Think about it, a lot can happen in a decade. Unless you’re purposeful with your time, you may find yourself as an intern reflecting on your life wondering, “Why didn’t I make time for fun, too?” Now the race to practice has begun and the countdown is not retroactive; you can’t pause it, and you certainly cannot afford to as you have to pay off your $200K plus student loan debt, the minimum amount if you were lucky enough to not accrue debt going into medical school.
From the time you graduate high school, it can take up to 11 years to become a doctor and practice family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, or emergency medicine. At the other end of the spectrum it can take up to 15 years to become a neurosurgeon, which is not considering the additional time it would take to subspecialize and do a fellowship for an additional few years.
That is a considerable amount of time!
Nevertheless, life goes on.
Will you start reaping the rewards of living life to the fullest, NOW, or will you continue to live the self-imposed and socially reinforced illusion that you have to put your joy on hold during medical school and residency?
If you refuse to settle for nothing less than awesomeness in your life today, then today is your day!
So, how will you accomplish this and stay motivated throughout this process? Let’s be honest, the thought of you sacrificing all these years and projecting so much effort for purely altruistic purposes is great, but it will not be the force consistently driving you when you are waking up at 4:30 am to pre-round on your patients for your surgery clerkship as a third year med student.
I will give you 5 ways to not only stay motivated, but also lead a fulfilling life today! That’s right, I said TODAY!
Establish Your Mission
What do you want out of life? Not only professionally, but also personally. What are some things that excite you? As an example, here is my mission for ProMEDeus:
To give premed, medical students and residents the tools to lead happy, fulfilling and successful lives by giving them the academic, professional, financial and life skills needed to not only complete their medical education and training, but also become independent from the constraints of the current health care system – increasing their autonomy and satisfaction in their career and life.
Plan and Plan Again
Once you establish your mission, create a Life Plan. This will help you set goals in the following areas in your life:
Spouse of Life Partner
Spouse or Life Partner
Medical School or Residency
Debt Management (yes, this includes student loans)
Review and revise these goals weekly and keep yourself accountable. Find a peer or mentor (not a friend) that can call you every month and ask if you have completed your goals for the month, and establish consequences if you did not meet goals. This should keep you motivated and more likely to do what you say you were going to do.
Change Your Attitude
No matter how hard life got for me I always found an angle to work that would benefit me. There is always opportunity in adversity – you have to find it. Of course, this is much easier once you are done having your pity party and feeling victimized.
Instead, be accountable and realize that what happened is a result of your decisions. Stop pouting and take control of your life. Most successful people never think of failure as a permanent condition. Instead, successful people are really good at managing themselves. It has nothing to do with I.Q.
When I failed my cardio block during second year in medical school, I felt defeated, angry, and emotionally devastated. I was told I needed to take a leave of absence to figure out what was going on. Once I had my one-week pity party I decided to take a different approach. My new approach consisted of doing things I had always wanted to do, but never found the time. That became one of the best years of my life. I took guitar and square dancing lessons with my fiancé (now wife). I traveled a lot. Road trips were my favorite. In the summer of 2002, we did our first coast to coast international road trip. We drove from Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico to Mazatlan, Mexico in the Pacific. I decided to briefly work in a hospital as a central sterile technician, sterilizing instruments for the O.R. I also volunteered in the cardiothoracic anesthesia lab doing resuscitation research, and the cancer cell biology lab exploring the complexities of fibroblasts. I met some very interesting characters and friends during that time which added richness to my life. And the best part was I did it all while figuring out how to be great in medical school.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in which entrepreneur and Navy SEAL Cade Courtley recounted his experience going through hell week on BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition Seal training). In his SEAL class there was a guy who was ranked #10 triathlete in the U.S.. “This guy was breathing calmly through his nose during a sand run while everyone else was panting, and was always dry and completed the swim section while everyone else was halfway through it. He was the poster child for BUDS. Then hell week came, which is a gruesome part of BUDS. On the 2nd day of hell week this triathlete quit because he had never felt that type of struggle before.
Another guy in his class who had half the triathlete’s physical condition made it through.
He had been challenged every day of his life, and for him hell week was just another 6 days of his life.
This story comes to show that you can have every characteristic and resource to succeed in a situation, but what will get you through difficulty is having that mental fortitude to keep going despite all odds.
How do you develop this? Expose yourself to uncomfortable situations at work, school or in social situations and challenge yourself to overcome.
Here is a great article outlining specific things you can do to develop GRIT:
Stop Postponing Joy
Carve out an hour each day to do what fills your spirit. If you make it a point to stop spending time looking at your Facebook or twitter account, I can guarantee you at least an hour of your day will clear up.
Playing the“I’ll be happy when I finish med school” game is one you will never win. Live an awesome life and discover a new dimension to happiness!
Exposing your brain to stimulation and positive energy is a necessary part of maintaining it fresh, in order to be able to perform day in and day out.
If you are ever plagued with negative self-talk or a bad attitude, stop yourself, go outside, jog, go hug your significant other, call your mom, listen to an inspiring podcast or read an awesome blog. Anything is fair game as long as it is positive and it shifts your energy.
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