Handling Failures and Staying Motivated During UPSC Preparation


The journey to becoming a civil servant through the UPSC examination is often described as a marathon, not a sprint. It is a path fraught with challenges, uncertainties, and, for many, a series of failures before eventual success. Understanding how to cope with these setbacks, drawing inspiration from those who have succeeded after multiple attempts, maintaining mental well-being, and building a robust support system are crucial for aspirants. This article delves into these aspects in detail, offering insights and practical tips to help you navigate the ups and downs of UPSC preparation.

Coping with Setbacks and Failures-

1. Acceptance and Reflection

The first step in coping with failure is acceptance. Recognize that failing in the UPSC examination is not uncommon; it is part of the process for many aspirants. Accepting failure allows you to reflect on what went wrong. Analyze your preparation strategy, identify areas of weakness, and understand the reasons behind your failure. This reflection is crucial for making informed changes to your study plan and approach.

2. Setting Realistic Goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals can help manage expectations and reduce the pressure of the UPSC journey. Break down your preparation into manageable chunks. Instead of aiming to complete the entire syllabus in one go, focus on daily, weekly, and monthly targets. This approach not only makes the preparation less overwhelming but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you achieve these smaller goals.

3. Developing Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Building resilience involves maintaining a positive outlook, learning from failures, and staying persistent. Cultivate a mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth. Remember that each failure brings you one step closer to success, provided you learn and adapt from the experience.

4. Seeking Feedback

Sometimes, self-assessment is not enough. Seek feedback from mentors, teachers, or peers who can provide an objective evaluation of your performance. Constructive criticism can offer new perspectives and highlight areas you may have overlooked. Use this feedback to refine your preparation strategy and improve your performance in subsequent attempts.

Inspirational Stories of Candidates Who Succeeded After Multiple Attempts

1. Tina Dabi-

Tina Dabi, a name synonymous with success in the UPSC circle, did not face multiple failures, but her story is inspirational for the sheer dedication and smart work she demonstrated. She secured the first rank in her very first attempt in 2015. However, her journey was not devoid of challenges. Tina’s story emphasizes the importance of a structured study plan, disciplined routine, and a strategic approach to the examination.

2. Anu Kumari

Anu Kumari, who secured the second rank in the UPSC 2017, faced failure in her first attempt. After not clearing the Prelims in her first attempt, Anu did not lose hope. She used the failure as a stepping stone, re-evaluated her preparation strategy, and made significant changes. Her success in the second attempt is a testament to the power of perseverance and the willingness to adapt and improve.

3. Kanishak Kataria

Kanishak Kataria topped the UPSC examination in 2018 on his second attempt. Despite having a successful career in data science, Kanishak decided to pursue civil services. His first attempt was a learning experience that highlighted the gaps in his preparation. He worked diligently to address these gaps and succeeded in his second attempt. His story underscores the importance of self-belief and continuous improvement.

4. Surabhi Gautam

Surabhi Gautam’s journey is one of grit and determination. Coming from a small town with limited resources, she faced numerous challenges. Surabhi did not clear the Prelims in her first two attempts. However, she did not give up. She worked on her weaknesses, particularly in the CSAT paper, and cleared the exam in her third attempt, eventually securing the 50th rank. Surabhi’s story highlights the importance of determination and the willingness to overcome obstacles.

Techniques for Maintaining Mental Well-being-

1. Stress Management

The pressure of UPSC preparation can lead to significant stress. Implementing stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can help maintain mental calmness. Regular physical exercise is also beneficial as it releases endorphins, which are natural stress relievers.

2. Maintaining a Balanced Routine

A balanced routine that includes adequate time for study, rest, and recreation is essential for mental well-being. Ensure that you get sufficient sleep, eat a healthy diet, and take regular breaks during study sessions. Engaging in hobbies or activities that you enjoy can provide a refreshing break from the rigors of preparation.

3. Positive Visualization and Affirmations

Positive visualization involves imagining yourself succeeding in the UPSC exam. This technique can boost your confidence and motivation. Alongside visualization, practicing daily affirmations such as “I am capable of achieving my goals” can reinforce a positive mindset.

4. Seeking Professional Help

If you find it challenging to cope with stress and anxiety, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Talking to a counselor or psychologist can provide you with coping mechanisms and strategies to manage your mental health effectively.

5. Social Support

Maintaining connections with family and friends is crucial for emotional support. Sharing your feelings and experiences with loved ones can provide relief and encouragement. Surround yourself with positive influences who uplift and motivate you.

Building a Support System with Peers and Mentors-

1. Study Groups

Joining a study group can provide mutual support and motivation. Study groups offer a platform to discuss difficult topics, share resources, and test each other’s knowledge. The collective effort can make the preparation process more engaging and less isolating.

2. Mentorship

Having a mentor who has successfully navigated the UPSC exam can be incredibly beneficial. A mentor can provide guidance, share their experiences, and offer personalized advice. Mentorship can also provide moral support and encouragement, helping you stay motivated.

3. Online Communities

Online forums and social media groups dedicated to UPSC preparation can be valuable resources. These communities offer a space to ask questions, share resources, and connect with fellow aspirants. Participating in discussions can provide new insights and keep you updated on current trends and topics.

4. Coaching Institutes

Enrolling in a reputable coaching institute can provide structured guidance and resources. Coaching institutes offer regular classes, test series, and personalized feedback, which can be instrumental in your preparation. Additionally, the sense of community within a coaching institute can provide emotional support and motivation.

5. Accountability Partners

Having an accountability partner – a friend or fellow aspirant with whom you share your progress and goals – can help keep you on track. Regular check-ins and discussions about your preparation can ensure that you stay focused and motivated.


The journey to cracking the UPSC examination is demanding and requires more than just academic preparation. Coping with setbacks and failures, drawing inspiration from successful candidates, maintaining mental well-being, and building a robust support system are all integral parts of this journey. Remember that failure is not the end but a stepping stone to success. With perseverance, resilience, and the right support, you can overcome challenges and achieve your goal of becoming a civil servant. Stay motivated, believe in yourself, and keep moving forward.

Leave a Reply