With your examinations fast approaching, here are a few ideas and tips that may help you face any steamy situation with a cool head.
(1) Be confident
We know the pressures that lie ahead of us and what a really competitive world it is outside. There is pressure from teachers and parents – only because they are your well wishers. Often you become very anxious whether you will get high marks or not. But if you have prepared well and your teachers have put in their best, then never fear. Have faith in yourself. Nelson Mandela, in his inaugural presidential speech said that in this world we are not afraid of our weakness or inadequacies, but we are afraid of our strengths. We are not afraid of our smallness, we are afraid of our greatness.
There is greatness and capacity in all of us. But we doubt our own capacity. When we lack faith in ourselves then we become anxious. Of course if we are not prepared for what we have to do, we might as well get worried! Now if you want to reach the Everest and you are ever at rest, then you will certainly not make it! But if you are well prepared then don’t doubt yourself. Be confident. With the examinations coming closer, don’t be careless. Prepare well but once that is done, do not worry.
When we want success, first and foremost we must have confidence. Confidence comes when we (a) have prepared well, (b) have faith in ourselves, (c) have the blessings of teachers and parents and (d) have faith in the goodness and the justness of the Lord. Once a friend of mine failed very badly in an exam and felt very sad. On enquiry he said that he had become so anxious that he didn’t read the instructions properly. Though he was intelligent and had prepared well, he failed because of his anxiety. Be calm and confident. It is only with a peaceful mind that you can be efficient in your actions.
(2) Never compare yourself with others
There are many weaknesses in us. On the one hand we prepare well but on the other, a feeling of jealousy sometimes crops up. We often wonder whether the other person will get more marks. We should not waste our time comparing ourselves with others. The inner weaknesses of jealousy and unhealthy comparison are not good. They give you either a superiority or an inferiority complex. Each one of you is unique in your own way. Don’t try to be better than anybody else and don’t think anybody else is better than you. Each one – do your best.
(3) Be consistent
You must have a certain amount of consistency, and some control over your senses. During examination time, especially during that one month of preparation, see that you don’t allow any distraction to come in your way. For example, dreaming about things like going to restaurants, movies or meeting friends. Keep yourselves in control. Don’t allow distraction from the surroundings (external) nor from your imagination (internal) to drift your mind away. Keep your mind clear for studies. Many say, “We studied everything but just before the examination we feel we have forgotten everything”. The simplest way to concentrate is to keep away from all sources of distraction at least on the few days of your final revision. Of course you do need a break at times. Do relax. Take a break, go for a walk and spend a little time with your friends. But don’t distract yourself by going to a party or watching too many TV programmes.
(4) Understand what you study
When you read your book try to understand it; don’t try to cram it or blindly memorise it. When you try to cram, it makes you nervous because then, if you suddenly forget one word, you are likely to forget the whole paragraph. Take time to understand what you read because if you have understood something, you will not forget it easily.
(5) Don’t study just for the marks
Our learning is not just to get first class, a distinction or 90%. We do need all this today to get an admission in a good college. But what use is the degree if the related knowledge is not with us? Remember that a degree can get you a job but cannot guarantee you “stay” in the job. Therefore memorize lessons not just to get a degree but to gain knowledge. Good marks alone don’t make you successful in life. It is how much marks you got by understanding the subject that matters. Therefore try to study with the idea of absorbing and retaining the knowledge.
(6) Picture what you study
I remember when I was in Hyderabad, a young girl asked me, “Swamiji, I study everything and forget everything. How do I remember what I study?” Listen well in the class and revise your portion in the mind, step by step, till you do not need to refer to your notes at all. Another simple but very effective way to remember something is to visualize it and save it in the mind, as a picture. Once you have read a particular page or your notes, close your eyes and see those notes in your mind. This implies developing a photographic memory. Your eyes picturise what is written and where, and at the same time you revise everything till you can recall it all without looking at your book. I used this method during my school days and do the same even today. If you study with this type of concentration, your memory will be very good and you will remember what you have learnt for a long time.
(7) Fight the tendency to copy
When you are writing the paper, the temptation to copy often comes up. When you are not sufficiently well prepared or you are so anxious to get a good percentage, there is a tendency to copy from another. This temptation can arise in anyone. Therefore don’t even think you have an option to copy. When you are firm that you will not copy, somehow or other your mind will say, “To get good marks you have to prepare well”. In copying, half your time passes in thinking when and how to copy. How much time is wasted in merely thinking of copying! When you decide not to copy, you stop wasting your time and energy on it. Have faith in yourself and mind you, honesty pays, because one day all this is going to help you in your future journey in life.
(8) Don’t keep your goal small
Some of you may not want to take a professional course. You may just want to graduate. Don’t keep your goals small. You will probably not need a very high mark if you want to take up a course that is not in much demand. But the important thing is to do your best. Always remember that. Your best may still not give you fantastic results, but it will certainly give you the satisfaction of having done your best. So keep doing as well as possible. Try to keep higher goals. Let not getting marks or admission to a course be your only goal. Let knowledge be your goal.
(9) Never despair if things do not go your way
All of you are likely to pass. Yet some of you may not get into the college or profession of your choice.
It happened to me. I wanted to get into a particular profession. That year, due to certain changes in the system it became impossible Naturally at that time all that I worked for vanished before me when I was just seventeen or eighteen. Whether it was the unfair rule of the government or whatever the reason, I might have gone through a lot of depression and dejection. But thank God for the teachings of my grandmother, who said, “Take every failure as a stepping stone to success. If you have done your best and if you have not compromised and still things have not worked out your way, never ever think it to be your failure. There is something better waiting for you.”
You very often think that a certain career alone can make you happy, but deep down within you, ask yourself a question, “Why do you want to take that profession?” Whatever may be the reason, if you have done your best, life will take you to that place where you can fulfill your inner ambition. I didn’t realise at that time that I decided to follow that profession only because I thought it was best way to fulfill my inner desires. I thought I could do it with only a certain profession. But life had something even greater in store for me. At the right moment Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji came into my life, and I just knew that this was what I actually wanted. There was this man (Swamiji) spreading wisdom to everybody, shaping the lives of people, removing their sufferings and managing everything so beautifully that he became my goal and ideal and I suddenly realised that this is what I always wanted in my life.
What I am trying to tell you by this example is – never despair. I know how each and every one of you have worked, how much efforts your teachers, principal, and your parents have taken to help you. And we want all of you to get good marks and get what you desire. But if, for some reason, you do not get into the college or course you desire, do not despair. What appears to be the greatest tragedy today often turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. Have faith in the Lord. He has something better for you. Too bad the world would lose a good doctor or an engineer! But you can turn towards something else. Life will take you to the place that is best for you. Have that faith and continue. Some of my friends, who didn’t get into course they wanted lost heart. Don’t waste your life. You must fulfill your heart’s desire, if not by one profession, then by another.
Think of this interesting story. A highly successful business magnate is a paan seller (paanbeedivala). He was a poor man who did not complete even his SSLC nor get a job because he was a drop-out. So he started his own small business of selling paan. He was so dedicated to his job that in time, he became a successful businessman. Even after he became so wealthy, he would come in his Mercedes every day, stop a little away, walk down to his shop and still make paan there. He also paid his taxes regularly. His fame spread and he was interviewed by several newspapers. Among their questions, one was about his education. He replied that he was “SSLC failed.” The reporter exclaimed, “As an ‘SSLC fail’ you have achieved so much. Just imagine what you would have become if you had studied more!” He smiled and replied, “I would have become a sweeper!” This story is not meant to criticise education but to remind you that, after you do your best, leave the rest to God and He will surely give you what is best for you. Remember – you are never a failure unless you think you are one. Do your best and life will bring you the best.
(10) Plan a job not just for money but to serve more
Don’t take a job just for money. That is an automatic by-product if you are good in what you do. Take a job to serve people – to benefit more and more. If you want to become an engineer, dream of building the best structures. When you plan to serve others you will never compromise with your values. It is only when you work only for money that you may give up values to make more money. See what happened in Gujarat. Some say builders did not plan buildings well enough or build them strong enough to face earthquakes. Whatever you want to become, dream of serving others as much as is possible by you. Money will automatically come but your real satisfaction will be from your service. Such people become truly great. And this is the greatness that I want every child to achieve.
I wish you all the best – in fact I wish you more than that – I wish you the “bestest” in your exams, professions and your entire life! Wherever you are, God’s love will always be with you.