I have been an awful exam taker for as long as I can remember. The idea of an exam just always terrified the hell out of me. I involuntarily become very stressed whenever I am taking any kind of one, no matter what age I am. I never quite understood my fear and stress towards it or what triggered that kind of stress. I thought it was normal, since most people tend to get stressed or fearful towards exams in general, but I realized that the way I felt wasn’t solely about exams; it was also about many things in life.
So I started to handle my stress using a different approach; I started tracking my thoughts during the times I get stressed the most. I started asking myself questions like: What do I think about the minute I see the exam paper in front of me? And I realized that all my thoughts had been very negative ones. They were all about how maybe I hadn’t studied enough to pass. Or what if I failed or forgot something or the exam was too difficult? All these thoughts gave me anxiety. I realized that I always jump into the worst-case scenario and keep playing it in my head. This scarcity mindset made me perform awfully in exams. It made me forget things I knew very well because my brain was panicking over everything that could go wrong instead of actually focusing on solving the exam itself.
I realized that I did the same exact thing when it came to many things in my life, and I saw others keep doing the same thing too. I have a friend, for example, who has been trying to learn to drive for so long now, but every time she tries to drive, she can’t stop herself from thinking about things. Like what if she runs someone over? Or what if she just bumps into a car or loses control, or makes a major mistake that leads to an accident? All these thoughts keep hindering her learning process and make her too tense and scared while driving.
We don’t track our thoughts during these moments or understand why we feel or behave the way we do. If we become more aware of these thoughts and the size and impact they have on us, we could shift the way we perform drastically. Because even though some fear can be good sometimes and can even be a motivation for certain things, we can’t neglect the fact that too much of it can have terrible consequences and influence on us.
It’s really important for us to assess these thoughts we keep having and their frequency in order to understand our behavior better and in order to start working on transforming these thoughts into better ones and start seeing the difference that could happen once we do.