Life is never what it seems, we're always searching in our dreams to find that little castle in the air. When worry starts to cloud the mind it’s hard to leave it all behind and just pretend you haven't got a care. These words were written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent for their hit song ‘The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener’.
When I think about worrying I cannot help thinking of my paternal grandparents. My grandfather could never stop worrying; my grandmother could never start. Such a stark contrast would make a good case study, but that ship has sailed. Suffice to say I inherited my grandfather’s genes.
So what is all this leading to? Well as you ask, it is leading to some words I would like to share with you about student anxiety. I must say up front that I have absolutely no medical training, and that my words are just purely personal thoughts which you might find of interest, based on my experience of life.
Let’s start off talking of the students who believed they were going to fail. I referred last week to a lady who told me at the outset of a professional programme that she would fail an accountancy module, but one year later went on to study for her professional accountancy exams having grown to enjoy the subject. This gives us our first point about worry… it is so often pure fantasy, yet look at the energy we spend on worrying about things going on in our lives.
Another time a student told me they were worrying about passing their exams, and I replied that this was not what they were doing. I explained that they were perhaps worrying about how their career would be affected, or what their line manager would think, or even friends and family. You might think my reply solved nothing, but my second point is that taking the trouble to understand what you are really worrying about at least helps you to manage your thoughts more accurately.
Moving on, one student said that because they worried about taking part in a group presentation this was perhaps a sign of weakness. I pointed out that if they were really weak then they would not be on a programme. Their worry was that they would not do a good job for themselves or their fellow group members. You may not agree, but I think this demonstrates that the student was caring about task and team, and that this was a professional attitude. Point three then: sometimes just a little re-framing of the situation helps you to see things more clearly and realistically.
Finally point four: some people will never get to be students! When looking in to a course or programme they will meet a wall built of anxiety ‘bricks’. There could be many considerations to take in to account, and sometimes study is just not feasible, but I wonder how many great minds were never given their freedom because anxiety prevented it?
If you are thinking of studying, don’t let anxiety hold you back. Yes it’s a challenge, and no I don’t have any quick answers as I am a worrier myself; but I can leave you with this…
Don’t focus on what you don’t know today. Focus on what you are going to know tomorrow.