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  • Cynthia Harrington, CFA

Manage Doubt Increase Probability

20 days to go. And think how far you have come already.

You’ve been living with stress and anxiety since you registered for the upcoming exam. And now in the last days before the big day, self-doubt turns up the heat and your mind is turned over to a kind of chaos that can transform all your hard work into a self-defeating virtual reality.

Yet this chaos is not an actual reality.

The thoughts that define your doubt are probably variations on these:

"What was I thinking? I’m not good enough. The CFA is the top of the heap."

"Everyone else who’s prepping is far more qualified than I."

"I didn’t study enough. My knowledge of derivatives is lacking. I never learned the accounting. I don’t know (fill in the blank)."

"That week I took off in (fill in the blank) is going to cost me."

"I haven’t gotten as much support as everyone else I’m sure I’ve been too distracted and I’ll never recall all this material."

This fake doubt is driving you to overthink every millisecond of your study plan that seemed so assured when you first mapped it all out. Did I study long enough? Should I be scoring higher on the mock exams?

You might be lying awake nights, losing sleep, as the thoughts scream in your head. Sleep is crowded out by nightmares in which you can’t find your passport or your car breaks down on the way to the exam center. In some extreme cases, you might be like other candidates and thinking of “ending it all”. You might be lashing out at friends and family or withdrawing from all contact, retreating into funk behind closed office door.

You are not alone. And with 20 days remaining until December 2, these are not the thoughts that will feed your success.

Since all these chattering voices are virtual not real, you are in control. Thoughts are just thoughts. You can starve the chattering voices and frame a conversation that speaks to you of belief in yourself.

With 20 days to go it’s not time to think too much about a solution. You do have time for some quick tricks that take no energy and yet can be the difference between an efficient payoff of your massive investment of time and the effort being a sunk cost you have to invest again next year.

So how do you shift your thinking? By the same methods that cause the chattering voices.

Self-doubt is caused by selective attention, selective memory, and selective interpretation of all the reasons why you can’t succeed. Just turn it around. Focus on the selective reasons why you WILL pass.

From research on actual students, and from experience on what works, these mental tricks will turn the self-doubt around onto itself, and into belief in yourself.

  1. First, get your body engaged. Physical movement and success energizes brain. Ride a bike 15 minutes, do 25 jumping jacks or 3 sets 10 pushups. You’ll succeed at this task. Already your internal conversation is changing.

  2. Next, practice self-cheerleading. I’m great I can do anything. Support it with proof from the many successes you have racked up in your own life. The opposite of self-doubt is self-efficacy, or belief in yourself. And research on academic success proves that that belief can be influenced by you talking to you. Schedule time to cheer yourself on; be intentional about this task and don’t do it to talk back to the chatters.

  3. Cheerleading from others magnifies this effort. Get the same talk coming from your support groups. Cheer each other on with blind encouragement.

In this home stretch before the exam, your biggest task is to keep your head straight. Monitor your thoughts. Doubts do you not one bit of good at this stage. Stay disciplined about your study plan of course. Add practice of selective attention, selective memory, and selective interpretation that focus on why you will pass, of course. Keep your thoughts tuned to how smart you are, how well prepared you are, what a wonderful charter holder you will be in your future job, and how strong is your belief in yourself.

Keeping your focus on belief in self will add points to your score in similar degrees of your success with high self-beliefs.

Questions? Text, email, or call us click icons on lower right of screen!

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