Remember what was easy, not just what was hard

I took the CISA exam last weekend. After the more than 2 hours it took me to answer the 200 questions my instinct was to leave, but I stuck around for another hour anyway to review my answers like people recommend. I’m glad I did.

The reason people typically review their test answers is to make sure they didn’t misread anything or skip anything or want to change their answers. That’s what I thought I was doing, but checking my answers ended up making me feel better about the test than I would have otherwise. That reassurance made my think about how I reflect on successes and failures in the rest of my life as well.

When I first completed the test I had a bunch of questions replaying in my head. Those were the questions that I wasn’t sure about, the questions I struggled with, the questions that were hard. As a result, my overall impression of my test at that moment was not good. However, when I reviewed my answers I saw that although there were those questions I struggled with there were so many more that I was completely sure about. That realization made me leave the room feeling a lot better about my test performance.

Because they hadn’t felt like problems I had forgotten about those easy questions. I had stopped thinking about what I was good at because I was too worried about what I had trouble with. I realized that I do this in life too.

If I make a mistake or embarrass myself or outright fail I tend to remember it clearly. I can tell you minor mistakes that I made decades ago because they still pop up in my head.

Reflecting on mistakes and struggles can be useful if we can learn something from what happened, but if we only look back at what we’ve done wrong we’ll get an overly negative impression of ourselves, which is not beneficial.

If something goes wrong today remind yourself of all the things that went right. Then move on.

(And, no, I do not know if I passed my exam. It takes weeks for them to tabulate and verify all the results and determine what a passing score even is. I should know by the end of October.)

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