Are you preparing to crack the judiciary exam? Do you aspire to become a judge?
Have you wondered why some people are able to study effectively for hours, weeks, months and years, retain the information and apply themselves, and therefore crack the country’s toughest competitive exams, sometimes in one-shot, while others struggle for years and yet fail?
What distinguishes those who progress and ultimately crack the exam, from those who are preparing for a long time but eventually fail?
Have you wondered what you can do to stay on track till the last leg of preparation and not fall off the bandwagon?
Cracking a competitive exam like the judiciary is no mean feat. You cannot succeed without building a strong mindset and certain successful habits.
Studying hard for a day or two is easy. We have all done it before various exams. Studying hard for 2-3 months is much harder. You may have done it before the board exam. But studying even harder than that for a year or two? Can you even imagine how hard that is?
Consistency is the biggest challenge here. You need real mental toughness. Most people break down mentally after doing such hard work for a few weeks, forget studying 10-12 hours a day with full focus for 18 months, which is needed to finish any average judiciary exam syllabus with two rounds of reasonable revisions.
Yet, nobody really focuses on this consistency and mental toughness aspect, although at LawSikho we find this to be the most critical aspect for preparing for judiciary exams successfully.
Developing one’s mindset for the exam has never been a core pillar for colleges, even coaching classes totally ignore this. And brilliant self-study plans usually crash exactly on this shore.
Sure, you can get generic advice which does not really help, such as:
Don’t party, or you will regret it. When you succeed, your friends who partied will look at you and envy you.
Don’t use Instagram or Facebook too much. Don’t watch Netflix so much. Do not be on twitter.
You need to study hard and focus.
This advice does not work and soon becomes a taunt that drains you, until you mentally beat yourself up for not being a ‘dedicated’ student. That self-bashing further ruins your self-esteem and makes studying harder.
Here’s the problem with the advice:
It tells you what you should not be doing, but it does not make it easy for you to adopt the advice.
It is almost like your parents, teachers and other mentors assume that once it is decided that you must focus, you will manage to prevent yourself from getting carried away.
“We did it too in our days, for such a mission,” they say.
However, only you know how difficult it is. The times have changed and distractions are a thousand times more powerful. There was no Netflix when your uncles and aunties were preparing for competitive exams. Boring Durdarshan was called TV.
“But our times and distractions are different!”
Today, I am going to share a few components that will help you stay focused and prepare at maximum capacity, consistently.
I am sharing this after having performed years of self-development work on myself while working on legal education courses, obsessively building Lawsikho into an 100-member team and multi-crore fast-growing business committed to helping students succeed and land the best jobs in the country, irrespective of their law school or academic grades.
The work you have to do for a year or two, I have worked like that every day for the last 10 years. And I have trained and coached hundreds of students, colleagues and mentees to become highly and consistently productive in the long run without losing their sanity in the same fashion.
Irrespective of where you stand currently with your judiciary preparation, this will be beneficial for you.
Do not even think of starting academic work without preparing yourself for the rigorous schedule in terms of your mental health and an array of habits that will help you to stay strong through the process.
Motivation and self-esteem work
Make sure that you take out time to nourish your dream.
Motivation is not ‘in the head’. It is not that some people are born motivated. It is just that they have practiced it, either consciously or accidentally. They have developed this muscle that enables them to pursue their dreams in a highly motivated state, and that motivation sticks in the long term and does not vanish when it comes in contact with hardship and failure.
In most cases, their environment may have helped.
How can you develop this muscle? Through continuous practice. No matter what disappointment, failure or unfair hardship you may face, you have to motivate yourself to do what you need to do to get to the next level of the game.
It is almost impossible to do this alone which is why your environment is so critical. Do you have people around who will motivate you when you have no motivation left? Are you surrounded by people like that?
It doesn’t matter what situation you are in, you need to be developing this mindset if you want this level of success. Irrespective of how or under what circumstances you grew up or currently live, this will help.
Take time out to visualize
Why do you want to be a judge? What will happen when you become a judge?
Will you be proud of yourself once you crack the exam? Whom can you proudly tell that you’ve done it? What will it mean to your family if you become a judge?
How will the others look at you or perceive you?
How will you be able to make a difference to society and help common people if you become a judge?
I strongly recommend that you make notes. Write down your thoughts about this. Do not perform this work mentally, you will not be able to come up with anything concrete. Plus, when it is written down, you will keep this handy for reading later from time to time.
Hit reply and send me your answer.
Your vision is subconsciously shaped in your mind as you write or type.
But then it really takes hold when you read it again and again and invoke those powerful feelings and make them your permanent thought process.
Spend about 15 minutes everyday imagining, reading and writing about the world around you and what you can accomplish once you become a judge.
You will face a lot of inertia when you first sit down to do this. You may even find it emotionally draining. Keep doing it every day nonetheless.
It is not easy to think like this. We have been programmed since our childhood to not think like this. But this is the kind of thinking and mindset you have to develop if you want to achieve outstanding success in life instead of a mediocre, safe but unremarkable existence.
Improve your self-esteem
What you can achieve or cannot achieve depends on how much you believe in your own capabilities. Do you believe that you deserve good things in life? This is a non-negotiable starting point.
If you do not have this belief you will sabotage your own progress at every step, even if unconsciously, without ever realising how you sabotage yourself.
That belief is your self-esteem.
You cannot artificially enhance your self-esteem.
How do you recognize your own level of self-esteem?
On multiple occasions during the day, irrespective of what you are doing, your inner voice will leap up and say something to you.
You will be handling something difficult, and there may be a thought about, “I will mess it all up.”
That is the articulation of your current level of self-esteem.
Notice that this voice is often judgmental. It also talks about your future and not about the specific activity you are performing.
It usually says something about whether you will eventually make it or not, in life.
From time to time, I have heard my inner voice sneak out and say, “No matter what I do or how much I work, I will eventually fail.”
How should you deal with your inner voice?
You cannot shut your inner voice down or fight it.
You cannot take caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes or steroids to change this. It takes work.
Irrespective of what you say to the outside world, this is what you believe about yourself.
Here are a few things you can do to build your beliefs:
- Listen to audio affirmations – you will find several ‘affirmations’ on Spotify, YouTube and other apps. It really helps if you listen to them for some time every night as you fall asleep. If you can, listen to it all night as you sleep. There are studies which show that listening to such affirmations over time rewires the way you think. From experience, I can tell you that you will wake up fresher and more positive the next morning. You may also find yourself more hands-on in the face of challenges and failure.
- Mirror-work – The most powerful affirmations are the ones that you make to your own self. How can you do that? By doing it in the mirror. Now, don’t just go and vomit something out. It takes some guidance to regularly do it. You may have a lot of resistance or an ‘artificialness’ about looking at yourself in the mirror. I suggest following the 21-day program by Louise Hay, which is available in this book.
I have noticed my self-esteem levels rise significantly and very quickly in challenging times, when I do mirror work.
- Align your environment to your goals – There may be various aspects about your environment that weigh you down. Sometimes, a parent may doubt your capacity, or friends may be dismissive about your competence. For others, there may just be too many distractions. You will need to keep communicating what you are upto and how you are making progress, to keep aligning people to a new you. Often, people will still not believe you and continue their criticisms. It doesn’t matter – keep moving on. If necessary, change the environment.
For me, staying confined in my house during lockdown coupled with the pollution in winter is quite bad. So I am moving to other places such as Dehradun, Ranchi and Goa for two weeks at a time and working from there. It is an enriching experience. I have noticed my productivity shoot up in a different location.
Find a place where you can be productive. You do not have to travel to a different city, but create a haven where you can be highly productive. Make sure people in your life are aligned to you studying 10-12 hours a day without distractions. Have allies who will protect your time space. Is there someone in your life who will help you to focus and drive away others who would want to waste your time or energy? Or are there people who will suck up your energy leaving you so drained that you will not be able to focus?
You need to figure these things out before you can find energy, time and space to prepare the way you need to prepare to crack judiciary exams.
- Set ambitious goals and accomplish them everyday – Self esteem can be improved through concrete actions that you take to achieve your goals. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind regarding this:
- Set ambitious daily targets – ambitious but winnable.
- Take actions to achieve them
- Fight till the last, it doesn’t matter whether you achieved the targets or not – but how much better you got compared to what you thought you can do in the beginning
In this step, being uncomfortable and pushing yourself to complete things and to achieve more is important.
Taking care of your nutrition is very important. A lot of times, cravings increase because of lack of nutrition.
For instance, if you have low levels of vitamin B12 or D3, or deficiency of calcium or magnesium, your brain will not function the way you need it to. Same if you do not have enough protein or if your brain is dehydrated.
If your microbiome is not in good shape, you can get depressed, and it can severely impact your preparation.
You need to ensure terrific brain health, and therefore good nutritional habits to function optimally while you go through the gruelling preparation routine.
If you have nothing else going on in the direction that you want in your life to go, comfort food (read: junk, sugar, alcohol, high-calorie food and addictive substances) is what will attract you dragging you down even further.
What are the best practices for staying healthy?
Want to wake up energized and focused and start your morning on a powerful note? Vitamin B-12, Magnesium, Calcium, Folate and Zinc supplements are extremely helpful. Remember, these are not medicines but supplements, but still you may want to consult experts.
You might also want to start off with some protein supplementation (at least 30 grams a day). Indian diets are high in carbs but very low in protein. Even if you don’t work out, protein helps to detoxify and makes your brain work well.
Want to ensure that you don’t fall sick? Probiotics, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C (1 gram at least) would help to improve your immunity.
Do you want to stay energetic all day? Don’t ignore your sleep. Great sleep is the secret to all-day energy, and magnesium supplementation really helps here.
There is a world of difference in a consolidated ‘multivitamin’ which you get over-the-counter from the chemist or a nutrition store, and specialised nutritional supplements.
I have been taking these supplements since the past year and a half, and it has done wonders for me.
The level of anger, frustration and cynicism has greatly reduced.
You don’t need to work out for one hour per day 6 times per week. That kind of workout is optional and not necessary. Six pack abs or a bikini body are not mandatory, but good health is.
Workout also helps your brain function well.
You need to make sure that the muscles in your body are worked and used up every day, and that you stretch, so that you are mentally alert during the day, and so that you can fall off to sleep at night the moment you hit the bed.
Even 30 minutes of dedicated workout, 3 times a week, and stretching yourself on the remaining days, can be sufficient.
I practice spot-running on a folded yoga mat (good for knees) for 10 mins, stretch for 15 and do about 20 pushups and squats.
You can figure out a self-made program or a private trainer who can help you through a workout on Zoom.
There are some other best practices as well to keep your mind alert:
- Stand while working on the computer. Ramanuj takes webinars standing.
- Walk while you are on phone calls. If you do this for a few hours everyday, you will hit 10,000 steps comfortably, and that is a good way to keep you active.
- Count your steps. You can purchase an Mi Fitness band at around INR 2000 – 2,500 from Amazon. It will also help you to measure your sleep which is very important.
It is important to measure your physical activity.
When you see improvements and dips in your fitness, your mood or your study performance, you will be able to correlate it with your workout.
Obsession with Measurement
Peter Drucker, the management guru said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
You need to measure everything, whether it is your progress on your preparation strategy, workout, or your steps taken everyday.
High-performance athletes and successful businessmen measure everything.
Did sleeping late by an hour impact your productivity the next day? Did reconnecting with friends make you feel more focussed?
These are important aspects to measure.
Use the ‘Daylio’ app to identify the patterns in your mood, performance and correlate them with your activities.
For example, does reading a lot of chapters feel ‘average’, as compared to attempting a mock test, going through 5 chapters and 5 topic-wise quizzes?
This is just to measure what having a productive day feels like.
To ensure that you are able to crack the exam, you will need to create a study plan with specific, measurable milestones that enables you to measure progress.
First, there will be a broad plan which enables you to complete the syllabus within, say, 18 – 48 months, depending on when you start studying.
This is the grand plan.
If you start studying in the second year of 5 year law college, your plan will be different from someone who starts studying in the fourth year or fifth year.
In the second year, you can’t afford to take it easy and wait until the fourth or fifth year arrives, when you can opt for coaching, as popular advice goes.
If you follow that advice, you lose the opportunity to gain any advantage in comparison to your competition.
If you are already in 4th-5th year, you have lost time but start intense studying and make up for lost time.
At the second level, you need to create plans to complete the syllabus for each subject. This is the subject-wise plan.
At the third level, you will need to create daily study schedules of 8-14 hours per day.
These schedules incorporate study time (notes, pre-recorded videos), attending class, attempting practice quizzes to test retention, attempting mocks to measure where you stand in comparison to where you have to reach, etc.
Now, most people do not make progress because they do not create a concrete plan with specific, measurable results.
Then they are unable to measure their progress. They are not even sure midway whether they are still going in the right direction. Imagine swimming in the sea, hoping you are going in the right direction, but always fearing that you might be swimming away from the shore. You will tire more from the fear rather than fighting the waves.
Soon, people give up.
Now, compare the performance of someone who has been constantly measuring their progress as per the method above, with someone else who has been studying hard without such elaborate planning and measurements in place.
Who do you think will be better prepared? Who will perform better in the exam?
If you still couldn’t figure it out, I’ll tell you the answer. The first person, hands on.
You may ask me in wonder about how people can plan to such incredible levels of complexity.
Well, that is where great coaching can help.
It is very important to have mentors and guides who can coach you through such issues.
Arjun was the greatest warrior of his time. But he sought out Krishna as his mentor during Kurukshetra. Do you let your ego deny you the benefit you can get from an excellent coach or mentors who can guide you through your epic battles?
For now, remember that planning and measurements are extremely important to prepare consistently. I will do a webinar in this upcoming week on this how to plan your studies for the next 6 months, so stay tuned.
Understanding of Failure
Remember that judiciary preparation is a long war, and that you will not always meet your goals in the perfect way everyday.
However, the manner in which you deal with your failure is important.
There are two kinds of ways in which we deal with failure.
Many people ignore the everyday failures and bury their head like an ostrich in the sand.
They are comfortably ignorant about their level of preparedness and the need for external assistance to accelerate their preparation.
They manage to get away with this until the day of the exam results.
When the results are declared, the ultimate realisation of failure dawns.
If you have been doing this, it may be better to acknowledge the danger you are in now, than wait for the last moment when there is nothing significant that you can do to change your situation.
Think about answers to some of the following questions:
Have you been able to stick to your study plan?
Have you completed the syllabus?
Are you able to do effective revisions?
Are you confident that you retain and can apply what you studied?
Do you struggle with application-based questions?
Do you find particular subjects, such as jurisprudence or the Constitution of India difficult?
Have you improved your writing skills for the mains exams? Have you got feedback from people who have experience in this matter?
If your answer is a no, don’t worry, I have a plan in place to help you out.
Sign up for a Judiciary Preparation Workshop: Be Unstoppable on 25th November, where we will have a 3-hour discussion on how to create a winning preparation strategy.
Self-bashing is another pattern of behaviour where you consistently feel guilty about missing your goals and indulging in self-pity and blame games. This is another trick to avoid doing the work that has to be done. Do not fall for this trap.
No self-righteous thinking or sanctimony will help – you need actions. And if you keep thinking one way or the other, you will have no time to take the necessary actions.
Also you are doing the exact opposite of motivating yourself – which is the state of mind you want to promote.
A demotivated person cannot study with focus. Your resignation about yourself and self-hatred will come in the way of your preparation.
But I am an overachiever perfectionist!
You may be a perfectionist or an overambitious person who sets high targets, but if you cannot accomplish them, you will still need to objectively recognize the progress you made (if any), and see the barriers that got in the way.
Chances are that the barriers will relate to one of the above habits.
Maybe there is no concrete plan, or that there are no pre-identified milestones.
Maybe your environment isn’t conducive and you need to do something about it, which you haven’t done.
Maybe you didn’t spend time visualizing your dreams or reinforcing them when you face challenges, getting carried away by negative feelings instead.
Maybe you didn’t listen to affirmations and didn’t do mirror work.
Maybe you lost focus on a Sunday evening when you met a few friends.
Everyone slips once in a while.
The question is not about that.
It can happen on one day – but that will not matter so much if you progressively improve everyday.
You will cover that up over time.
Therefore, get back on track quickly. Now is another time when you can make more progress no matter what happened so far. Tomorrow is another day, as well.
If you are interested in creating a foolproof strategy for your judiciary preparation, sign up for a judiciary preparation workshop that I am conducting on 25th November for more insights.
Abhyuday Agarwal with inputs from Ramanuj Mukherjee and Shweta Devgan