change. No complex behaviour is totally caused by fixed factors, such as heredity, innate ability, etc. Most behaviours can be improved. We can’t direct the winds, but we can adjust the sails. Don’t discount the importance of learning in any performance.
Most failures don’t prove a lack of ability, they reflect a lack of effort or learn-able skill. In most areas we will never know our
limits because we will never push ourselves to the limit.
It is obvious that some of the “reasons” are excuses for our failures. Self-handicapping is a similar process, except it occurs before the performance, rather than after. Common excuses arranged in advance for a poor performance are: I’m very tired, sick, anxious, unprepared and so on.
Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves, expecting too much, and sometimes too easy, not expecting or trying to do our best. You may be too uptight about achieving your dreams; you might not be uptight enough to achieve them.
Remember that failure is situational—while you may fail in your attempts to accomplish a particular goal, you are not a failure.
Learn from your mistakes. Enduring a setback can enhance self-awareness and help you understand your limitations. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, put that new-found knowledge to use.
The only people who can remedy a failure are those responsible. Recovery depends on applying work to the seat of the problem, accurately and economically. Winston Churchill, whose career showed many reversals of fortune, regarded success as “the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Surviving the drop year
It is you who has to decide, keeping in mind the factors that contributed to your failure, whether to take the same entrance exams once again next year, or aim for admission to a low-rung institute or prepare for tests in a different field altogether. Since a decision must be made (even the decision not to make a decision), why not try for a good one?
Take one month off to rest, exercise, relax, and relate. Misery breeds under-performance, so cheer up. Plan the next year as your campaign to the next attempt and work hard at it.
Stop wringing your hands. Remember, you cannot wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.
You may have decided to rely only on ‘self-study’ for preparing for your entrance exam. Choose the self-study method only if you are sure of establishing regular study hours and keeping a daily calendar to practice time management. Self-study method may not work, especially if you have chosen not to join any other course and have no way to remain in touch with other aspirants. This is because if you sit at home, you develop a tendency to feel cut-off and ultimately may slack off.
With classroom coaching you get an idea of where you stand vis-a-vis the competition. This should, in
theory, spur you to work harder and also help you keep pace with the never-ending list of topics you need to cover. You can clear any doubts with the faculty. Some need the routine of attending a class to get a sense of discipline.
However, some institute conduct special batches for drop-outs or second time aspirants and these might help you work on specific weaknesses, with students of similar academic ability. At the same time, to avoid being complacent, do try and compete in mock tests, so that you know where you stand.
Different people have different styles of working. For example, some people need competition to do their best, while others work better at their own pace. Respect your work style and arrange the conditions you need to do well.
Although it may seem obvious, attend class (or coaching class) even if you already attended the lecturers the previous year. Sit near the front in lectures, it will help you focus.
If possible, restart your studies with a fresh textbook which you did not use earlier. This will help you avoid the feelings/emotions of defeat and frustration associated with your earlier efforts.
Know what to study. Ask your friends who have been successful in the entrance tests about their studying methods and books / periodicals / magazines / newspapers / coaching classes which they used. However, keep this in mind that merely knowing about successful strategies of others is not enough. Apply these. You may have decided to take a long break and to hit the books again only couple of months (instead of the full year) before the examination. This is a wrong strategy. Ignore the temptation to do nothing. If you want to achieve something start today.
Managing Your Time for Success
To use your time well, use strategies that make you both efficient and effective. To be efficient, use your peak performance times for study and class times. Some people concentrate better in the morning, others in the afternoon or evening.
Study in blocks of no more than one hour. Study for 50 minutes or so and then take a 5-10 minute break. Move around during your break to improve blood circulation and reduce stress. When you come back to study, switch subjects and tasks (change from reading to writing or maths). If you do continue with the same subject, review the work done before the break and then continue.
Planning does not mean rigid or elaborate scheduling, but it does require some skill and intelligent decision-making.
Students often blame their problems with procrastination or laziness or a lack of self-discipline. However, the cause is usually not as simple as that. For example, there is an interesting connection between procrastination and perfectionism. Students for whom nothing less than an admission to best institute or the top ranks in entrance test will do, may procrastinate on preparation so that when their marks are not up to their standard, they can blame it on the fact that they did the preparation in a hurry. They create an emotional “out”—the low mark does not reflect their true ability, so there is no loss of self-esteem.
Procrastination can sometimes be an indication of a fear of failure, or of disappointing family. Sometimes it is a symptom of a lack of motivation, the loss of a sense of purpose.
Study most what you find the hardest. Too often students spend most of their time studying the subjects they find the easiest, and then study little on the harder subjects. A student makes more academic progress by overcoming weaknesses than by polishing strengths.
Talk to your teachers. Your teachers may have suggestions about what you can do to learn study skills and improve in weak areas. But you have to ask!
If you are having problems in a particular subject, a private tutor may be able to help you get caught up. Don’t expect overnight improvement, but personalized help can really help some students.
Value your experience. You are better placed than the first time aspirants, as you do not have to learn everything from scratch.
Stick up an affirming notice. At the risk of sounding like a woolly shrink, this works. Write, “You are going to be a doctor soon” on a sticky note and stick it to a place where you will see it everyday. This will give you a sense of perspective on days when you want to give it all up and a hint of reality when you think you would fail.
Focus on an image of your success. This is not just mere day-dreaming. Your unconscious mind works via pictures. Providing it with convincing pictures of your own success can help in reprogramming your mind of its negative self-image.
Keep a positive attitude. Complaining and making excuses about your failure to clear the entrance to all and sundry will make studying more difficult. Blaming roommates for preventing you from studying enough, or blaming the question-setter for making the exam too difficult does not help you either.
Life’s battles don’t always go to faster or stronger men. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can. You are only an attitude away from success!
The path to success
Thomas Edison lost two million dollars’ worth of equipment and record of much of his life’s work, when the ‘Edison industries’ was destroyed by fire in 1914.
Edison’s son Charles, rushing about to find his father, at last spotted him standing near the fire, his white hair blown with the winter wind. Edison saw Charles, “Where is your mother?” he shouted. “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this again as long as she lives”. The next morning, walking among the ashes of so many of his hopes and dreams, the 67-year-old Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Looking back at it, many people say that failure was the best thing that ever happened to them. It gave them the opportunity to start fresh and work in an industry that really sparked their interests and enthusiasm.
Be Persistent: Ray Kroc, the late founder of McDonalds, put it best when he said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not. Un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and love are omnipotent.”
Think of it like building a muscle. If you have never weight trained before, the first time you walk into a gym, chances are you will not be able to bench press 250 lbs. However, if you are persistent, and you consistently go back to the gym, you will find yourself getting stronger and closer to your goal with each and every visit. Remember, diamonds are only lumps of coals that stuck to their jobs.
Grow into success: Failure cannot continue to be failure if we continue to grow. Success or failure is not as important for students as are self-confidence, enthusiasm, patience, courage, belief in oneself, responsibility and self-discipline
Sir Edmund Hillary attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1952, but failed. A few weeks later a group in England asked him to address its members. Hillary walked on stage to a thunderous applause. The audience was recognizing an attempt at greatness, but Edmund Hillary saw himself as a failure. He moved away from the microphone and walked to the edge of the platform. He made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain. He said in a loud voice, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow... but I’m still growing!”
Important lessons are to be learned from failures. If your determination, will, desire and hunger to succeed are as big as you think, then to fail along the way is simply taking a lengthy detour to where you want to be. Nothing more!
Remember, we succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.