One of the biggest questions that you need to ask yourself is how do you think of yourself with respect to life?
- Do you think of yourself as an individual who makes life happen or to whom life happens?
- Do you see yourself at the doing end of things or at the receiving end of things?
- Do you believe or do you hope?
The most counter-productive thing of all
The answers to the question above will also reflect what your thoughts are currently as you look forward to taking the CAT this Sunday.
If you fall into the second camp on each question, then chances are that you are worrying about
- the paper turning out to be tough
- questions from all the areas that you have not touched turning up on CAT
- the kind of questions you were not able to answer in SimCATs turning up on CAT
- what will happen if you do not crack the CAT this year
- how you will face your parents and dear ones
While all of these fears are legitimate is there anything that worrying can accomplish?
For each of these questions ask yourself two questions
- Should I be thinking about it right now or rather if I don’t think about it right now or over the next three days will my life will be ruined?
- If the answer to the above question is YES, then can I do anything to address the worry and solve it?
The only worry that you CAN address is the second one — by covering the most important formulas across all the areas/topics you have not touched so far.
All the rest are NOT in your hands and if you can’t do anything about it then no point thinking about it.
Your future hinges on this test but then can you let your test performance hinge on your negative thoughts about the future?
Worrying does not result in anything, it is the most counter-productive activity of all things we can think or do.
The power of visualization
The thing about the mind is that its very nature is to attach itself to something, like a bee that is constantly buzzing about.
You CANNOT control it from buzzing (something possible for only short periods of time meditation).
You will be better-off DIRECTING it towards a correct single-point focus.
When faced with big days or occasions it automatically gets directed towards the enormity of the event.
This is not something that is unique to test-takers, this is something that everyone faces in life, especially sportsmen who have to face the pressure of performing at the highest-level.
The most successful sportsmen and sports teams have learned to direct their minds towards a particular goal and channelize the power of visualization.
Haven’t we visualized our favorite sportsman leading his team to glory in the toughest of times?
Do we visualize him/her doing it in the easiest of situations? We always want him/her to battle and win the toughest of situations.
This is exactly what the biggest sports stars themselves do — they visualize themselves performing at the highest-level during clutch time.
Michael Jordan was known to rehearse the entire game as it would play out. Guess who read this in a book about Jordan, visualized and executed an innings that is now rated as the second-best test innings of all time by Wisden?.
In early 1999, Brian Lara returned as captain from South Africa, from a 0-5 drubbing. Before the tour was a pay dispute, after it there was just general despondency. Lara was put on probation as captain for the first two Tests against Australia, and Webster worked closely with the team, and Lara in particular.
Webster describes what Lara was going through then as “a process of self-sabotage”. Champions can sometimes go through such phases; every conceivable pressure piles up on them and bottles up the ability. It is medically proven that the stress affects vision and makes the reflexes more sluggish.
West Indies lost the first Test of the series, in Lara’s hometown, Port-of-Spain, by 312 runs, after having been bowled out for a humiliating 51 in the second innings. Basically, West Indies cricket was crumbling around Lara – which means, also, that he was at the centre.
Around then Lara was exposed to a technique called Visualisation. Think of Visualisation as a mental rehearsal; like writing the plot – and the end – to a story that is still unfolding. At about the same time, Lara remembers, an old friend from school, Nicholas Gomez, presented him with a book on Michael Jordan. “He had an entire page on how he went about visualizing what’s going to happen in a game,” Lara recalls. In the series against Australia, an inspired 213 from Lara’s blade had won the second Test at Jamaica to square the series.
In the last innings at Barbados, the venue of the third Test, West Indies were chasing 308 for victory against McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill. Of course, it was going to be desperately hard. Lara played one of the great Test innings.
Lara had seen it all before it happened. “I remember calling Gomez at six o’clock in the morning, the last morning of the Test match, and we went about planning this innings against the best team in the world. It was amazing to see how it just came to fruition. You know, a partnership with someone – it happened to be Jimmy Adams – and the innings ultimately evolving into a match-winning one.”
— excerpted from Rahul Bhattacharya’s article
It is a great video to watch, chasing 308 after being 105/5 with the last runs being scored in the company of arguably the worst #11 in cricket – Courtney Walsh.
What should YOU visualize?
The important thing to note is that in planning the chase with his friend in the morning, Lara kept it realistic. He knew that his team was prone to collapsing and the support of one other guy would be crucial. He did not imagine for himself a path strewn with flowers, instead, he imagined a road full of potholes and hoped for a good set of shock absorbers.
So over the next few days, you should visualize yourself doing the right things and overcoming obstacles instead of hoping and praying for an easy paper that falls to your strengths.
Talk yourself into doing the right things
This is what Martin Crowe, who was highly regarded by his peers both as a player and as a captain had to say about how the power of visualization can be harnessed to maximise performance.
From my own perspective, my mind was often filled with thoughts, coupled with underdeveloped emotions. It wasn’t a great mix in which to take on the art of batting at the top level. My footwork was sure and a priority, yet I quickly realised that footwork and mind-work go hand in glove. I needed some mental crutches and so I sought out the new phenomenon of sports psychology to deal with an overflow of desultory musing.
I learnt techniques of visualisation, of playing the future out in the mind first, using pictures.
Most of all, I learnt to repeat affirmations one after the other (“Head still, head still, watch the ball, watch the ball”), slowly and deliberately, to block out any unforeseen random thought (“What if I get out?”) that might jump into my head and trip me up again.
If you see he did not visualize himself hitting Allan Donald for a six on a fast pitch; he did not set himself visions of grandeur. He focussed on the small things he should do right and the thoughts he should avoid.
Solving questions is very similar since every ball is similar to question and solving it successfully is about doing all the small things correctly.
What should you see yourself executing?
- Visualise yourself reading the question instead of skimming the question
- Visualise yourself not jumping to solve the question but taking a call whether to solve it or not.
- Visualise yourself doing the calculation part with the calmness required to not make silly mistakes.
- Visualise yourself dealing with the unfavorable turn of events that we listed in the previous post and dealing with them.
- Visualise yourself solving questions in the way you solve it at home — with relaxed nerves
- Visualise yourself staying calm in the face of a tough/adverse paper.
In the same article Crowe summarises things really well.
The key, from what I have learnt, from what I now believe, is that no matter your experiences and circumstances, your reality is in the present moment – what you are living in the feeling of your thinking in the present moment. That’s your truest reality.
It is not the memory of what went before, or the concern of what may come in the future, that is real. In batting, it is the clear-minded thinking of watching and moving to the present ball being bowled that is real.
Fear of getting out is really an illusion, a negative thought with feeling added to it, about past failures and / or future ones. It needn’t be there at all. The fact is, you will get out, so there is no need to fear it; simply delay the inevitable for as long as possible.
You can succeed if you clear away everything that’s not to do with the present moment, the next ball, if you remove old baggage or concern about what might happen in time. Just think about watching the ball leave the bowler’s hand. That’s it.
Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi says it best. “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
Forget the pressure to perform, it is an opportunity to perform
The crucial thing that we should never lose track of is this — you have an opportunity to perform.
Most of you have had the privilege of decent food, decent education, decent shelter. Some of you, I know, have had to struggle for these things. So now you have the opportunity to build a better career.
I have spoken before in class about real pressure and real lack of opportunity — migrant laborers waiting at various junctions during morning hours hoping that someone would bundle them into a truck and give them an opportunity to just earn their daily bread, just exist with dignity.
Most of us are lucky to have this opportunity. It is up to us to think the right things and make the right things happen.
This is not something that applies only to CAT-day.
It will apply even more after you enter a premier b-school — summer placements, final placements and most importantly life.
The biggest battle is always won in the space between the ears and you have to visualize and talk yourself into doing the right things and succeeding.