From the series Better Test Performance the Navy SEALs Way.
U.S. Navy SEALs candidates are taught goal setting specifically as a way to combat performance stress and anxiety. Why? It helps more of the BUD/S trainees survive the grueling training and actually become Navy SEALs.
If you’re like me, goal setting brings to mind thick-as-your-thigh academic planners and pretentious self-help gurus. But if the SEALs are using it, you can bet there’s no namby-pamby, lets-all-get-in-touch-with-our-inner-child, two-day retreats going on. Pragmatic stress reduction techniques that can be used when the world is on fire are what the SEALs are looking for.
The United States Navy BUD/S candidates are taught several different stress reduction techniques that you can put to good use in any performance anxiety scenario, including academic test taking. Setting small, manageable goals in the moment is one of these powerful techniques.
Goal setting on-the-fly functions like this; set your sights on an immediate, easily-reachable goal and then take one step after another until you get there. Then set a new goal. For a SEALs candidate, their internal dialogue might go something like…
“Just gotta make it to the end of the track.” And after they reach that goal, “Just gotta make it over the next hundred yards of beach.” and then, “Just gotta swim this last 200 yards.”
Using these small, on-the-fly goals, the BUD/S trainee’s entire day is broken up into a series of individually manageable steps. SEALs candidates who practice this technique have a day filled with accomplishing one small goal after the other. That builds confidence and reduces stress.
But this technique is not just for elite military forces. You can do the same during your academic finals to help you get through the mountains of work that can pile up. “Just gotta get through this next chapter.” “Just gotta finish the next page of this rough draft.” Or you can use it when test anxiety rears it’s ugly head. “Just gotta finish this next problem.”
This technique is deceptively simple, but it’s powerful and proven! It helps concentrate your efforts not on what you can’t do, but on what you can. In addition, each test becomes a series of successfully completed goals. Again, that builds confidence and reduces test anxiety.
Consider; if it works for people who are getting shot at, it can work for you and your test anxiety!