My last year before starting medical school (my 5th gap year, for reference) I took on a reading challenge to ground myself in something new. My goal was to read a book a week for an entire calendar year. I didn’t end up finishing but found some incredibly important lessons along the way. The one that has been swirling in my mind of late comes from the book Zen and the Art of Happiness. And while some people call this a “self-help” book I don’t really think of it like that. The book focuses on one principle; however, that everything that happens to you should be regarded (eventually) as the best thing that could have happened.
I know, I know – a lot of people take that offensively. I did at first too. For anyone who experienced something emotional, negative, or challenging at some point, this is a crappy piece of advice to hear. Within the context of medical school admissions and a career in medicine imagine this conversation:
You: Well, the cycle is over, and I didn’t get any interview…
Me: Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that but I’m here to talk about it if you want … that might be the best thing that could have happened to you though.
Dramatic, I know. And the only difference between this idea and “Everything Happens for a reason” is that it has to do with YOUR RESPONSE, and not the cause of the event. And this idea is more important than you realize. Let me paint a picture of it within the context of applications.
One of my friends took his MCAT in the late Summer. He had done what we all did and studied for months and months. But the night before his test, his uncle passed away. Despite getting the news he showed up the next day and took his test. Result? Average to below-average score, still better than most but well below his practice tests – not competitive. Months later he retook his MCAT with a much higher score. Fast forward to interview season. My friend was asked the question “if you could only pick one thing on your application to represent you, what would it be?”
His answer – My first MCAT. And below is why.
To him, he experienced something traumatic, showed up, and performed. If he had to be represented by something on his application, he didn’t want it to be something going on when everything in life was great, he wanted it to be adversity, growth, and challenge. In short, he made what was his weakest point the best thing that could have happened to him. It gave him confidence in his abilities, his resilience, and his reflection on it made him a better applicant, interviewee, and current doctor.
So the big takeaway? Think about how everything that happens could be the best thing that could have happened