The antidote to test stress: be present

You know that phrase they use at raffles? “You have to be present to win.” The same is true of tests, as in life.

One thing I’ve noticed over and over again with people who have trouble with tests– they are flipping from the past (“Oh no, I didn’t study the right things”) to the future (“If I fail I’m going to lose my scholarship”). Though both statements may be true, going in either direction (past or future) is not helpful when you’re taking a test. At that moment, when you are reading and answering questions, you want and need to be one place and one place only: in the present.

Only by being present can we  do the job we need to do, at that moment. Only by being present can we develop the awareness that we’re veering off track, and then get back on track.

How many times in your life have you had to admit that you screwed up because you didn’t show up?

There is a real correlation between awareness and excellence, but awareness doesn’t happen accidentally. Usually, our minds are wandering far from home, as I said above,  leap-frogging from the past into the future, oblivious to what’s in front of us. To cultivate
awareness and achieve your highest potential, you have to train yourself.

Taking tests in a classroom, much as we may hate it, actually has a silver lining. It trains us to bring our awareness to bear on the present moment and to practice being calm, confident and focused.

When you learn how to master yourself in the tense environment of test taking, you will feel empowered to take those skills out of the classroom and into the rest of your life. You will have taught yourself to be strong, responsible and embodied when confronted with a difficult and challenging task. You can use that knowledge anywhere you go.

As long as you are willing to do the work to become a successful test taker, I can coach you through the process.

Here’s an exercise for you: Close your eyes. See yourself taking a test. Now see that you come upon a very difficult test question and you start worrying about what will happen if you don’t score well. See that you are veering off track and stop. Take a breath. Get yourself back on track. See yourself re-reading the question, slowly, thoughtfully. Now see yourself using what you know to answer the question as best you can.

Stay in the present!  It’s the only place you really are when you’re performing.  You might want to check out the tools for being calm, confident and focused in the book. Each and all the tools are designed to get you back to where you need to be: right here, right now.

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