Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure
Anne McCormack Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015
Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.
Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.
Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.
While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.
It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.
Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.
Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings
Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.
Plan who to talk to for support
It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.
If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.
For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.
Take a wider, longer-term view
There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.
It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.
Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.
Celebrate effort more than results
There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.
In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.
Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.
Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.
IQ versus EQ
The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.
Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.
In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.
Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.
Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.