The results are in!   What are you feeling?   Elation, relief, disappointment?   More than likely, a whole range of emotions.

Have you succeeded or have you failed?

Whatever the outcome and however you feel about it, this is another perfect opportunity to take a step back and observe some more lessons that will serve you well in the future.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two Impostors just the same…”

These words from the Rudyard Kipling poem “If” are pertinent.   Whatever your exam results, it’s important to know that these grades are not a reflection of your whole true self.  This is simply one small aspect of your life.


Success is wonderful; it feels nice and it’s a relief.  But it can provide just a big a challenge and can be just as difficult to manage as failure.

If not managed well, success can breed all sorts of difficult onward outcomes.

There’s the weight of expectation.  You’ve achieved this time but now you must go on achieving.   It can become a real pressure feeling that you must consistently live up to your own success.

Success can also be isolating.  You may feel happy about what you’ve achieved but what about your friends who may not have done quite as well?  They may not want to be celebrating your success if they are not feeling the same.

Success can be confusing.  Sometimes when you’ve set out to achieve something, you may predict that you will feel a certain way about it but now you have achieved it maybe it’s not as glorious as you predicted.  Perhaps you are left feeling a little deflated.  Who do you turn to then to talk about these feelings without sounding ungrateful?


Failure is the other side of the coin.  Feelings of disappointment and regret are difficult to cope with.

You’ve worked really hard and put in everything you can but the results do not reflect your effort.  People say to you, ‘it’s not the end of the world’.  You know this on one level but your inner critic can’t help feeling rubbish about not getting what you wanted.  If not managed well, failure can also breed difficult onward outcomes.

You may decide you don’t care after all and you lower your expectations of yourself.  That voice inside is telling you, ‘don’t expect anything of yourself because you will never achieve it’.   That feeling of disappointment, what are you doing to do now? Feelings of shame and being ‘less than’.  Looking at your friends who have ‘made it’ and not feeling so great about them anymore.

What is the upshot of all of this?  Success and failure can both create difficult onward outcomes unless managed well.  What would it mean to manage them well?  How could you treat Triumph and Disaster just the same?

1. Acknowledge the feelings, whatever they are. Feel happy, feel sad, feel disappointed.  Take some time to celebrate or commiserate but try not to linger on any of these for too long or to become identified with them.

2. The poem refers to Triumph and Disaster as ‘Impostors’, which means that they are not a reflection of who you truly are.  Remember the outcome is only a very small part of your story.

3. Seek humility.  This word is often misunderstood; it is not about being servile or scraping, it is remaining right size, grounded and on the same level as the rest of the human race.  Know that your results do not make you better than, or less than anyone else.  This attitude will help you to maintain a healthy perspective.

4. Remember your friends; in the long run, these relationships have the potential for far more value in your life than your results so it’s important not to let your outcome get in the way of your friendships.

If your results have given you what you need for the next stage of your plan, then congratulations!

If this is not the case, then it really is not the end of the world.  You will have heard many motivational stories of how people turned failure into success.  Now you have an opportunity to develop your own motivational story of how you came back from the edge! 

Using your creativity is often simply about finding a different solution to a problem.  There is always another opportunity out there for you, how can you use your creativity to find the way forward?

With this approach, you will move through the disappointment and build your resilience.  You will learn a very important lesson so that next time you are faced with a possible failure, you already know that you have the ability to move on through.  This may even help you to take bigger risks in the future so you can climb the ladder even higher than you ever thought!  Anything is possible. 

Ultimately, life goes on.  The sun will continue to rise.  You will put this experience behind you and come out the other side.   It will make you stronger.  You may even look back at some point in the future and realise that even though you didn’t get what you wanted at the time, you did, in fact, get what you needed.

Exam Season – Lessons for Life #3 will focus on measuring success beyond education.