The journey to becoming a physician is a long and arduous one. This fact cannot be reiterated enough. Life already has its high and lows, not to talk of being coupled with the highs and lows that come with being a premedical student, medical student, or a physician. Willpower is the control that one must exert to do something or to give up something. It is the drive that keeps us motivated to achieve a certain goal even when the odds are stacked up against us. It is what keeps you up at night when everyone else is sleeping. This may sound too abstract but we all have that thing that keeps us going no matter what. But how do you maintain your drive and how do you ensure that your willpower is not ephemeral?
1. Like minds don’t repel: One of the steps that need to be taken to maintain your motivation is to find like-minded people. Being with colleagues who have similar goals and are proactive in working towards those goals keep you focused and on track. As a result, there are pre-medical clubs on various school campuses. And if your school doesn’t have one, like mine, then Premed star is equally a phenomenal platform for connecting with students who are on the same journey as you. I realized that ever since I have been active on the PreMed StAR and started to chat with other premedical students, I felt more motivated than before. Talking to people who are facing the same struggles as you, gives you some level of comfort and prevents your drive from plummeting.
2. Be active on your set goals: Everyone can say, ”I want to become a doctor” but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to become one. The reason behind this is that it takes a high level of motivation to pursue a career in medicine. The obstacles do not stop surfacing nor do the amount of information to be learned gets easier. So, always set feasible goals with plans of attaining them. You can write down your goals in front of you but if you do not keep the plans in mind, the goals are soulless. Be so active on achieving your goals that others can feel it. While I was shadowing a pediatrician on a Friday afternoon, in the exam room, a patient’s father said to the doctor,” that young lady behind you is so focused.” I was stunned by his knowledge of me without knowing me. My point is when you are active on your set goals, you have no option but to be focused. And by being focused, you increase your willpower to get things done.
3. Don’t be focused all the time: This may sound counter-intuitive but it works. It has been mentioned on this platform several times that it is healthy to have interests and hobby outside of anything pre-medical or medicine related. We must remember that we are humans. To provide care, we need to take care of ourselves first. When you focus on a bright shining star for too long without taking your eyes off, it falls in the blind spot and you will not see it unless your shift your gaze for a while. Similarly, being laser focused on a single thing all the time can wane your drive and make you lose focus. So, when you get tired or bored, take a break and do something you love. Then get back on the ship and keep sailing.
4. Be conditioned to finding a silver lining: It is easier to focus on the pessimistic side of things and get bogged down by that. It takes a strong willpower to be optimistic no matter how bad a situation gets. This is the most important point because we will all witness the other side of being a physician like having to lose a patient or making a mistake that put a patient at risk; or how about the persistent burnouts of medical students, the financial burden of medical education, the worries that comes with matching to a residency, and so on. It is not all rosy. Finishing high school earlier than my peers at the age of 16, I was excited to apply to medical schools directly (the process is different in my home country). However, I got rejected twice in two consecutive years and became depressed. Now when I think back on that experience, I say to myself, “maybe I was not mature enough to take on the rigor of medical education or maybe I would not have had the opportunity to come to the United States where I could learn so much more.” The question is can we rise above all of those hardships? Can we learn from the mistakes we made and move on? Can we channel the negative feelings we have into positive outcomes? To do this we need to be conditioned to see the silver lining, the good, the positive, and with that attitude, one can maintain the willpower needed to navigate one’s journey.
5. Worry about only things in your control: When willpower means the control one exerts to do something, why worry about the control you cannot exert? When you do that, your willpower to do things diminishes. We must come to terms with the fact that sometimes things may not go the way we planned. Even after doing all the hard work and putting in all the time and effort, the result might be otherwise. That is life in play. Learn to be proud of the work you have done and the goals you have accomplished. Those are the things you had the ability to control. You cannot control how others perceive your efforts and investments nor can you control the decision that others would make based on those efforts and investments. You have done your utmost best and you have to give yourself a pat on the back for that. The outcome is not in your control; it is always a gamble.
When you believe in your dreams enough and maintain a strong willpower, there will be no halting moment for you. Good luck on your journey to medical school and on your journey to becoming a physician.
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