When Things Don’t Go as Planned

When Things Don’t Go as PlannedGuest writer Zoila Sanchez is back this week to talk about how to handle things not going in the way you had imagined. 

Sometimes your dreams do not happen within the timeline you have in mind or in the manner in which you had imagined. When it comes to pursuing a major career goal of becoming an accomplished attorney, the road will come with its challenges. Sometimes the challenges can feel like life-ending roadblocks leaving you questioning if this is the right path.

For example, you may have experienced challenges with:

  • The LSAT
  • Law school admissions process
  • Law school exams and grades
  • Landing an internship
  • Passing the bar

I wanted to go to law school for way longer than the time it has taken to reach my goal. I remember a time when I was so frustrated that I nearly threw in the towel. I recall the day I tossed out my LSAT books. I was convinced that a law career was not for me because the LSAT was not coming easy to me. I reflected on what a poor standardized exam performance meant and whether it had any impact on my ability to be a great lawyer. I realized that test-taking was a skill I needed to learn and improve.

Months later when I was ready to face the LSAT again, I worked on my mindset and test-taking skills. With much reflection and inner work, I learned that my anxiety blocked my test-taking abilities. I sought out the help I needed to address my mental health. I learned that the challenging experience was necessary in order to set me up for success. If I never addressed my test-taking anxiety, then it would arise again at some point such as law school. So instead of totally throwing in the towel, I purchased a different set of LSAT books and came up with a new strategy.

Here are some other things I learned through this experience that may help you on your journey:

Failure Means you are Taking Chances

To put the goal into perspective: It is estimated that practicing lawyers make up 0.36% of the total population, which is one in every 300 people. I believe that there would be many more if the path was easier. The reality is that it is a tough path, but it can be done! You can achieve it and join the legal profession one day. It is hard work and the rewards are worth it.

Challenges are Opportunities to Grow

When you accept the challenges that come your way, you are also welcoming the growth that comes with it. Embrace that the road is not perfect, and that this is a process of learning and improving.

A growth mindset is a way to view your challenges and roadblocks. When your mindset is fixed, you block your growth with thoughts like “I can’t reach my goal” or “I am not cut out for this, it’s too hard.” On the other hand, a growth mindset dialogue sounds more like “I can do this, I just need to find another way” or “It will take some effort and time, but I will master this material.”

Lean into a growth mindset, even when your mind is trying to hold you back. Push through it, and you will find that over time, facing challenges to your ultimate goal will get easier in the sense that you accept and welcome the challenges, and develop your resiliency.

You are Your Only Limit

Sometimes people put limitations on you, but that doesn’t matter in the way a limit you impose on yourself does. I recall a program manager for my fellowship asking me what I plan on doing after my Master of Public Health. I told her that I wanted to go to law school, and she said “I don’t see you as a lawyer at all.” I am really glad I didn’t give any importance to her comment. In law school, I would look at myself and tell myself “I see you as a lawyer,” and that’s what counted everyday no matter what.

I faced many challenges in law school. I lost a grandparent my first semester, the pandemic affected our classes and graduation, I faced financial difficulties, and so much more. Each challenge you face at any stage of your career path, offers a way to pick yourself up and move forward, and that is up to you.


The best way to succeed is to prepare for what’s ahead. As discussed above, a growth mindset will help you to prepare mentally for the unexpected.

There are also other tools you can lean on like social support. Seek out mentors and academic success resources.

Self-care is a tool that can help you so that you always remember to take care of yourself and have self-compassion when the going gets tough.

Lastly, remember that “no effort was ever wasted in the pursuit of a dream”- a quote by Sean Isnor.


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About Zoila Sanchez

During law school, she served as a Legal Clerk with the federal government at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Counsel to the Inspector General in Washington, DC. Currently, she works for a health and business law firm. She enjoys spending down time mentoring students sitting for the bar exam through the American Bar Association Council on Legal Education Opportunity program and taking it easy with her three poodles.

Ms. Sanchez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona and Juris Doctor from Hofstra University.

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