It's exam time at my house, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about "thinking for success". Unfortunately, positive psychology can't give us any short cuts or easy outs. There's no way around it - we have to learn the material and put in the hours of studying in order to achieve great results. If you've done the work, though, you CAN give yourself an extra edge by harnessing the power of your mind to give you it's very best . Now it's not good enough to just tell yourself "I'm going to ace the test" if you don't already know your stuff. No substitute for good old hard work. However, It is incredibly useful to add some simple strategies to your study routine:
1. Study Skills: Before your study session, take five minutes to RELAX your mind. Whatever works for you is great. Maybe it's meditation or listening to a piece of music. A favourite of mine is to visualize myself enjoying a calm and peaceful beautiful experience. Imagine your "happy place". Close your eyes and take ten slow, deep relaxing breaths. Now your brain is ready to learn.
2. While you are studying: Check your focus throughout your study session. Is your mind on topic? Interact with your material by quizzing yourself: What did I just read? Can I explain it back to myself, or pretend to "teach" it to someone else? When your mind wanders, gently encourage yourself to come back on task. Take breaks to refresh yourself and clear your head if you get bored, sleepy or frustrated.
3. Success Talk: If you talk to yourself in positive, encouraging ways, you will give yourself the best chance of performing well. There are two big reasons why this works: First, it just makes you feel good, feel confident, and feel pride in how hard you've worked. Second, a positive attitude keeps you relaxed and focused. It allows your brain to learn, retain information, and most importantly, it let's your brain do what it needs to do during the exam: think clearly, problem-solve and remember what is stored in your head. Negative self-doubts just take up too much space and use up too much energy. Fear, tension, anxiety and self-criticism are all blocks to learning and performing effectively. So fill your head with the realistic self talk that works: I CAN do this! I've spent many hours preparing! I understand the concepts! I'm ready for this. I know my stuff! I'll just continue to do my best!
4. Before you take the test: The night before the exam, make sure you take some time to do some relaxation, breathing, visualizing and supportive talking to yourself. On exam day, do the same: Before you start: relax, breath and give yourself that last minute boost by talking your way to success.