The Olympics are coming very soon, like exams. I have been borrowing a lot of excitement and inspiration from athletes in training for the experience of a life time. My friend qualified for the United States Women’s Track & Field Team and is getting ready to come to London. I am so thrilled for her, and realized how fortunate I am to have such inspiration and motivation so close to home. She has accomplished so much over so many years of training – thirteen years of single-minded concentration, focus, and achievement, since she was eight years old. Today she was composed and cool as a cucumber despite being so close to the day of such a prestigious and career defining competition. My friend knows exactly what she has to do now, and is entirely focused on what she aspires to. Her experience is very motivating; I started to think about what I can borrow to improve my own performance during revision and exams.
Focus is really the key to achievement. How do I stay focused and perform at peak levels under such high pressure circumstances, and then excel at very particular times, like during a certain race or our exams? My friend told me that, for her, focus is really the ability to look beyond a task to the desired outcome. She stressed visualizing everything that is part of your success including how you feel, the physical performance of the task, and of course the outcome. I have been thinking about this, and the different aspects of training an athlete must focus on, like physical training, developing mental discipline, and how to manage the experience of competition and performance. Last week I decided to train for exams as if exams are my own personal Olympics.
In my ‘Exam Olympic Trials’ – aka revising time – I decided to implement specific training regimens to enhance my actual physical performance, mental discipline and stress management. My exercise and diet plan is improving my energy levels and ability to concentrate. Yoga and five different kind of tea are really helping a lot. Studying has a real physical impact on me. It takes extra energy, both in bursts and endurance. And for me stress always has physical manifestations that need to be managed. Maintaining my concentration when study topics become difficult contributes to physical stress and anxiety. Performing at peak levels on exam day, when I am engaged in a task that is different from my routine, and when outcomes are so important, can be equally daunting. I must concentrate very day, and on exam day of all days. Taking my friend the Olympian as an example, I am setting aside time every day to really focus on how to achieve my goals during my ‘training’ time. My ‘exam training’ diet includes five kinds of tea, for health, pleasure, and stimulation. My ‘tea ceremonies’ also create a bit of whimsical discipline that helps me designate different parts of the day for different purposes.
There is nothing whimsical about the discipline that helped my friend earn a spot on an Olympic team. But I cannot ‘train’ like she does any more than she can ‘train’ like I do. My tea ceremonies help me achieve a high level of activity during a busy day. I have two kinds of green tea at noon for a pick me up, Korean Ginseng to refresh, lapsang souchong to separate the work day from my evening study time, and chamomile to make sure of a good night’s sleep. I know it sounds funny, but my cups of teas and my friend’s Olympic dream come true keep me motivated and focused. It is time to put the kettle on, slip a cozy over the pot and see where a good cup of tea and a great book can take me.