Success is different depending on your goals, and it can be achieved in a variety of ways. The key is to set your goal, define success then take the path that works best for you. What is your definition of success in school going to be? There’s no wrong answer! The definition I use (and love) is, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” –Maya Angelou.
This article will share a little about how I learned to live the definition of success and some tips that may help you live yours.
Let’s start from the ground up. To get through this thing, you need to like and care for yourself before you can show up for others (family, friends, classmates, PATIENTS).
- Keep yourself healthy. Mind, body, soul. This is a non-negotiable! What grounds you in the middle of chaos? What types of self-care help you look and feel your best? Personally, I rely on a routine as a template for my day. It helps me use less brain power on setting up my day and more on learning as much as I can during it (efficiency hack!). I work out every day before class/lab/clinic. Call me crazy, but exercise keeps me awake and ready to learn. It also has improved my confidence, motivation, and overall health. While it isn’t easy, it is possible and worth every ounce of dedication (even if it is only 15-20 min).
- Find amazing friends who match your personality. These are the people who will get you through the next four years (shout out to my person, Shelby Tomek). They are your optometry school ‘Google’ when you have absurd or picky questions—just in case it’s on the exam! Make a study schedule with them and decide when to work on homework assignments, study for exams, and go to open lab hours to practice skills. They will be your accountability partners and make you not feel alone through your journey.
- Have self-discipline. Avoid self-sabotage. If you aren’t on your own team, who will be? I’m not saying don’t have fun, just plan for it. Your schedule doesn’t allow for an excess amount of freedom, so be intentional with your time. Self-discipline will put you on the fast track to success. An episode or two of your favorite show is fine. An entire series binge on a weeknight: not okay! Moderation is the best of both worlds. Enjoy and relax, but don’t let a lack of discipline set you back.
Now, how are you going to like what you are doing? Spoiler alert: Optometry school is not a walk in the park, so you’ll need to find the aspects you love to keep you going.
- Get to know your faculty. Believe it or not, they are not all that scary! They are people just like you, not just “tough [insert subject here] professor.” They want you to be great and are there for you. It’s their job to get you to where you need to be, and they are a resource for your success as a future doctor. Trust me, class will be more enjoyable (and dare I say fun?) when you are comfortable enough to participate and ask questions.
- Pursue your interest, just not every club on the list. Don’t spread your time and energy thin on things to ‘add it to the resume.’ Spend your time on what gets you excited. This will create a positive feedback loop. That taste of excitement will be in the back of your mind when all you want to do is complain about a subject you don’t care for. This is a fantastic way to bring light to your end goal and remind yourself you are ready for whatever it takes to get there.
- Don’t turn down opportunities that will help you grow, even if it seems like a lot of extra work. Growth is about stepping outside your comfort zone. At the beginning of my first year, I applied for the U.S. Navy health professions scholarship program knowing my chance of acceptance was slim, and toward the end of my first year, I applied for the T35 summer research program out of curiosity and never thought it would lead to me entering the OD/MS program. Here I am, only a few semesters away from my master’s thesis defense and currently, an ensign (0-1) in the U.S. Navy awaiting my base assignment as a lieutenant (0-3) once I graduate. Take chances on potential opportunities; it may change your career path and potentially your life!
Finally, there are specific actions that can launch you into success throughout your career as a student.
- Learn and study with efficiency and purpose.In class, relate topics to your future patients. Don’t think “when am I possibly going to need to know this stuff?” The truth is, the more you know about how the body works and how diseases can affect the entire body, the better doctor you will be. Don’t be average, strive to stand out and solve problems! Study for understanding not memorization. Make connections between courses and different aspects of optometry. This is not the time to cram because the rest of your life will be cumulative.
- Learn to think for yourself. Do your own research, piece teachings together, and craft what works for you. You know yourself better than anyone, so craft how you want to practice someday. Feel confident in the clinic by using methods that work best for you. You don’t have to be a robot and just do as you are told. Just be able to explain to your attending why you performed certain tests/procedures. They will appreciate this and think highly of you for being able to do so!
- Keep the faith through it all. Find positivity in everything you do. Believe in yourself. This is your time to ask questions, accept that you are here to learn and that sometimes can mean setbacks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. When you fall short of your expectations, figure out a plan on how to do better. Pray, meditate, vent, go to office hours, get lost in the music, dance it out, whatever you need to do, do it! Be kind to yourself and have a positive mindset. Study hard, capitalize on what you enjoy, bring light to your strengths, and groom your weaknesses. You’ve got this!