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Walk Your Way

Shreya Kabir

Going through few CSE toppers’ interviews, I got inspired as well as nervous at the same time, on knowing the number of hours they used to put each day during their preparation. Some would study for 8 hours and some others for 14 hours. Scrutinizing many such interviews, I concluded that most toppers study for almost 10-12 hours each day. This was the bar that I set for myself as I ventured into the zone of preparation. Initially, the vigour had me through these 10-12 hours each day, but soon my will power started diminishing. Consequently, my productivity started diminishing and even 10 hours of study was not able to fetch me the desired results. Instead, I started burning out. Was it a fault in my stars?

After rounds of self-introspection I discovered that it’s not a fault in my stars, rather a fault in my underlying mind set. Right from school, we all are encouraged to imbibe the best practises followed by the toppers of the class. However, there lies a thin line between ‘deriving inspiration’ and ‘blind following’. As every student of the class is different, with different capacities and capabilities, so are the IAS aspirants. Each aspirant has his/her own set of motivations, studying-style, strengths and weaknesses. The strategies of others may not be the best fit for you. You will only feel comfortable only in the shoes that best fits you!

The crux is that, this examination is not to ape others, but to discover yourself, your patterns, your studying style, your comfort level and thus your number of hours to study each day. The game is not losing ourselves amidst the fierce competition. Your preparation must be a reflection of your devised strategies, because this exam is more about your choices and your decisions. This is a journey that you ‘chose’ and so, which direction to go and how to go shall also be your choice alone.

Having said this, it doesn’t imply that one stops being receptive to the experience of others nor does it imply that one must not foresee the competition. The experience of others should be a guiding factor in your preparation, but it should not become something to which you are unable to align your preparation. Nothing will work like what you devise for yourself after analysing your strengths and weaknesses. Also, a sense of the competition around you is healthy, as it will be good enough to keep you on your feet. Competition should only motivate you to better the quality of your preparation and not kill you with the constant dialogue of ‘not being good enough’.

The main idea is to know oneself and work accordingly. Spend time to analyse your strong areas and weak points. Observe how much time ‘you’ take to complete that NCERT or that Spectrum. Notice what works for you, making notes from newspaper or simply cutting out the important articles. And then, do it. Do it not because a topper said so, that he/she finds it useful to make notes from paper but, do it because this is how you learn and understand better. Now, if this means that you study only 7 hours a day and complete your targets or 12 hours to complete the same target (given we are not accounting for your procrastination here), it’s absolutely fine, because it’s your way and that is the best way (given that you are being rational).

IAS preparation

Ultimately, all this boils down to a sense of belief and faith in oneself. Have courage to trust yourself and your abilities. And, even if you fail, you will always carry this satisfaction that ‘you did the best to your ability’ (given you discover what your best is). But, the first step remains ‘knowing yourself, your temperament and then, working accordingly’.

“If an action or utterance is appropriate, then it’s appropriate for you. Don’t be put off by other people’s comments and criticism. If it’s right to say or do it, then it’s the right thing for you to do or say.

The others obey their own lead, follow their own impulses. Don’t be distracted. Keep walking. Follow your own nature, and follow Nature-along the road they share.”

-Marcus Aurelius