Don't Fear Failure!

I wish I could say that it stood for "fabulous" or "fantastic" but I didn't. My first big fat "F" stood for what it always stands for: "Fail." How could this happen?

I knew the material, I had studied hard, I even went to see the teacher a couple of times before the test just to make sure I knew what I was doing. The practice problems were a breeze. I was prepared.

I'm not going to say I wasn't nervous -- I'm always nervous before a test, especially an algebra test. Grades mean a lot to me, and they mean a lot to my parents also. To say I was a little nervous is probably putting it mildly. I was anxious -- very anxious. My brain kept asking me a lot of "what-ifs?" What if I blank out and forget how to do anything? What if I get every problem wrong? What if my bad grade hurts my grade point average forever? What if there isn't any extra credit? What if I bring home an "F," what will my parents think?

My confidence was definitely compromised. Looking back it's safe to say I was doomed from the start. Negative thoughts are never a good thing. I suffer from what is called test anxiety and I'm not alone. According to the American Test Anxieties Association about 16-20 percent of students have high-test anxiety which can reduce working memory, confuse reasoning, increase mistakes and lower test scores. Yep, I've got a bad case of it.

I had to find some help fast. When you're in middle school, tests come fast and furious. And with the end of the quarter coming, I had to find a quick fix if I wanted to make the grade. The Internet was going to be my fastest, least expensive and best resource. After scouring through test anxiety web searches, I compiled a list of techniques to help me with my problem. Yes, I was anxious (there I go again!) to try them.

Firstly, I need to recognize that a little anxiety is a good thing. It gets your adrenaline going, which can help you power through a test, provided you know the material. Preparation is key.

Secondly, I need to get rid of all those negative thoughts. If I think I'm going to do something bad, chances are I will. Focus on the positive things: I've studied, I'm prepared, I'm a good student and I know I can do it. Visualize doing well on the test.

Then, I also need to accept that nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. When a mistake is made, use it as a "learning opportunity" and figure out how to not make the mistake again. One bad grade is not the end of the world nor is it even the beginning of the end. Not even close. Basically, keep it all in perspective.

When taking a test, experts suggest starting with the easiest question first. If you get stumped on a problem, skip it, tell yourself that you know how to do it, and then try it again a little later.

Practice some relaxation techniques, close your eyes, take some deep breaths and give your mind a chance to reset. Trust me, it works. I may not be wearing my big fat "F" like a scarlet letter anymore, but I am mentally carrying it around with me. It's a reminder of all that I am capable of: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I've since taken another algebra test and am happy to say I got an "A," which in this case stands for absolutely amazingly awesome. I can do it.

Here's to the power of positive thinking.

Peace Love Profits,