Feelin' the fail? 5 tips to conquer negative thinking

by Katie Robleski

Any of this sound familiar?

“So what if I pass this one? These exams get harder. I’ll inevitably fail at some point.”
“My failure doesn’t just affect me. Everyone will be disappointed.”
“I’m just not smart enough. I’m not cut out for this industry. I should just quit.”

It can be an all-out war in that brain of yours! There are 1001 ways your mind will trick you to believe the absolute worst about yourself and demand you quit. Lucky for you, there are just as many ways to fight back.

Try five of our favorite battle-tested techniques to immobilize negative self-talk and put you in a more positive mental state.

1. Figure out your “Why” and use it as your secret weapon.
2. Find your Battle Buddies before it gets tough.
3. Distance yourself from your primal brain chemistry.
4. Consider using our Exam Day Power-Player moves.
5. Reward yourself for the process, not the result.

When you understand the force behind these techniques, you can personalize them, so they’re even more potent. Read on and tell us, how will they work for you?

1. Figure out your “Why” and use it as your secret weapon.

Do you really know why you’ve decided to trade in sleep and a social life to take all six divisions of the ARE?

  • Explore why you want to get licensed as an architect. Write it down. Share it with others.
  • Visualize your Future Story: passing that final exam, getting your license, telling people you’re an architect, and reaching your ideal career goals.
  • When worries and doubts inevitably creep up, activate those thrilling emotional sensations triggered by your Future Story, especially when you hit stumbling blocks like falling behind or failing an exam.

2. Find your Battle Buddies before it gets tough.

When you’ve sunk to your lowest point, it takes a lot of guts to take off your armor, expose your vulnerable side, and reach out for help. So get prepared before you stumble:

  • Collect a trusted team of coworkers, friends, and family: the ones who believe in you. The ones who might’ve even walked in heavy boots like yours. Agree on an emergency code word or phrase that you can easily text or email during your darker moments. Your crew will know it’s time to respond with that insightful, positive, and much-deserved boost of confidence.

3. Distance yourself from your primal brain chemistry.

Quick biology review: your amygdala — a tiny almond-shaped set of neurons inside your brain — plays a huge role in processing your emotions. If your amygdala receives stimuli that it perceives as harmful based on patterns and past experiences (like, say, when you failed a test in 3rd grade), it triggers a domino effect of self-protective reactions, aka: the Fight or Flight response. Here comes the sweaty palms, heart palpitations, and that distinct wave of nausea, coupled with a steady stream of inner dialog telling you that your whole life will collapse if you fail.

Remember: you are not defined by your emotional and physical reactions. Try these tips to separate the “You” from the “You Suck” self-talk:

  • Don’t ignore the threat. Understand it, so you can pinpoint the external source: “I’m nervous because I don’t completely understand this section of material.”

  • Note your emotions, where they exist in your body, and upgrade them with positive labels: “Right now this frantic flapping in my stomach is excitement not nervousness.”

4. Consider our Exam Day Stress-Relief Tips:

  • Be prepared to take the test. Nope, not just the material on it, but the physical act of traveling to the location, parking, sitting in an unfamiliar spot, and enduring 2-4 hours of uninterrupted test-taking. A practice-run will do wonders for your nerves.

  • Give yourself one heck of a pep talk, complete with high-fives (real ones are recommended). You made it here alive! And you can definitely handle whatever’s next!

  • Breathe. Yes, the clock is ticking, but when you give yourself a moment to check out, breathe, relax the muscles in your face and your shoulders, you reset your body chemistry. Watch as amazing things happen next.

5. Reward yourself for the process, not the result.

Treat yo’self! Yes, no matter what the outcome! This is what happens when you redefine success within the process, rather than a pass or fail result:

  • The act of studying becomes far more fulfilling and not just a chore.
  • You control the weeks, months, and years you devote to the entire process, rather than get discouraged by the unpredictable circumstances of a few hours on exam days.
  • You’re less likely to launch into negative self-talk if you fail, and more likely to dust yourself off and reset for the retake.

Pass or fail, reward yourself for the work you put in. This way, you’ve got something to look forward to, no matter what happens. Win-win, what a great way to walk into an exam!

Have you already figured out the perfect way to customize your own brain battle counter-attacks? Let us know! Comment below with your tips!

As always, we’re here to help you get closer to that coveted license of yours. Learn how Black Spectacles ARE 5.0 Prep can get you there

I’ve been here. I like to think of myself as an ‘A’ student. So I should walk right through these exams? Wrong! When I got my first fail it was devastating to me and my ego. I had worked and studied so hard. Luckily I listened to my online forum of peers and all said: just schedule your next exam and keep moving forward. Begrudgingly I did so. I move on to another exam, ultimately passed that one (woot!). Then I came back to this failed exam, cleaned my lenses, and focused on the weak areas on my scorecard. It worked. Pass.


Jake- Same here… Having those tests already purchased in advance really helped me. I couldn’t stop, I had to keep going…


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