Have you reached success in other parts of your life? School, relationships, a new hobby, an extracurricular your mom forced you to do in middle school?
Why not the bar?
As you try to push through this final stretch, you might have some doubts, frustrations, and a general sense of uncertainty. You can’t wait to abandon the bar like a New Year’s resolution and just be done with it!
“That’s normal. I can’t help it.”
The future is full of hope, however, because you don’t need to be extraordinary to pass the bar (although I’ll try to get you there). You can be “normal” and still become an attorney. It’s just a matter of when.
But what you can’t do is self-sabotage. You can help it if you choose to.
Here are three things you should stop telling yourself (one week before the bar exam, two weeks before, anytime you’re doubting yourself during preparation):
1. “I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not the ‘type’ to do well on exams.”
Do you mean “can’t” or “won’t”?
I graduated bottom 11% in law school. Some of my readers who passed the bar were way behind in points or went to an unaccredited school. You do have a say in the situation. If you can graduate law school, the bar’s got nothing on you.
Do you know the scariest thing about humans as predators? They keep following and hunting their prey until it gives up from exhaustion.
Persistence and attitude > natural ability.
The sun rises every day, consistently. So don’t get discouraged. Why?
Because you are the sun.
2. “I guess I’m not good enough. It will happen if it’s meant to be. I give up.”
OK, if you say so.
Before you give up though, let’s make sure that it’s possible to improve and prepare. To make this your last time, not wait until it’s hopefully your last time.
“What did I do wrong and how can I improve?” is a better question than “Why am I no good?”
Improvement comes from constant feedback and learning every time you struggle to solve a difficult problem.
The way to bounce back from failure is to study your failure. Reconsider and question yourself when you catch yourself going through the same motions over and over yet not getting the outcome you want.
Don’t freeze yourself with things you can’t control. Surrender to them. But do prepare for things you can.
Optimism = a belief that your behavior and thoughts matter in the face of challenge = success.
To be fair, it’s said that good lawyers are pessimistic and realistic. They have to point out everything that’s wrong and be all obnoxious about it. Well, save that for after you pass the bar.
3. “I spent so much of my time and money, but I’m still spinning my wheels!”
It’s totally fine and encouraged to invest in yourself. But your attention is your most valuable resource, not time or money. Time to use it!
Are you going to be an assassin studying his enemy and training for the job (of committing first-degree murder of the bar), or are you going to be the security guard who ignores the monitors and gets knocked out by the enemy?
Time + attention – money = resourcefulness
Money + attention – time = concentration
Time + money – attention = regret
You want focus, concentration, and attention toward the one job you have—preparing for the bar. It’s not about the difficulty or simplicity but the fact that you need to get it done.
Purify and shape your environment to give your brain no choice but to do the work. Get rid of distractions when it’s time to study. Let yourself be the one to decide when to attend to distractions and requests.
Then get clear on what to do. Use the tools you acquired. Get some sleep.
By the way, this final stretch is where things click for many students. Probably because their prep course finally lets them go off to practice and get self-feedback instead of wasting their time.
So don’t be discouraged yet. Your best now is enough, even if your future best will be better. Plenty of others before you have gone through this and come out all right. You will also.