It’s mid-June and the honeymoon is over. The confidence is still there but it’s beginning to share time with stress, anxiety, uncertainty, self-doubt. You’ve still got 6 weeks to go but are already feeling a little tired and worn out. Lots of professions have tough exams but none seem as daunting or induce as much stress as the bar exam. You are an incredibly successful and accomplished person, yet here you are questioning yourself and your ability to pass the bar exam: Why can’t I remember this material? How is everyone else so far ahead of me? I had a perfect plan so why can’t I stick to it? You might not be overwhelmed but you are starting to feel the pressure. You are experiencing what I call “the battle of contradictions.”

  • You feel like you just got started AND like you’ve been doing this forever.
  • You know what you are supposed to do YET you don’t really know what to do.
  • You are motivated to work hard BUT are tired and find yourself putting things off until “tomorrow.”

The reason for this contradiction is that you are not quite at the half-way point of bar study so you aren’t feeling the intense pressure of the exam pushing up against you but you know you have a lot to do and only a few weeks to do it. I’m not going to pretend that the stress, anxiety, and panic won’t happen. However, you have to acknowledge it, deal with it, and not let it control you. In other words: E + R = O. Event + Response = Outcome.

This is the mindset that allowed The Ohio State University Buckeyes to win the first ever College Football Playoff national championship behind their third string quarterback. Most of the country was shocked by their upset wins against Alabama and Oregon, but not the Buckeyes. Coach Urban Meyer built a team that embraced this concept. You can’t prevent challenges but you can overcome them. That’s what the Buckeyes did when RB Ezekiel Elliot broke his left wrist in August and for 8 weeks, could only carry the ball in his right hand. When starting QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller injured his shoulder in August and was lost for the season. When the team lost to Virginia Tech in September. When QB J.T. Barrett broke his ankle in November. When third string QB Cardale Jones had a week to step up and lead the team in the Big Ten Championship Game.  The Buckeyes knew what outcome they wanted- a national championship. In order to achieve it, they did not allow external events to be the deciding factor. Instead, how they responded to the events is what determined the outcome. E + R = O.

Embrace this mindset for bar prep. You can’t prevent challenges but you can overcome them. Don’t blame an external event for an outcome. How you respond is what determines the outcome. Change what is in your control: what you think, what you do.

Tomorrow’s post will have some specific tips about responding to the stress.


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