Sometimes at Columbia, the pressure can get a little bit intense. Butler becomes a hub of campus life, and a competitive spirit begins to fill the air. When everyone is talking about their grades, graduate school, and getting on the dean’s list, it’s difficult to detach from this contagious energy. Before you know it, midterm becomes your middle name, and the world seems to shrink to the size of a study guide. This lack of perspective is not only isolating and lonely, but could actually stand in the way of you doing well on the thing you’re obsessing about.
But in times of increasing stress it seems that doing your best and letting go of the results is like asking for failure, and thus, this is where the change in thinking needs to start.
What is it about lack of sleep, slaving away at problem sets and re-reading and criticizing the same essay we’ve written over and over again that suggests success? Is it perhaps the idea that if we do what we can and then let it go, some how we won’t be able to control our future? Is it that we don’t trust that our best work is enough—a lack of self-esteem? Or is it simply peer-pressure, that because the person sitting next to you in Ref has been here since 8 AM and hasn’t taken a lunch break, that you feel less than if you don’t do that same? Whatever the reasons behind our perfectionism, having a different, and much less tense experience requires a change in attitude.
Top Six Ways To Change Your Attitude About Midterms
1. Don’t set impossible standards for yourself. Instead of aiming for a certain grade or result, which ultimately is not even up to you, tell yourself you’re going to simply do your best, and that will be enough.
2. After you turn something in or take an exam, let it go. Do not think back to all the things you could have done better or studied more thoroughly. This is futile thinking and does not change anything about the past. Many of us, including myself, often believe the illusion that worrying is productive.
3. Comparing yourself with others always leads to despair. Your best work has nothing to do with what your best friend or the stranger in your CC class considers their best work. Put the focus on yourself, do your own thing, and let others do the same.
4. If a test or assignment doesn’t go as planned, let yourself off the hook. The only one who expects you to be perfect is you, and if perfection is the standard you set for yourself, you will never reach it. Perfection is entirely antithetical with being human. Being angry at yourself for not being perfect is like blaming the sun for not being purple…it is illogical thinking.
5. Take a break at least once a day to do something that makes you happy. Some Student Wellness Project suggestions: take a yoga class, run in Riverside Park, go to Pinkberry, hang out with your friends, take a nap, go to a performance on campus. More importantly, realize that you deserve the break, and that it will actually improve your focus while studying. Don’t deprive yourself as a way to control the outcome.
6. Remember that a midterm is just that, a midterm. It is not the first midterm you will ever have, nor the last, and in the scope of your entire life it is not as important as you believe it to be.
Take things one day at a time, do your best, and let go of the results. Keep a balance, and keep perspective.
Wishing to CU Well,