I’ve written a lot about motivation in the past, so here’s all those posts. I think a big key to motivation is to enjoy what you’re learning and working toward.
Honestly, in undergrad I’m not sure I ever doubted the plan to go to med school. I had backup plans, certainly, but med school was sort of the logical next step for me in my long-term plan. A few bad grades made me wonder if I’d actually get in, but I didn’t second guess my decision at all. I’ve always been the kind of person who had half their life planned out already, though.
I doubted my decision heavily in the first week of med school, and again on the day of my first test, but after that I figured that if Jesus got me in to school and got me through the first test, he could continue to get me through the rest. And he did ;).
All that being said, some doubt is normal. Even though I didn’t doubt my decision, I realize now that I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. So considering it from the other side of things, I think it’s perfectly ok and normal to not know 100% what you want to be when you grow up (even when you’re already grown up).
I am wondering whether you know of anyone who has taken a personal leave of absence from medical school due to reasons such as burn-out. I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately with medical school and I feel like I am wasting my years of learning. I’m barely passing my courses and I’m not taking away from medicine what I had hoped to. I really want to take a leave of absence but am scared of potential consequences. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks so much. - anon
Absolutely! People take leaves all the time. One guy in my med school class took a year off after second year because he was so burned out he was actually suicidal.
Just as an FYI, I remember Dr. Cranquis mentioning that he also took a year off in medical school—not because of burnout, I believe, but a year off nonetheless. He may be a good one to ask about this too.
You are right to consider the potential consequences of taking time off, such as:
You’re not doing yourself or your future patients any favors by going through school half-@$$ed. Talk to your advisor at school, your family, and a non-medical mentor you trust. With their advice and your own knowledge of yourself, you should be able to come up with a solution.
Some very competitive residencies and specialties may look down on time off, but it depends on why you took time off. If you had to repeat a year or failed out, then that’s not very favorable. But people take a year off for lots of reasons including family issues, personal stress/burnout, new marriage or new baby, mission work, traveling, research, and joint degree programs, and those reasons don’t usually get in the way of a decent residency match.
How can I make myself care enough about my undergrad classes (chem, ochem, physics, bio, etc.) to do well in them so that I get into medical school? Right now I’m having trouble getting motivated enough to study them. –amputatedwings
Motivation is a hard thing to find. You can’t just create it out of thin air. It’s something you have to continually work on to be able to keep it.
Before I get into how to grow and maintain motivation, let me strike down some misconceptions.
Ok, so where do we get motivation from?
Well, I guess I’d have to say that when life gets hard (as it currently is), I have to remember my purpose. That purpose is my motivating factor. I know that I have been put in this profession for a reason, and that God will get me through the tough times. I have to remind myself that I do these things for God first, then for myself and my patients. That really helps, because there are MANY times when I don’t want to keep pushing for my sake or my patients’ sakes. But I know that if I’m pleasing God, he’ll get me through.
Do you have any tips on improving studying endurance? -anon
Advice for getting over procrastination? Thanks! Love your blog!!! :D -anon
I put these 2 questions together because I feel they address pretty much the same issue.
For improving endurance: start small and build as you go. I was a big fan of breaking down my reading into small bites (literally like 5 page bites) that I could mark off. Ticking things off a to-do list—even tiny things—kept me on track. And after doing so many pages, it didn’t feel like a huge undertaking to just do 5 more pages.
A counter-intuitive strategy to help with study endurance is to schedule frequent breaks. I’m talking things like 50 minutes on, 10 off or something like that. That way you focus more during the 50 minutes because you know you get a 10 minute break soon. If every 50 minutes is too often, go 2 hours on, 15 minutes off or something like that. I was also a big fan of just setting goals for the day—like 75 pages or something—and I couldn’t do the fun stuff like go out to eat with a friend or watch tv with the roomie until I was done. That improves endurance and efficiency.
Transitioning from college to med school studying really wasn’t that hard because the prospect of failing medical school and owing basquillions of dollars to the government pretty well keeps you motivated to study hard.
In the first couple of weeks of medical school, I was motivated by pure fear:
these were huge motivators in that first block.
Then, once you pass the first test you realize that all that work was totally necessary, and when you’ve gotten through it once, it’s slightly easier to do it all over again.
Of course, picking up the pace and doing study marathons EVERY DAY for 2 years is hard to adjust to, but you get through it.
How do you stay optimistic, lively and happy despite all the problems and negativity around? How do you turn negativity to positivity? I guess this really boils down to … how do you find your sense of purpose? - follower who requested to say anonymous
First off, let’s get one thing straight: WayfaringMD has bad days too (more on that in a post to come). What you see of me on this blog is just a small part of who I am.
Now, about your questions. The “sense of purpose” question is the easiest one for me to answer. My purpose comes from Jesus Christ (hear that noise? That’s the sound of 100 followers clicking unfollow). My purpose is to bring him glory, simple as that. I love helping people, but if I tried to do this job just to please people (or myself), I’d go crazy. I would never feel adequate, and I would feel like a total failure when I tried my hardest and people didn’t appreciate me. This is a big reason why doctors burn out. They try to get their worth from paychecks, smiling patients, or accolades, but it’s never enough.
But Jesus is different. I get my worth from him. He chose to love me when I was unlovable. If I’m following his will for my life, I know he’s pleased, regardless of how inadequate I feel or if other people don’t appreciate me. When I forget this fact, the negativity and feelings of inadequacy come creeping in.
So there you have it. I wish I had a formula or a Joel Osteen-type 10 step program to outline to help you find your purpose, anon, but I don’t. My only answer is Jesus.
Hi. I’m really struggling with studying for USMLE Step 1. I know all the generic advice. I basically have zero fun or moral support, and lots of pressure. Correction - there are a few random people who I have never met in my life - either through gtalk/forums… but that hasn’t helped me in any way whatsoever. I hope this isnt inappropriate or out of place in any way. To avoid rambling that could be off-putting, can you give any suggestions to peak motivation and focus? I think I’m losing it. -doctumbl
First, on the pressures of med school life: having internet buddies is great (I have plenty, for sure), but they are no substitute for good, supportive, in-the-flesh friends. Are there any fellow classmates / upperclassmen / professors you can vent to? (If not, you can always Skype me @ WayfaringMD).
On motivation and focus: the best thing for me was to set short term goals. Find something fun and stress releasing you want to do every day during your step 1 study. It can be exercise, sports, tumbling, going to the movies, going out to dinner, etc. Set a goal of X amount of material (reasonable amounts, of course) you need to cover before you can go do that fun thing. You’re stressed out, of course, and you really want to go have fun, so that will motivate you to stick to your studies and get your work done.
If a goal for the end of the day is not enough, set even shorter goals. For example:
- I’m going to get through 20 pages of First Aid by lunch and then I’m going to make the best grilled cheese sandwich ever made and eat it outside
- I’m going to do 100 World questions and then call my best buddy (make sure you schedule phone dates if your friend is also studying!)
- Just 5 more pages and I’ll have a 5 minute dance party
latestartpremed replied to your post: Weird question, but if I’m still in high school, and I’m not exactly the best student (pretty scary in a bad way GPA although I’m trying to bring it up T_T, not the best SAT scores), what advice would you give them if they wanted to become someone in the medical field and wanted to start now? :c
Hebrews 12:11. It always helps motivate me.Thanks for that! I was actually trying to remember that verse a while ago and couldn’t find it, so now I’ll remember it!