I want to tell my readers at the outset that this post, this article in continuity of the last one, is not supposed to be your motivation. It should not be. And there is a reason for it.
There is a lot of difference between Motivation and Discipline. Motivation may start you off, help you on a given day, in a given moment; but Discipline – the Habit, my darling, is what me and you should be looking for, striving for, working for.
“Inspiration is for amateurs”, said Chuck Close, “the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Last week, I was reading a query sent to me by a gentleman – via email – in which he told me that this was his fourth attempt to the exam, and asked how should he take out the fear of failure out of his mind? Aah, that, my mind said in a nostalgic tone. I think this is a question that a lot of us had/have, but we deal with it in different degrees of resilience.
Look, nobody told you that studying for Civil services was going to be a piece of cake. We all know the competition, we know the syllabus and we know that there is an opportunity cost to doing this in life, no matter what your age. We know that there is no definite answer to whether or not we will go through this exam. What happens if we fail? What happens to our image in the society, what happens to our image in our own eyes?
Yogesh dada – an amazing doctor I met at an NGO, told me once that so many times we look up and the problem is so big that the magnitude of it – the sheer volume of difficulties, problems and obstacles – makes us unconscious. And then, if we aren’t conscious, there is no one standing to solve the problem!
What, then, is the solution? Is there even one?
Now, metaphorically, let us assume that if you have to walk the road up to LBSNAA, it is a journey of 50,00,000 steps. Maybe it is less or more for you depending on where you are starting from. All you have to do, each day, is to get up and walk 50 steps. And remember that every time you think of the entire long journey, you lose focus of what is in sight and you will end up walking only 10. That isn’t what we want, right? Have the discipline – no matter what happens, you walk 50 steps. Listen to me, my dear. You cannot question your effort, your decisions, your central beliefs every day and every moment. You made a choice, now lock it, put it in a tiny little corner of your mind, and throw the key away. Once you do that, you forget the destination and the distance – you remember only the hard work that you need to do each day. Get up in the morning – work – sleep. Repeat each day until you finish the 50,00,000 steps.
What if I fail? So you fail. What? Really, so what? The world will run, and you wouldn’t believe me now, but so will your life. You will find something amazing to do in your life – something that will be purposeful, joyous and deeply satisfying. And you know why? Because you fought with your fears instead of giving in to them. What you should be really afraid of are the regrets. Those, will haunt you for your life.
One day, when I was walking back from the library to my house, I was very depressed. I though it is better that I give up because there is no way possible this will happen. I mean, look at me, haven’t read a newspaper in ten years and I want to give the IAS exam! But then my mind drifted towards the alternate version of my life. I thought if I give up, how would I ever tell my children or students to never give up in life? How will I ask them to dream radically and work hard in the face of every possible adversity? What if I was supposed to be a writer or a journalist or a social worker and that would not be possible without preparing for this exam or experiencing everything it brings along with it? You cannot give up now, Mittali, I told myself when I opened the door of my house.
This was one brave moment of my life. There were many weak ones. I battled with a lot of self-doubt. I battled with two failures. Many people around me thought I can never do it. Some were indifferent, some very supportive. But there was only one best friend I had. That was me.
You have got to be your own saviour. In Civil services, as in life, the real battle is taming your mind. You know, your mind is going to listen to only you. When I try to tell it something, it laughs. But you – my God! You wonderful being! Your mind worships what you say. It thinks you are this amazing person who it will follow blindly, no questions asked. What did you just say? That no matter what, you will find a way? Well, your mind is on it! It will not leave a single stone unturned to fulfil your wishes. Did you say it is not possible? Your mind is happily going to fulfil your prophecy!
Train your most prized follower, your mind. Stop it when it drifts. Calm it when it is angry. Ask it to be at peace with itself. There is contentment not in achievement, my dear, there is contentment in hard work. You get to have that – take it with open arms and an open mind. You are so lucky!
A few things that I want to say : (in addition to the lengthy things I just said:D)
- Until this fight is not over, it is not over. Nobody cares whether it is your third attempt or thirtieth. If you are enjoying the journey, who cares? Don’t compare your effort with someone else’s. In this exam, everyone begins from a different starting point. It might take you longer to reach there, but Persist!
- Try taking up a job after a few attempts and study with it so that it makes you less anxious and less insecure.
- If you are in a job already, well, let me tell you it can give you many advantages. More about this, in the next article where I want to take up Civil services and Working professionals relationship. (I cleared while I was working.)
- If you are not working, don’t be complacent. It is very easy to think you have too much time and then you wile away all that time in that happiness. Don’t be that person.
- SHUT OFF social media. I was not on Facebook, or twitter or Instagram. No WhatsApp groups strictly. I only had WhatsApp for individual chats – only because it saved me money! More on this, in a separate article.
I know you think this is difficult. I won’t give you false hopes, it is. I know you think you have very little chance. I agree with you, but I have one last thing to tell you before I sign off. I read it somewhere, and this kept me going every time I thought how would this ever happen. This also told me that motivation will not sustain me, discipline will.
“You have one in a million chance of going through and getting what you wish to. But you don’t look at the million. You look at that one chance, you focus on only that one.”
Discipline, Persistence, Faith, Self belief, and a Straight line focus, my warriors! You are all you need and You are amazing!