How I Self-Motivated Through First Year

Vet school is hard.  Crying-in-a-puddle-and-questioning-your-life-decisions-because-you’ve-slept-six-hours-in-three-days-and-running-on-fumes-of-coffee-and-desperation kind of hard.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing I’d rather be doing.  But there were many, many times when I could relate to The Doctor in this GIF:

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Credit: 4yearsofvetschool

Everyone needs something to keep them going when they’re undertaking a feat that requires diligent chipping away at a long term goal: health goals, financial goals, educational goals, etc.  For me, it helps to have quotes from others and statements from myself, written when feeling optimistic, to remind me to keep at it.  As I’m reflecting on first year in preparation for second, I thought I’d share the quotes, taped to my desk where I can see them, that helped me tremendously when my motivation and determination were running on empty.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill
Couple this with how many failures you need for a success and you have vet school in a nutshell.  But it reminds me to think of the absolute elation I felt when I got my acceptance letter and the subsequent thrills at each little victory once I stepped on campus – the better-than-expected exam grade, the successful meeting with a professor, the election to a student officer position, etc.  Enthusiasm IS success in and of itself, so if I lose the enthusiasm, there’s no success left to find.

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. – Unknown
This goes along with the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that challenges you to do something every day that scares you.  The fear implied here isn’t the hide-under-the-bed-and-cry-for-mommy kind of fear but the maybe-I-should-just-go-home-and-stick-to-myself kind of fear that is rooted in my introverted tendencies.  My dreams are scary because to make them happen I have to ask for help.  That’s my kind of scary.  Asking questions, requesting recommendations, and seeking friendship are paralyzingly intimidating because it exposes you to the risk of ridicule and rejection.  But I know these insecurities are mostly unfounded.  So when I do something that scares me, it very well might be asking for directions or asking for a recommendation for a scholarship.  But that’s how I know I’m challenging my comfort zone, and people don’t accomplish incredible things without taking a few risks.

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.” – Tyler Knott Greyson
This quote has a double meaning for me because I grew up swimming, so I actually, really do love to swim.  But that’s not the point.  Do I have to tread water in vet school to keep from drowning in the waves?  All the time.  But why am I in the water in the first place?  Because I love the field of veterinary medicine – the complex diversity of careers it encompasses and the limitless opportunities it affords.  I am so proud to call this profession my own and the occasional flailing for breath as I find my way along the path is to be expected.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. – John Steinbeck
This quote speaks to a long term battle with the perfectionist in me.  When I was a freshman in high school, I drew a picture of myself that literally included labels on the different parts of my body indicating how that body part contributed to the perfect individual.  I have been letting go of that picture and, more importantly, the person who thought that picture was important, ever since.  As soon as I remember to let go of striving for perfection, I have time to love the people around me, take my dogs to the park, cultivate something beautiful, and just generally be a good person.  And in case any of my high school kids (or now college kids for many of you) are reading this, learn from my mistakes and Be Good, not perfect.

I walk slowly, but I never walk backward. – Abraham Lincoln
Oh man if this isn’t applicable to veterinary school I don’t know what is.  Sometimes you spend hours studying and feel like you’ve barely made progress.  But if I can remind myself that slow progress is still moving forward, it helps me persevere.

You’ve got what it takes, but it will take everything you’ve got. – Unknown
This becomes my mantra during exam weeks.  After all, do you know how competitive it is to get into veterinary school?  Push your imposter syndrome to the side and think about it – they wouldn’t have let you in if you couldn’t handle it.

When all else fails… HUG the DOG
Look at her; she’s adorable, she’s happy, she’s always excited to see me.  She wags her tail and gives me kisses, and sometimes that’s enough to remind me that there are bigger things in life than the next anatomy exam.

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