We all have those memories that have stuck with us no matter how many years have gone by – ones that we revisit once in a while and reflect on the lesson learned. One of my memories goes back to the year 2000, when I went to see my grade 12 math teacher the morning before my final diploma exam to ask him a math question. The mark I would get on this single exam would be worth 50% of my entire math 12 mark. It was a big deal but I had spent so much time preparing that I felt confident. After he answered my question he asked, “how do you feel? Are you ready for it?” I calmly and confidently responded, “yeah, I’m aiming to get a 100%.” I am now very familiar with the awkward silences people give you when they think you’ve said something ridiculous. But on that morning I was so sure of my preparedness for this final test that I didn’t have any doubt I knew absolutely everything they could throw at me. I felt calm and tried to stay away from the kids sitting in the cafeteria cramming and telling each other how nervous they were. I needed to keep my state of mind. I didn’t end up getting 100%, but I got 98%. You know how they say shoot for the moon so if you fall, you’ll land on the stars? Although I didn’t get my 100% I was quite proud of myself for how close I came to my goal. This memory has stayed with me until now because it taught me a few important life lessons:
Prepare prepare prepare
I had started preparing two months in advance and spent hours studying, doing sample questions, going over the entire textbook, and completing sample tests while timing myself. I had prepared for this exam like an athlete trains for their event. I have learned that by preparing fully and completely for a big event my confidence comes naturally and my nerves are at ease on the day. I used this lesson in 2018 to prepare to give my first TED talk. I practiced so much that I was able to rehearse with ease and comfort in any environment – while walking my dog, in a busy park, or running on the treadmill.
You must have 100% faith in yourself
If I didn’t have all the faith in myself and my skills my teacher’s silence after I told him how high I was aiming could have created doubts in my mind. Once you’ve done all the preparation and training, it’s time to put all the self-doubt aside and have complete faith that you are bound to be successful. This way, it won’t matter what others say or think your inner state will remain confident and reassured.
Don’t focus on the outcome
Even though I set a goal to get 100% on the math exam, once I set the goal I stopped thinking about it. The goal gave me the destination I wanted to reach and the rest of the focus was in my training and preparation. Paying attention to improving skills, habits, and strategies are what will get you to your goal. Too often goal setting fails to give concrete results because we are too focused on the outcome and since it is a far away destination from where we currently are, we feel overwhelmed and give up.
Every event and encounter can teach us something valuable about life and living. The key is to pay attention to not miss these wisdom nuggets we can use for our growth and development.