I classed myself as “not the academic type.” That was my answer to the mental block I had when it came to studying. Studying and I always had a rocky road. I spent my University years interested in everything else except the matter at hand. I got my degree, but I knew I could have worked harder at it. I always felt that I did myself a disservice. When I decided to take on a professional qualification to become a Chartered Management Accountant, that mental block was severely tested and that’s where my story begins.

When times are tough, it is the answer to “why are you studying” that takes you over the line.

Some 7 years after University, I was told that not having a professional qualification was holding me back, so I decided to take it on. Mistake number 1. Choosing to study something must be for reasons that resonate within you. Because when times are tough, it is the answer to “why are you studying” that takes you over the line. I was doing it because someone told me to. It wasn’t a strong enough reason. Long story short, I spent a little over 3 years “trying” and failing to get over the line with this qualification. This affected me mentally. I told myself that studying was not for me, that I was not capable. And I almost believed it. The truth of the matter was that I was making excuses for my lack of effort. I almost packed it away. It was my closest friend who told me, “in 10 years’ time, make sure you have no regrets about giving up”. So, when it came to that final moment of saying “I’m done”, I couldn’t do it. I knew my friend was right but more importantly, this time I wanted to do this for ME. I wanted to prove something to myself: that I could do this. My “why” was stronger and I believe that that was the first step in making a difference.

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It made me proud and over the next few years helped build resilience. 

When I cemented my decision to continue with this qualification, my partner told me I needed to change my entire approach. He told me to study at 5 am. I thought he was insane. But as Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So, I took the advice. I started a routine that became definitive in my journey. 5 am mornings, almost every morning for the next 2 ½ years. But not only that, I made studying my priority and tried to balance everything around that. A night out would depend on the study schedule, a holiday would happen if I passed all the modules. I developed a sense of discipline which I previously lacked. It made me proud and over the next few years helped build resilience. 

But life is a funny thing. Even if you are doing all the right things for all the right reasons and you are working really hard, there are going to be setbacks and challenges that you never see coming. For me, it was the difficulties of balancing a career, a relationship, my health and studying.

Your story will one day be that you persevered despite a global pandemic. 

For some people, the year 2020 saw a global pandemic stand in their way. For many students out there, the lockdown had and is continuing to have, devastating effects on their mental preparation. Some were able to cope well with the transition of home-schooling and online learning, but some struggled. You were thrust into a “new normal” that you didn’t have a choice about. Your social interactions were cut, and valuable time was taken away. But now exams are around the corner, how are you supposed to power through?

How are you supposed to power through exams?

I didn’t face a global pandemic but 7 weeks before my final exam, I was diagnosed with TB. It turned my world upside down. It came with its own physical and psychological challenges. But all the work and effort I had put in was still there, even if at the moment I had forgotten. Never forget that you have it in you to do this. You are capable despite the challenges. The challenges, in my opinion, build character. Your story will one day be that you persevered despite a global pandemic. 

A sound routine helps you create stability

I was speaking to my eight-year-old nephew, Myhir, to gain some insights from a second grader on how he dealt with schooling under lockdown. Surprisingly, we both had the same “golden rule”; stick to a routine. Whatever works for you, do it. For me, it was 5 am mornings with a really good cup of coffee; for Myhir, it was preparing as if he was going to school in the morning. A sound routine helps you create stability so that when a crisis hits, it doesn’t deter you too far off the path and it makes it easier to find your way back.

Photo by Marleena Garris on Unsplash.

Never underestimate how much the little things help. 

Celebrate the small wins. Reward yourself for your efforts. It will encourage you to stick with it in the toughest of times. Visualisation worked wonders for me. I tallied my hours of studying. I wrote down how many practice questions I got through. I even wrote down my name with the title I would earn once qualified. It all helped. It kept my mind focused during the moments when I thought I wouldn’t make it. I say, never underestimate how much the little things help. 

“It all seems impossible until it is done.” 

I qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant in 2018. Six years after I originally started. The time didn’t matter. What mattered was that I didn’t give up. Collectively, all the big and small things I did to overcome the studying block helped lift me up when I faced failure. In the end, I found that the qualification gave me so much more than letters after my name. It humbled me. It taught me discipline. I learned hard lessons along the way, but lessons I am grateful for. As Nelson Mandela once said, “it all seems impossible until it is done.” 

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