Preparing for the bar exam is more than studying 50+ hours a week for ten weeks. You absolutely have to put in the study time and commercial bar prep companies do a great job providing you an in-depth and structured study schedule. However, the ten-week bar prep period is fairly intense and quite exhausting. You will experience periods of self-doubt, uncertainty, and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Although you cannot avoid this completely, you can be prepared to work through it push forward with your studying. One way to do this is to start bar prep having a strong relationship with yourself.
- Have an open mind. Be receptive to new and different concepts on how to live your best life. Don’t think of it as massive change all at once. This is a process and there are lots of little things you can do.
- Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and accept that you did the best you could. Remind yourself that you don’t expect perfection in others so you shouldn’t expect it of yourself.
- Assess your lifestyle. Identify what is and isn’t working in your life. Break unhealthy habits and develop healthy ones. A little self-care goes a long way (Check out these TED Talks on the importance of self-care)
- Build your tribe. We tend to be like the people we surround ourselves with. Bring people into your life that reflect your best self and will support who you want to be.
- Make time for mindfulness. Introduce a few mindful living techniques into your daily routine. Develop strategies that stop negative thoughts from taking over and learn how to refocus your energies on positive thoughts that move you forward.
- Take control. You are not a passive observer in your life. You may not be able to control every event and person in your life but you can control how you respond. It is this response, not the event or person, which determines the outcome.
Don’t kid yourself into believing that you can simply wake up on May 15th and magically have the ability to push through the next ten weeks. In order for your brain to function at its best, you’ve got to be mentally and emotionally strong. This requires planning and preparation. Professor Dumbledore is right: “It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Make the choice now to be your best self.
It’s finally over. All those years of school, the weeks of studying, the stress, the uncertainty. The bar exam is now behind you. Yes, you’ve got to wait a few months for results but it’s out of your hands. You did all you could to prepare, you did your very best during the exam. Worrying won’t help anything and it won’t change the results. Thinking about all your perceived mistakes accomplishes nothing. It’s time to move forward and get back to real life.
Bar Exam Etiquette
It’s been all about you for the past two months. There is no denying that you’ve been *slightly*selfish or that your friends and family waived the rules of etiquette so you could focus on bar exam prep. Lucky for all of us, this is about to end. The bar exam starts tomorrow and you are not the only person taking it. There will be hundreds of other people in the testing center including examinees, proctors, computer techs, and bar examiners. If you are in a multi-use facility, there might even be other events going on at the same time. Let this sink in…
If your first reaction was to be ticked off, think again. It’s not about you anymore. You can be focused but you may not be self-centered or rude. There is a difference between the two and it involves social norms or expectations about how people should act. Since you’ve been out of the loop for a few months, here is a short refresher on the unwritten rules of appropriate social behavior:
- Be patient. On your way to the test center, don’t honk or yell at other people who aren’t driving exactly how you think they should. Don’t get angry at the person reading the instructions. Listen and use the time to center yourself.
- Be kind. This isn’t a social gathering but it isn’t a gang fight. I’m not saying you actually have to interact with anyone but at the very least you can make eye contact and smile at your table mate.
- Be practical. Don’t over-react when something doesn’t go exactly as you think it should. No one is perfect so expect a few minor glitches and take them in stride.
When you find yourself getting irritated by the slightest perceived inconvenience (i.e., your table mate’s presence) and when you are tempted to act like rules don’t apply to you,consider doing some meditation. For example, if you just rolled your eyes at the very thought of meditating, you need to meditate.
Quick and Easy Meditation: Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold it for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-3x as needed.
Yes, the bar exam is a high stakes test but that doesn’t give you license ignore the rules governing socially acceptable behavior.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The above MLK quote is obviously not about the bar exam. I’m certainly not going to compare bar prep to the fight for fundamental civil rights and neither should you. So why did I lead off with this quote? Perspective.
Yes, bar prep is hard, you’re tired, you have no free time. But how lucky are you that your biggest struggle right now is about the bar exam? Growing up, anytime I’d whine complain about the sad state of my life, my mom would let me wallow in self-pity for a bit and then she’d say, “do you know how many people would love to be in your shoes?” This was way before “first world problems” became a thing, but it was the same idea.
The point is, you don’t have to be chipper and happy all the time. It’s ok to get discouraged and frustrated. You can wallow in self-pity for a bit but don’t lose the context. You get to take the bar exam. It is a privilege.
Read the MLK quote again:
Think about what it means and put the bar exam into perspective. You can do this.