Updated: May 12, 2021
The Power of Positivity
If you’re anything like me, you’ve failed at something in your life. If you are a lot like me, those failures come in bunches. But (and full disclosure this idea comes straight from Zen and the Art of Happiness) if you’re also like me you realize that one moment will not define who you are as a person, a pre-med, and a future doctor. I know plenty of people who did poorly on something in school and immediately shut off the opportunity switch in their head. Thinking they “blew it” in one fell swoop. I should after all, because for a while I was one of those people. Eventually, after one too many glasses of chocolate milk and a lot of stress I realized that there had to be more to struggle than sadness. There is.
Whenever I run into something that would normally be categorized as bad, I flip it on its head and from the book mentioned above, I assume that whatever happens to me is the best possible thing that could have. Failed a test? Dang! Came out studying so much better for the next one. Lost research publications because your evidence fell through? Dang! You think about problems and processes so much better now. Yes, I realize it is easier said than done. I realize it won’t be the first thought you have. And of course, I realize that it is certainly harder to do in some scenarios than others.
I’ll share a person example and then another from a friend of mine's life.
When I was an undergraduate student, I had required meetings with a faculty member from my major department – Biology. Which given how much I struggled in undergrad was never something I was interested in. Fall of my third year of college rolled around and I met with Dr. soandso (anonymity matters sometimes) and I couldn’t have been less enthused about this meeting if I tried. So, I sat down at the meeting and was asked “what do you want to do after you graduate?”. When I said medicine or research, I received what was perhaps the most blank and offensive stare of my entire life. His response, “have you thought about anything else if those don’t work out, I don’t think you should get your hopes up”. I was torn between anguish and anger. Looking back at it now, he had all the right to question my choice, my grades were mediocre compared to medical school and I wasn’t all that confident in my selection at the time. He SHOULD have questioned me, but not like that. I left hopeless and halfhearted.
Why was this the best thing that could have happened to me? Simple, because it forced me to think critically and creatively about my career choice. I had only dipped my toes in the waters of medicine. And even though my reasons for pursuing medicine at this point in my life were pure, there was much to discover. But the more important outcome from this conversation was that it helped me realistically analyze my application package. If I really did want to be a doctor, I would have to understand myself and my application better and with greater communication than the targeted questions of the admissions committees of the future. I took a long, adventurous, and exploratory route to medicine because of this meeting. And it was the best thing that could have happened.
My friend on the other hand… Applied to medical school once – got rejected after one interview. Applied to medical school a second time without a single interview. Reapplied for round three and got two interviews and zero acceptances. She applied two more times before gaining admissions into one of the best medical schools in the mid-Atlantic. What happened you might ask? She learned something new about herself during every single one of her cycles, and though it was not the most financially stable method, or emotional easy, she knew without a doubt that she wanted to be a doctor. Every no forced her to look at her application and revisit what could have been wrong. She did. Even if she had decided to go into a different field when given the chance during all of her applications, she would have been steered onto something else that easily could have been the best thing for her.
A brief summary? You will face positive and negative choices during the medical school application process (and beyond) no matter what happens choose to let each experience be the best thing that could have happened. If you do, they all will be.
I read a lot of books and argue a lot of "perspective points" if you're curious about how these things play out in other scenarios, please reach out!