We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”‘ – Charles R. Swindoll
Medical school is filled with stress after stress and obligation after obligation. There is very little time to take a deep breath and relax. At the end, we’ll be glad to just cross the finish line.
But from my last Wisdom Wednesday post you’ll remember that I encourage you to run – not crawl – past the finish line.
So what’s the difference between the students who coast past the checkered line and those who are thankful for even finishing?
The difference is how we react to our challenges. In fact, it’s how we perceive them.
If I gave a group of students an exam it’s likely many may freak out. You’d hope that after taking hundreds of tests in their lives that another exam wouldn’t be much of a challenge.
Still, we can find routine examples in our lives where the same few things continue to overwhelm us. No matter how many times we face these challenges, we’ve never truly conquered them.
So how do we overcome these routine stressors?
Change Your Perception From Obstacle to Opportunities:
We can perceive everything we do as obstacles or opportunities.
Obstacles are in our way. There’s a bigger goal we’re after and the obstacle is just a nuisance.
Opportunities are shortcuts to getting to our goal. We embrace them because eventually they’ll help not only achieve our goals but surpass them.
Ask yourself what you perceive the stressors in your life to be. Do you view studying as an obstacle or an opportunity? Do you look at verbal presentations an obstacle or opportunity? What about constant evaluations and grading from your superiors?
If each stressor in your life is more the former than latter, you’re living a life where you’re constantly reacting to stress.
One of my favorite motivational speakers, Eric Thomas (aka ET), tells this story of the gazelle and lion. The gazelle wakes up every day always ready to run from something. The lion wakes up with the opportunity to conquer and chase down something.
Here’s a clip of the motivational video.
Which one are you – lion or gazelle?
Most medical students begin as the lion and transition to the gazelle when they’re overwhelmed. We simply to hope to survive.
If instead, you view everything as an opportunity to make gains, then you embrace the challenges. You’re naturally more confident because you sense the potential profits – you wake up daily as a lion.
This approach has worked wonders for me. I’ve tried my best in medical school to view everything as an opportunity. Regardless if it was studying for step 1, rotations, or my preclinical studies, each was an opportunity for me to achieve a higher goal. Thus each experience involved minimal stress.
It’s much easier to remain calm and collected when you can view everything as a win-win. For example, if I study hard for step 1 then I’ll likely have a higher score. If I don’t do well on my practice test, then that’s an opportunity to identify my weakness to get a higher score.
I’m obviously not the only student to discover this. Think about the students in your class that you admire. How do most of them tend to approach adversity? Do they attack them as opportunities or obstacles?
Medical school is truly a game of mindset and perspective. So next time you find yourself facing your stressors, ask yourself how instead you can view it as the lion and see it as an opportunity. In the end, you’ll find yourself effortlessly cruising through the finish line.
Hope you enjoyed today’s Wisdom Wednesday’s post. You can check out the first edition of the series here on how we can overcome anything in medical school with fake confidence.
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Until next time…