Self-belief a way to manage failures

A few days ago, I was counselling Rohit of 12th standard, who was preparing for JEE-Main exam scheduled in 2020. He was very keen to do B.Tech. in IIT, even if it meant taking a year’s break after the board exam to prepare exclusively for JEE. Although, not all students might be as determined as Rohit, there’s an important lesson to learn. 

If you have a well-prepared career plan and determined to achieve, then nothing can really stop you. However, most roads to success include curves, bumps and even slight detours.  Therefore, learn to take disappointments and small failures in its stride not allowing such challenges to blow you off course.

Firstly, if you don’t perform well in your qualifying exam or competitive exams like NEET, JEE, KCET etc. refrain terming it as a failure. It’s more appropriate to term it as a disappointment or a temporary setback, which you can overcome.

Identify the causes

The usual causes for disappointments are:

Poor preparation

To get into top colleges/universities for any course, you have to excel. While professional courses such as medicine might need around 95% in the qualifying exam, even Commerce and Science streams in top colleges have cut offs in the range of +90%. Hence, preparation has to be comprehensive and flawless, irrespective of your course goals.

Unable to focus between qualifying and competitive exams

Many students find it difficult to identify which is more important of the two- qualifying exam or competitive exams and eventually lose focus on both. The eligibility criteria differ for courses and the ranking is calculated differently. Hence, your strategy for both the exams has to be carefully drawn depending on which stream you are opting after the qualifying exam such as 12th/2nd Also, limit the number of competitive exams as per your capacity and need.

Over ambitious goals

Ever heard of SMART goals? Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. In the race to compete, don’t try overstretching yourself and fix over ambitious goals only to be disappointed eventually. Do remember, there are innumerable career options other than medicine and engineering and you must consider all options. Importantly, follow your dreams and pursue careers as per your inherent talent and passion.

Lack of determination

Students with even inadequate facilities and resources, have made it to premium institutions like IITs and IIMs, with strong determination. Years back, Abhishek, a cobbler’s son in Kanpur with meagre resources made it to IIT and is a role model for determination and focus. The common factors in students who make it to such top institutes, are their strong passion and determination to succeed despite all the hurdles. Therefore, get stronger internally to sustain the focus and rigour needed to get into such institutions of eminence.

Unforeseen circumstances

If you or someone in the family fall sick around the exam time, it can affect your performance, which is just bad luck and not a failure. Such developments are unforeseen and you may consider alternative institutions for the same course and in worst scenario, take a break to redo the exams.

Think Positive, taking corrective steps

Study the impact

When you have a major disappointment in a board/competitive exam on which you depend, first study the impact before jumping to any conclusion. Evaluate the extent to which the actual performance affects your career plan. For example, if you had planned for an MBBS course in a particular city/college, assess whether you can still get an admission into the same course at another institution of repute. In other words, whether an exam disappointment can be managed with a slight change in the selection of the institute. However, if the impact is such that you can’t get an admission into MBBS, then you have to review further.

Review/adapt your career plan

When there’s a major disappointment in the exams, review the career plan. Do check if your career plans can be met by selecting the same course but by changing the stream. For example, if you wanted to do computer science engineering, see whether your career plans can also be met by selecting engineering in IT or Information Science. All the three are substantially different although there’s some overlapping. In fact, it’s strongly recommended to identify two courses while making a career plan, so that you have a plan B, if plan A doesn’t materialize.

Consider other alternatives

If you are firm about the career choice and if the disappointment is due to your internal failure, then consider taking a break to take the respective exam once again. Sometimes, it might mean loss of a year which doesn’t matter in the long run. Instead of feeling disappointed, convert this into an opportunity by utilising the free time. Depending on your career choice, consider a short time course in communication skills, personality development or a career related additional course. Doing an internship or a part time work can be very helpful too. Another interesting option is to use the free time judiciously and nurture an existing or a new hobby.

An exam disappointment is just a minor setback and it’s sad some students take it too seriously and take extreme steps like suicides, which is unwarranted. If things don’t go as planned, have patience, evaluate the causes, identify the lessons and take corrective steps. Change your vocabulary replacing all negative words with positive or neutral words. For example, instead of saying “I failed to perform as planned”, you must say “I should have performed better”. Use the power of auto suggestions and communicate to yourself positively that your potential is beyond your current performance and you can do better by just stretching a little more.  In case you need help or want to talk to someone, contact helplines and professional agencies.

Remember, failure is not fatal nor success is final. The real failure is if we fail to draw the lessons from our mistakes. Trust your ability and convince your parents to build a stress-free, healthy environment at home.  Choose a career that motivates you from within ensuring minor hurdles doesn’t deter you from pursuing your goals.

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V Pradeep Kumar

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