Life teaches us lessons in strange places until we get the message.
A life of saying yes to almost everything had set the stage for many overwhelming experiences. On the precipice of a new venture, an exam I took years ago, jumps to the forefront of my thoughts. The mayhem of those last few days prior to writing. The thoughts I had. The feelings I was ignoring. The patterns emerging. All there to teach me a very significant lesson.
The city of Calgary was experiencing the warmest spring it had had in years. It was a beautiful, bright, warm spring day. Such a contrast from the prolonged winter that seemed to have held us only days earlier.
The exam was two days away. Though I studied for the past two weeks, I still didn’t feel prepared. Doubt and fear leached throughout every thought. It felt overwhelming and debilitating.
What if fail?
I’ve set the expectation. Everyone knows I'm writing it. They expect me to pass.
Why isn’t this information sticking?
Adding to my already fragile confidence, my manager asked me to a meeting the following day, leaving me less time to solidify the information. I knew if I spent this time in the office I would be wasting what precious time was left. Come on, less than two days! How was I going to pass this test?
I made the executive decision to say NO. This was a first for me. That meeting could be discussed after the exam. I needed the time. You’d think the day would have continued to torture my thought process but it flew by. On the eve of the exam, I felt completely prepared and ready to write. The following morning I told my son “I’m actually want to write this exam. Bring it!”
There was an excitement and nervousness the day of the exam, as though I was trying out for a team, knowing I had prepared but it was all up to the moment and whether I allowed myself to shine or allowed the nervousness to control the outcome. I’d had enough of moments like that; fear taking control and a less than stellar performance was given.
Walking into the classroom a smile broke across my face. I knew this. And, I was going to ace it.
Light beamed through the windows on that early Saturday morning. The room was abuzz with nervous energy when I collected my pencil, eraser, test and took my seat. I couldn’t help myself. I was beaming. I was ready. Numerous times throughout the exam I thought 'thank you' for the easy question. The answers came quickly. I kept expecting the exam to be so difficult. So many people I’d spoken to said it was a hard exam. Surely, the hard questions were coming. But the questions were simply that, questions. Not difficult. Not easy. Just questions. I was well prepared. The answers easy not hard.
The exam flew by and I had completed it in half the time given. When I handed in my papers thanked the proctor. No matter the fear, the nervousness, or the doubt - it was done. There was no turning back.
Only two days before, I had allowed doubt and fear to run free in my thoughts and begin to derail my knowledge. Preparation transformed the fear. What difference only one day had made.
When I returned to the office on Monday, my manager was happy about missing the meeting but she was supportive enough. I needed to pass to advance to the next level in my career and she knew it. While I don’t recommend missing meetings I do encourage you to listen to intuition. I was grateful; grateful for the extra day, grateful I trusted my gut, grateful I said no to what was not my top priority.
That exam taught me this;
Like the control tower guiding us, the personal reward you receive for feeling the fear, acknowledging the assumptions in that fear as falsities (because I wasn’t destined to fail the exam), and making the choice to say no, empower the situation and benefits you on many levels.
Look fear right in the eye and you will see the flaws in its logic. When you discover this truth it's easier to take fear with you, trust your gut, say no, focus on the goal and do what’s right for you. Go on, laugh and push through it. You’ll be surprised just how much easier your life will be.