Getting through medical school is tough. It takes supreme coordination between the body and mind to ensure you stay on track with your ongoing medical curriculum. There is a never-ending flow of medical information where flat-out assimilation and memorization are required. Sometimes, this demanding schedule tends to take its toll on the student as they are stuck with a lack of motivation.
Incidentally, a student may go through motivation that can wax and wane through hours or between days. However, it is not tough to improve motivation. Many techniques are there that ensure motivation. This blog is an attempt to enumerate points for medical students to keep themselves motivated during the course.
Types of Motivation as per Psychologists
Before we get to the pointers, let us understand the two types of motivation as per psychologists. There are two types of motivation that drive all our actions, these are:
- Extrinsic Motivation: This is an outside stimulus that motivates us to act. For instance, an employee may hate their job but the monthly pay cheque motivates them to show at the job.
- Intrinsic Motivation: This is something that comes from within which motivates an individual to act. It can be one’s belief system or conditioning that one has gone through the course of life.
In most cases, extrinsic motivation wears off with time, while intrinsic motivation helps us navigate life in the long term. Intrinsic motivation can be developed over time by cultivating healthy habits. It will have a direct bearing on how we go about life.
Now let’s understand the pointers that will help us stay motivated during our stint at medical school.
Pointers to Staying Motivated in Medical School
Keep a Diary
There is a lot said about the benefits of journaling and putting things down on paper. We may go through the day without much thinking and analysis. Putting down things on paper at the end of the day helps us get a perspective on things that have been done during the day. On days when you feel down, it can be cathartic to go through your journal to understand your actions and keep track of the progress you have made during this period. It can be tremendously motivating to observe that you made it this far. It can give you the necessary motivation to continue down the road with a renewed perspective.
Attend Medical Conferences
While these may not be compulsory during the course, attending these can expose you to new ideas and ways of tackling problems efficiently. Try to attend conferences and seminars of all specialties. It would nudge you closer to the work you want to do in the future. At these conferences, you are likely to meet like-minded individuals who are very passionate about the things they do. Such conferences are also a great way to improve yourself in medical skills like surgery and suturing. These are skills that you can take back to your medical school. At the end of the conference, you could receive a certificate that would add credibility to your resume.
Consult your Mentor
You will save yourself a lot of time and effort if you find a mentor for yourself. If you are lucky, you may even have multiple mentors. A mentor is someone who takes you under their wing and shows you the ropes to ensure you remain ahead of your peers. It is a tremendously morale-boosting way of keeping yourself motivated. They need not necessarily be a doctor; they can even be nurses and social workers who take pride in what they do. By following them closely or having a regular conversation, you can understand their intrinsic motivation in what they do best. Without actually naming it a mentor-mentee relationship, you can understand people, their professions, and how they handle their professional and private life.
Incorporate Creativity in Studies
There are many ways to improve creativity during studies. A medical student needs to understand the importance of creativity in studies. Creativity can take many forms and shapes in medical school. Try to bring the element of arts and crafts into your studies by using sketch pens, color pencils, and even colored notes. Implement mind maps and memory aids to remember whatever you study. These happen to be fun and help in mental stimulation and may even improve the long-term memory of studied information. When such an approach to studies is implemented, it becomes easier to revise what has been studied. A lesser effort is required to focus your attention on the material being studied.
Be Easy on the Deadlines
While studying, keep the focus on quality rather than quantity. It is one of those cardinal things that most medical students tend to forget and get demotivated. You need to understand not all deadlines can be met. You need to focus on the content of the work rather than its size. Most often, students get obsessed over deadlines and fail to grasp the concept. They implement shortcuts for memorizing and complete their workload without proper understanding.
Focus on Growth-led Mindset
Whenever you sit to study, always go in with a positive attitude in mind. Otherwise, there are chances of you remaining distracted most of the time. It is a good idea to check motivation before sitting for studies. If it is negative, then introspect and reason with yourself. Ask yourself why you took up medical school and what you seek to achieve eventually. When you answer with this perspective, it helps in overcoming obstacles that may arise during your studies. In addition, try nurturing a growth-led mindset where you remind yourself that each session of studies contributes to your goal of becoming a doctor. And without investing in it wholeheartedly, the results will not be forthcoming. Working regularly on your mindset would help you to acquire the mental habit of remaining on track with your studies.
Revisit your Old Hobbies
Most students who tend to do well in medical schools are the ones who have a life outside of medical school. Try revisiting your old hobbies, things that you enjoyed doing the most besides studying. If you are unsure, ask your seniors in person how they managed to develop a hobby and stick with it even during the hectic schedule of medical school. And with those conversations, you will learn that one’s indulgence in these hobbies diminishes the utter seriousness with which some pursue medical school. You can carry on with medical school lightly without being careless. In time, you will find your medical school to be less arduous than before.
Achieve Small yet Consistent Goals
While completing medical school may be your long-term goal, it is far ahead in the future. Instead, try to focus on small and immediately achievable short-term goals. Accomplishing these goals can bring in a lot of confidence and the necessary dose of motivation. The consistent achievement of goals serves as a positive feedback loop for students. It can prompt them to break down big goals into smaller achievable chunks. These can be done in a time-bound manner to keep life and schedule less demanding & demotivating than before.
Have an Eye on the Bigger Picture
You have chosen the medical profession due to your genuine aspiration to help others overcome their health problems. Unless you put in the work to acquire medical knowledge, you do not stand a chance at accomplishing your goal. It is not a favor you are doing for yourself. Instead, consider it as a path you are obligated to take even when the going gets tough. Keep reminding yourself of the pains you went through in getting to medical school. If you do not perform well, everything you have done might go to waste. When you feel like procrastinating, always go back to your childhood or adolescence when you decided to become a doctor. All such memories are pivotal to your working hard and gaining that knowledge to become a successful medical professional.
Venture Out in the Open
Most often, medical students get so involved in their studies that they lock themselves up with academics and textbooks. With technology dominating learning, most of them remain glued to their screens. This can often lead to burnout and in the long term can generate aversion to studies altogether. The best antidote to such behavior is to break out from the routine once in a while and venture out into the open. Go to places that are lush in greenery and expand your mind, giving yourself enough to recharge your batteries and approach your studies with more gusto.
Take Care of Personal Wellbeing
There are times when 80% of your waking time is spent sitting on the chair studying and only taking breaks for eating. Even while eating, you tend to gorge on unhealthy foods because it helps distract your mind away from studying. Such routines can perpetuate a vicious cycle that can be both demotivating and debilitating. To break out of such routines, it is essential to pay attention to one’s well-being. Try developing a healthy routine with a regular exercise regimen and eating healthy nutritious meals. Altering your unhealthy routine will help you nurture a healthy and positive outlook on life. This will act as a pillar of support for completing medical school successfully.
Use your Support System
Medical school can be very lonely at times. Many individuals have gone through this phase while finishing medical school. These could be your seniors or your faculty members. Try reaching out to them and explain your problems. Their experience will show the way to deal with your feelings and emotions. Also, ensure to remain in touch with your parents and relatives. These are the ones to whom you go back after finishing your medical school. A simple video call with them for 3-5 minutes will foster motivation and help keep you stay grounded. It can also be a way of showing how much you care for them.
Being a medical student you would have enough exposure to patients. Whenever you feel demotivated, always go back to the memorable sessions you had with patients. Remind yourself of the trust patients place in the hands of their doctor and how your position is critical to their well-being. All put together, it is a privileged position not many professions can boast about. Regularly visualize the criticality of the doctor’s position and how you render service to humanity. With this bigger picture in mind, it will allow you to function to the optimum even with a hectic medical schedule.
Although it is a packed schedule in medical school, it can be managed if there is a better sense of time. Instead of approaching a big task head-on, it can be conducive if it is done bit-by-bit regularly with sufficient allocation of time daily. This may be easier said than done, but with appropriate scheduling, you will overcome any hurdles that lay in the path. Besides this, consider opting for the 80/20 principle where most high productive tasks are given priority over others. This will help keep things under control and help build steady motivation to the larger goal of earning a medical degree.
We all hit our tolerance thresholds or meet our match from time to time. But every time we reach our upper limit, we have to remind ourselves of being much more capable of what we believe ourselves to be. We need to understand that we are yet to witness our full potential and the demanding medical profession acts as the crucible where we get molded to enter a noble profession. You can revisit this list and ponder over the points mentioned here. It can be called wisdom distilled from people who became doctors ahead of you.