No more time for whining and complaining. The exams are here. What do you need to do your best? You need the winning mindset. And who knows more about winning than athletes? Much like law students, athletes endure grueling schedules, successes and setbacks, the pressure to perform and manage expectations of their coaches, families, sponsors. How do they mentally prepare for the competitions? According to Dr. Aimee Kimball, director of mental training at UPMS Sports Medicine: “Mental training gives athletes the knowledge and ability to control their thinking and emotions, and in turn, their performance.” Law students can also benefit from mental training techniques.
- Visualization is one of the main techniques used by the athletes to create a successful course of events in their minds. According to the MIT research, it does not make much difference to the brain whether you see the real thing or imagine it: the brain responds in a similar pattern. Imagine how you want the day of the test to unfold. Picture yourself entering the classroom, you are composed and confident. You read the questions and know how to approach them. You are able to recall the information with ease. You manage time well. Imagine the sense of relief and satisfaction when the test is over. Use as many senses as you can to make the image real in your mind.
- Remembering your previous best performance can help you to replicate the experience. Remember the details of that peak performance. How did you feel? How did you handle challenges? The task is to recreate the mindset that led you to succeed. Once you have it, come up with a trigger word to anchor your experience. Use this trigger word to snap you back into the winning mentality when you need it. Repeat it to overcome the negative self-talk.
- Creating a ritual can help you to focus and stay in control. Exams are nerve-racking because we don’t know what to expect. Simple routines, including some breathing exercises, meditation, listening to a favorite song, can calm your mind.
- Develop the right attitude. Aligning your expectations with reality is an important step to avoid excessive stress and frustration. You can’t expect perfection every time. How you respond to what happens matters more than the happening itself. Set personal and meaningful goals to measure your own progress and commit to them. Control what you can and don’t stress about the uncontrollable.
- Increase your energy level. You can’t have the focus and mental alertness that you need for the peak performance if you lack energy. If you want to do well, you need to watch your diet, find time to exercise and get enough sleep. Easier said than done, but those who manage to do it consistently will be higher on that curve.
- Increase your efforts. Step it up a notch to build up some intensity before the test week. Do practice questions with time constraints. Set a schedule for review. Get into the rhythm. It’s like flexing your brain before the important event.
- Make it through the test “one play at a time.” Don’t let one difficult question throw you off for the rest of the test. Stay focused on the task at hand. Set a pace, and when the time allocated to the question is up, move on.
Do you have any mental training tips to share? Please leave a comment.