Sailing through the UPSC Preparation: A way of Life?
- 19 Oct 2021
A Smooth Sea never made a skilled Sailor. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
This is the second piece in the series of my articles that help UPSC aspirants develop the right mindset to prepare for the civil services exam. In the first article I talked about leaving the college mindset and start thinking like an officer in order to become one.
In this article my focus will be to do a bit of handholding to the fresh aspirants who have just taken the path of this tedious yet achievable goal of becoming a civil servant. You might be aware or may be scared about the kind of lifestyle you need to adopt in order to sail through this voyage. Many of the senior players in the UPSC field or old school aspirants would suggest you to buy a bunch of ‘best books’ and lock yourself in a room for at least a year so that you don’t get distracted until you achieve your goal. This advice may turn out to be useful but more often than not it may be counterproductive. Though I don’t discount the importance of rigorous preparation which is a must by any standards, but it has to be done in the realm of one’s ordinary life without becoming a hermit.
UPSC is looking for candidates who are as knowledgeable as they are compassionate. As intellectually competent as they are emotionally competent. Therefore, it is very difficult to develop a well-rounded personality secluding yourself from the society and immersing yourself into the ocean of books and notes with waves of study material coming your way.
The mind of an average UPSC aspirant is flooded with questions like “When to study”, “When to take break”; “What to do for recreation?”, “What should be the daily routine?” and many more.
I am amused to see these new age coaching websites giving a minute-to minute schedule for an aspirant right from brushing the teeth to doing a quick video call with the family. I feel pity, at the same time, for the aspirants who look forward to these schedules by falling prey to the marketing gimmicks, not understanding that they are matured enough to make their own schedule or more importantly that they aim to acquire key posts in the administrative set up and run the country!!
Also, I am not very confident about the candidates who are saddened by the fact that there is so much to study and at the same time get angry at the coaching institutes for taking extra classes or giving more assignments during the festive breaks. My humble suggestion to such candidates is that preparing for UPSC is a choice that nobody is forced into, one has to be worthy enough to make that choice.
UPSC preparation, arguably, is a way of life. Thus, UPSC preparation has to be ingrained in the daily life with the lion’s share of our daily routine going to the preparation if one is a full time aspirant.
Balance is an oft quoted word in the course of preparation and it has to be a part of your daily life too. There is no perfect “number of hours” that one has to study in order to ace the exam. But a prudent balance is required between your studying capacity, syllabus and your health. If you exert too much pressure on your mind and body, you may achieve short term targets but it will become impossible to sustain this practice.
Similarly, your daily schedule should also be balanced giving you adequate amount of time for exercise, meditation, games or recreation. But again, here you have to understand how much is enough and exceeding that may hamper your preparation schedule.
Now coming to breaks. I am not a supporter of dedicated breaks during study hours. If you pre decide your break time and duration, you will be more eager to wait for the break time. Also, if some unforeseen things happen or you may feel tired after studying on a particular day(s) for any reason, you may end up taking more breaks than desired. So, I would suggest that you should take breaks when you feel like, but after you come back from break, try and revise whatever you study before the break. This way your breaks are assisting you in instant revision. Also, some people take an absolute break on Sundays where they deliberately don’t study anything in order to justify the break. Though it may sound very professional and cool, but according to me a better way to take a break is to use that time to plan for the coming week or month, or may be watch some inspirational or strategy videos so as to be connected with the preparation.
Now I would like to throw some light on one of the main engagements that most of us have these days! Social Media. The fresh aspirants coming from diverse educational backgrounds get a feeling of awesomeness when they study the upsc syllabus and current affairs. There is a natural urge for them to show their newly acquired knowledge to others and end up into long debates with strangers over the internet. Though you may feel you won the debate or your arguments were obviously more logical and profound, but this is not going to help you in any stage of the civil services exam.
The other constant in any aspirant’s life is demotivation, disappointment and failures. Try and understand that this exam is to test your mental strength, courage and perseverance. So, getting disappointed on getting less marks in test or not being able to study for targeted hours is a very small aspect of the big exam. It is the courage by which you rebound and recover the lost ground will decide your fate. So, challenges will be there and the one who is able to overcome these challenges will go across. It is very natural to be scared initially before diving into the ocean of UPSC but into sail through you need to fight through the small waves that come across your way. Also remember that
"Waves are inspiring not because they rise and fall, but because each time they fall, they never fail to rise again" — RW Emerson
Amol Srivastava AIR 83 UPSC CSE 2017