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What kept you motivated?


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Hey everyone,

I understand that trying to become a doctor is a marathon...but what kept you motivated to keep going? I've talk to many of my science friends on how burnt out and unmotivated I've been feeling after this past academic year where I was taking a full course load and at the same time putting 25-30 hours a week as an Undergraduate researcher to complete my side project to submit for a publication (I've been told that my project is equivalent to graduate thesis-defence by my supervisor and some grad students as well as graduate alumni.). However most of my science friends would tell me to suck it up and say I'm lucky to even have an opportunity to publish as an undergrad and that my grades are competitive as well. I understand where some people are coming from, and I'm a very open person who looks at both sides of the spectrum. I guess to sum it up, how can I revamp my motivation in a more positive manner rather than worrying how I will end up affecting other people? I guess this may be because excessive worrying for others is part of my personality...

TL;DR looking for positive motivation to more forward rather than feeling like shit and continuing...

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I don't know that I have an answer for this. I didn't decide on medicine till fairly late into my undergraduate degree, so I think that helped as I wasn't preoccupied with the idea of striving for medicine for the entire duration of my degree. I just focused on my academics as I always had. It was still a pretty miserable time.

After deciding on medicine, I set a timeline to achieve that goal and did everything I could to take actions on a daily basis that would feed into achieving that goal. I suppose setting long term goals (ex. matriculating into a canadian medical school), intermediate term goals (ex. have a variety of meaningful commitments) and short term goals (ex. ace this, that and the other course) is a helpful way to breakdown a seemingly massive goal into something more tangible and actionable. Of course you could break those down even further, for instance with doing well in a course taking the time to plot all the significant dates for each course and planning out how you are going to spend each day of the semester accordingly.

Essentially you kind of build a structure for yourself where you don't have to think about things anymore, but just execute. Yes you will feel like shit all the time because you probably don't sleep/exercise/eat as well as you should--considering your tight schedule, but you just keep reminding yourself that as long as you execute and trust in the process it will all work out.

Also, I found some comfort in knowing that I had some friends with similar goals that were also just as involved as I was in ECs while also juggling a full courseload and succeeding, so that helped me not feel as isolated and stressed I suppose. It was still a lot of hard work, but it didn't feel as brutal.

I can't say that the feeling like shit a lot of the time thing goes away, maybe once you're an attending lol. The pursuit of medicine is a long road through each step of the process.

It's a prolonged grind, with brief moments of satisfaction that keep you going.

 

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Basically, I just keep telling myself that if I am truly miserable, then I have to stop and do something else -- so that motivates me to keep things balanced and find ways to make it tolerable.

For me, that has meant giving myself permission to relax, and to learn to be ok with the idea that it would be fine if the whole process took me a bit longer (or a lot longer) -- that I'd get there when I'd get there. Letting myself feel OK with not saying yes to every single opportunity, and to prioritize things aside from academics like hobbies and friends has been really, really helpful. I have found it makes me happier, and being happier has made it easier to find fun and enjoyment in the whole stupid process (even when that entailed studying every night for weeks on end). Although I still also suffer from the occasional "omg I'm gonna be so old what am I doing?!" panic attacks that make me sunddenly want to take on 5 new projects or ECs:P

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It sounds like you already have quite a bit of intrinsic motivation, in that you are able to secure these opportunities and juggle them successfully. I suspect you are experiencing burnout from the high workload, and will find your motivation renewed once you have a more balanced schedule. Is your research opportunity only available over the school year? I did all my research projects over the summers only - too much to take on in addition to a full course load for me + ECs + volunteering...

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What kept me motivated was always thinking about the end goal, and telling myself it would all be worth it.  I also really enjoyed my undergrad, and loved my program and the research I was doing, so that definitely made things easier.  That said, I felt really burnt out towards the end of first semester in fourth year too, I think because I had written the MCAT right before school started, was working part-time, and was putting a lot of hours into my thesis.  Maintaining a work-life balance and practicing self-care are crucial.  Even though you're busy with school and research, make sure to take time for yourself as often as you can - whether that looks like hanging out with friends, working out, reading a book, or watching TV.  I remember one of my professors telling us to treat exercise the same as studying because it has so many mental and physical benefits, and I've always found it to be especially great in helping with stress.  Sometimes practicing self-care means you have to cut back on other things and/or take a break, but remember that your mental and physical health should always come first.

All the best! :)   

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I agree it can be a real challenge to stay motivated! I like to focus on why I want to become a doctor and I find watching YouTube channels of medical students and residents really helps! It allows me to really picture what I'm aiming for...

Here's what I just watched... some others I follow are TheStriveToFit and JaneandJady.

Hope you find it helpful!! :)

 

 

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On 7/8/2017 at 0:20 AM, freewheeler said:

I don't know that I have an answer for this. I didn't decide on medicine till fairly late into my undergraduate degree, so I think that helped as I wasn't preoccupied with the idea of striving for medicine for the entire duration of my degree. I just focused on my academics as I always had. It was still a pretty miserable time.

After deciding on medicine, I set a timeline to achieve that goal and did everything I could to take actions on a daily basis that would feed into achieving that goal. I suppose setting long term goals (ex. matriculating into a canadian medical school), intermediate term goals (ex. have a variety of meaningful commitments) and short term goals (ex. ace this, that and the other course) is a helpful way to breakdown a seemingly massive goal into something more tangible and actionable. Of course you could break those down even further, for instance with doing well in a course taking the time to plot all the significant dates for each course and planning out how you are going to spend each day of the semester accordingly.

Essentially you kind of build a structure for yourself where you don't have to think about things anymore, but just execute. Yes you will feel like shit all the time because you probably don't sleep/exercise/eat as well as you should--considering your tight schedule, but you just keep reminding yourself that as long as you execute and trust in the process it will all work out.

Also, I found some comfort in knowing that I had some friends with similar goals that were also just as involved as I was in ECs while also juggling a full courseload and succeeding, so that helped me not feel as isolated and stressed I suppose. It was still a lot of hard work, but it didn't feel as brutal.

I can't say that the feeling like shit a lot of the time thing goes away, maybe once you're an attending lol. The pursuit of medicine is a long road through each step of the process.

It's a prolonged grind, with brief moments of satisfaction that keep you going.

 

That's a good idea, planning and thinking of a timeline from now to your future. This is probably key to me since I should be focusing on what I can do now and what I can't do until later. For me, I do feel a bit isolated and stressed - I dont wanna sound arrogant - but at times I feel like I'm the person my friend's are always trying to catch up to. For example, being the top of the class, people are constantly seeking you for help, ideas, advice, opportunities, I guess in a way I've developed into a good role model for my peers. However, what would you recommend to do if you just want to take a step back from this "role model" position? - like it feels good to be a role model but at the same time its difficult as now there's a social expectation of you to live up to it...

21 hours ago, frenchpress said:

Basically, I just keep telling myself that if I am truly miserable, then I have to stop and do something else -- so that motivates me to keep things balanced and find ways to make it tolerable.

For me, that has meant giving myself permission to relax, and to learn to be ok with the idea that it would be fine if the whole process took me a bit longer (or a lot longer) -- that I'd get there when I'd get there. Letting myself feel OK with not saying yes to every single opportunity, and to prioritize things aside from academics like hobbies and friends has been really, really helpful. I have found it makes me happier, and being happier has made it easier to find fun and enjoyment in the whole stupid process (even when that entailed studying every night for weeks on end). Although I still also suffer from the occasional "omg I'm gonna be so old what am I doing?!" panic attacks that make me sunddenly want to take on 5 new projects or ECs:P

Good advice, it's definitely key to relax to prevent burn out. I guess a key for me is that I continuously work from 1st year to 4th year (note: I have not had a summer off been taking a full course load all three academic terms) thinking it'll out work out in the end without considering the long term consequences that can happen if I overdue it. Recently I started picking up the weights again as a comfort. I use to play sports a lot for leisure time, but I no longer am allow to place my favourite sports due to multiple concussions received from them.  

10 hours ago, Lactic Folly said:

It sounds like you already have quite a bit of intrinsic motivation, in that you are able to secure these opportunities and juggle them successfully. I suspect you are experiencing burnout from the high workload, and will find your motivation renewed once you have a more balanced schedule. Is your research opportunity only available over the school year? I did all my research projects over the summers only - too much to take on in addition to a full course load for me + ECs + volunteering...

Thanks for the comment. I do feel like I might be burned out a bit from the 4 years of university. I guess one of the reasons why I'm tired is personally (as I mentioned above) even though that my peers in some of my lectures view me as a role model, I've been consistently chasing my friend who seems to be better than me at everything (kinda living in his shadow you know?) - it's been like that since elementary school. He's gotten into Stellar programs in high school, got into one of the best programs in the country to get into medicine and also got into medical school on his first try during 3rd year. He was basically my motivation to keep going (and sooner or later I might of over done it). It is just recently that I have come to an understanding is that, even though he got into med before me, at the end of the road, we'll (hopefully) be in the same place. Unfortunately, I'm not able to fit the whole project into the summer - I've been doing this project since last summer and still continuing right now. The project is actually a large project I came up with myself, and my supervisor believes that I should cut it into 2 manuscript write ups and publish it as 2 separate papers...with me putting in the amount of time I do currently, the likelihood that I completely one part of the project and the scrap/summary data for the 2nd half by August 2018 is doable (given minimal problems arise). How many ECs/volunteers  did you limit yourself during undergraduate?

9 hours ago, HappyAndHopeful said:

What kept me motivated was always thinking about the end goal, and telling myself it would all be worth it.  I also really enjoyed my undergrad, and loved my program and the research I was doing, so that definitely made things easier.  That said, I felt really burnt out towards the end of first semester in fourth year too, I think because I had written the MCAT right before school started, was working part-time, and was putting a lot of hours into my thesis.  Maintaining a work-life balance and practicing self-care are crucial.  Even though you're busy with school and research, make sure to take time for yourself as often as you can - whether that looks like hanging out with friends, working out, reading a book, or watching TV.  I remember one of my professors telling us to treat exercise the same as studying because it has so many mental and physical benefits, and I've always found it to be especially great in helping with stress.  Sometimes practicing self-care means you have to cut back on other things and/or take a break, but remember that your mental and physical health should always come first.

All the best! :)   

Thanks for your story. I agree a balance is necessary - being a doctor in the future, a workplace and personal life is crucial with the amount of mental strain you can get during your residency or even when you open your own practice and see a variety of different patients. The funny thing what I did for fun in my first 3 years was read a textbook... I know most people will thinks that weird, but when I was bored I actually picked up a new textbook and learned ahead in content to specific things. Now since I have a basis of physiology/biochemistry, etc.. I consistently read and critique random research articles I read on nature being like 'this experiment could of improved by XX or like why didn't they do YY..?

 

Now as a side note from all the stories/advice that was given here, I do agree my intrinsic motivation might of led to slight burn out. My motivation to catch up to my friends in medical school current and silencing the doubters really fuel my motivation to the point where I may of overdone it. But I feel that my motivation was negative motivation to do well rather than positive motivation if that makes any sense. Looking back my negative motivation stemmed from the fact that my guidance counsellor, some high school teachers, and one first year prof all told me that I wasn't cut out to become a doctor... I still remember the words they said today. They were all along the lines of "You're not smart enough to be a doctor with your grades"; "there are many students with better grades than you who would probably be better to become a doctor"; I think you should try looking for another career since medicine " I'm not even joking, this is the feedback I was receiving for the first few years of my late teens. Like my grades were abysmal, but I worked extremely hard to change my mental focus and rip through most of my classes with 3.9 and 4.0s to prove to myself that other people's views don't define who I am.  

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26 minutes ago, MedKeener said:

I agree it can be a real challenge to stay motivated! I like to focus on why I want to become a doctor and I find watching YouTube channels of medical students and residents really helps! It allows me to really picture what I'm aiming for...

Here's what I just watched... some others I follow are TheStriveToFit and JaneandJady.

Hope you find it helpful!! :)

 

 

I will definitely take a look tomorrow as it extremely late and sleep is key to mental health !

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8 hours ago, UWUW said:

Thanks for the comment. I do feel like I might be burned out a bit from the 4 years of university. I guess one of the reasons why I'm tired is personally (as I mentioned above) even though that my peers in some of my lectures view me as a role model, I've been consistently chasing my friend who seems to be better than me at everything (kinda living in his shadow you know?) - it's been like that since elementary school. He's gotten into Stellar programs in high school, got into one of the best programs in the country to get into medicine and also got into medical school on his first try during 3rd year. He was basically my motivation to keep going (and sooner or later I might of over done it). It is just recently that I have come to an understanding is that, even though he got into med before me, at the end of the road, we'll (hopefully) be in the same place. Unfortunately, I'm not able to fit the whole project into the summer - I've been doing this project since last summer and still continuing right now. The project is actually a large project I came up with myself, and my supervisor believes that I should cut it into 2 manuscript write ups and publish it as 2 separate papers...with me putting in the amount of time I do currently, the likelihood that I completely one part of the project and the scrap/summary data for the 2nd half by August 2018 is doable (given minimal problems arise). How many ECs/volunteers  did you limit yourself during undergraduate?

 

Congratulations on your achievements, and in serving as a source of motivation for others to reach their potential. Perhaps you can shift to thinking of yourself as a role model for achieving balance, i.e. maintaining that optimal level of motivation to avoid burnout.

Yes, I have seen former classmates get into medicine early, and you are right that it no longer matters several years down the road - we have all gone down different paths and (presumably) happy with what we are doing. 

I was involved in a number of things that I enjoyed during undergrad, but never so much that I felt my grades suffered as a direct result. 25-30 hours/week of research is a significant commitment, and I would definitely have had to limit other activities if I were doing what you are doing.

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