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Friday, 27 January 2012

Never Lose Hope -Ask Our Counsellor Q&A column

[The following column, written by me, was published in the Deccan Herald Education supplement of Jan 25, 2012]

Dear Madam,
I am a 23-year-old, third year engineering student. I want to become an entrepreneur (businessman) and then branch into psychology. How can I achieve this? I want to meet and attend talks by Vishweshwar Bhatt and other such successful entrepreneurs. I want to set up a business venture after I complete engineering. Please advise.

Dear ABC,
Let me try and simplify your thoughts in this question first. You have a dream of becoming an entrepreneur and setting up a business and may be pursue a second line of work at a later stage in life. You are looking for guidance on how you can achieve this and would like to find a mentor who can help you polish your skills and guide you to success. You seem to think that by attending seminars by successful people, or spending time with them, you will somehow imbibe the techniques which you can replicate.

Well, yes, getting a mentor to guide you can be helpful, especially if you are not in a situation where someone from your family or friends can play that role. However, there is no one formula of success that they all use, and many devise their own formulas as they go along.

So even if you do not currently have access to them, do not feel that there is no hope. I am sure you have access to teachers and others in your college who will be happy to play the role of mentors. Talking to them, expressing your desires and fears, will help you straighten out your thoughts and gain clarity on your path forward. Once you have clarity on your path, you will know how to proceed. Remember, however, to break up your ultimate goals into smaller achievable goals so that you can get a taste of success as you go along. Good luck.

Dear Madam,
I am a 25-year-old male. I have always studied in Kannada medium (school and college). I have a huge complex with regard to my communicative skills in English. I can’t express my thoughts and emotions in English. I cannot speak fluently and I make grammatical mistakes. I have dreams of living in a foreign country. Or maybe becoming an IAS officer one day. I lack the confidence to speak in English in public. Please help me. This has been a huge issue for me. I have even contemplated suicide and I have lost the will or confidence to succeed in life.

Dear Student,
I understand that you have a dream of speaking fluent English and see that as a passport to success in life. That is something that is easily achievable because you want to do it, and you are willing to work hard for it. There are many English language classes you can attend. I don’t know which part of Karnataka you are based in and if you have access to such classes. But, I am sure if you are keen on it, you will find a way to get to the classes.

What I would really like to address in this question is why you are allowing this to cause you so much emotional distress. You say that you even attempted suicide because of your distress on this account. If ever you feel that way again, or even if you don’t but want to settle your emotions regarding this, I suggest you see a counsellor, or use one of the free counselling helplines where you will be able to discuss your concerns in a confidential manner.

If you believe in yourself and your capabilities, then you will be comfortable telling your friends that while English may not be your current strength area, you would like to focus on learning it and they should help you if they can. If you are aware of your other strengths (of which I am sure you have many), you will be able to take their input as a feedback and turn it to your advantage and ask them for help instead. If you believe that you are actually not very capable then you take their laughter as an attack on you and feel hurt about it.

Don’t pretend that you are good at the language. Instead try telling them that you would like to learn English better and they should help you if they can. If we are honest about our weaknesses and our desire to learn (which we can only do if we are confident about ourselves), then people find it admirable rather than amusing.

It becomes amusing when we pretend to be a master and our lack of skill comes through. And we often put on this facade of being an expert because we are afraid of saying that we don’t know something. So, tell yourself that you are an expert when you actually are. And, when you are not, have the courage to tell yourself that you may not be an expert yet, but you are still worth it, and you are still valuable.

Dear Madam,
I am a Class 10, ICSE student and I am really tense about my performance in the upcoming preparatory exams. Last time, due to stress, I only caught an hour of sleep before the day of the exam and I ended up forgetting what I had studied. My parents tell me not to get tense, but I always end up feeling stressed out, anxious and tense before I enter the examination hall. Please give tips on how to study before an exam and on how to remain calm before writing an exam.

Dear Student,
You are not alone in feeling tense before an exam. Many students feel the same way, which is why I wrote an article some time back on the same topic. Please read it at I think it will help you put things in perspective. While you are going through an exam, it seems like the most important thing in the world, and it appears like your whole life depends on it. When you give it this kind of importance, and allow it to be the most defining event of your life, you are naturally going to feel stressed and tense about the outcome.

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