When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!

How Do People Feel Around You?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about defining what our daily vision is.  The next task was to think about the type of impact we want to have on those around us. When a person has spent time with you, what do they come away with? How do they feel?

The answers to these questions will vary from person-to-person but by consciously thinking about the mark we want to leave on another person’s life, it gets us thinking about the other person, thus moving the focus off of ourselves.

As I pondered this task, I came up with these 3 approaches:

  1. Appreciation: does the person feel genuinely appreciated and cared about when I am with them? This could be through my words, gestures or behavior.
  2. Inspiration: is the person motivated and encouraged in some way by what I say? Positive and exuberant speech can get others excited about life!
  3. Attention: do I give my undivided attention, use eye contact and appropriate body language to ensure the person feels truly listened to?

In addition to daily vision (for example, persevering through difficult tasks, having a positive attitude, doing our work with diligence), the mental act of considering how others feel around us can get us more focused on how we affect other people.

 

Your Words and Actions Matter

Today, I had a conversation with a stranger that made me smile and reminded me that our words and how we say them can have a powerful impact on others. The stranger was a home insurance agent that I had called to make some updates to my policy. This person was nothing but gracious the entire call and left me in giggles as he joked about me being the age of his children and how people (like us) born in February are amazing.

call center 2

Image courtesy of callcentrehelper.com

As he made changes to my policy, his computer system froze up and I could sense a tinge of anxiety in his voice as he tried not to keep me waiting. My mind immediately jumped to my first university job as a help desk technician at a call center where I would help students and faculty to set up their phone and internet services (back when it was dial-up internet!). I still remember the people who were patient on the phone as I tried to navigate my computer system (as well as those who shouted  impatiently “let me speak to your supervisor immediately!”).

As the agent waited for his computer to come back online, he thanked me for my patience and talked about his passion for coaching hockey. He also spoke with great enthusiasm about his career as an insurance agent for the last 30 years. When his computer system finally started working again, he gave me a discount for the delay and again thanked me profusely.

I thought about how this conversation could have gone differently. What if he had sounded bored talking to me? What if I had hung up on him in frustration? We both would have ended the call on a negative note. But instead, I left the conversation reminded that our words and tone of voice really matter. It can make or break someone’s day. It can push someone over the edge or bring them back from the brink. It also reminded me that we can find joy and enthusiasm no matter what we are doing in life.

Tomorrow, take a moment to smile, chat or demonstrate a kind gesture towards those you come across. You never know what that person is going through and what your words and actions may mean to them. Your kindness and enthusiasm will energize those around you!

 

Slaying the Giant and Beating the Odds

The story of David and Goliath is one of my son’s favorites. To him, David is the epitome of bravery,  a young shepherd boy who took down the undefeated giant Goliath with just a handful of stones and a sling.

What I love most about this story is the fact that David was the least likely candidate to defeat Goliath, yet he did it anyway! Despite David’s youth and small stature, he showed true courage and did not let the odds discourage him from attempting the challenge.

Sometimes when we are working towards a goal or dream, there may be moments when you think “but how could I possibly compete?”

When it comes to tackling a challenging goal, it is important not to negatively compare ourselves with others. If we look down on ourselves in comparison to someone else, we lose sight of our own strengths and uniqueness.

Keep your eyes fixed on that goal! Even if the odds are stacked against you, fight back and slay your giant!

David and Goliath. Image courtesy of mensteppingupblog.com

David and Goliath. Image courtesy of mensteppingupblog.com

10 Tips for Embarking on a New Adventure

Excited to share with you my first guest post over at The Zeit which is a blog with great information on healthy living for your mind and body. My guest post is about tips for embarking on a new adventure. Hope you enjoy reading it!

10 Tips for Embarking on a New Adventure

Image courtesy of chai biscuit.com

Image courtesy of chai biscuit.com

Opening the Door to Greater Things

Whenever a door closes, another door to greater things opens. When I lost my job as a research scientist while on maternity leave earlier this year, it was a big blow to our family. I had been employed there for the past 9 years fresh out of university and had gotten used to the work culture and routine. It was a shock to my system to suddenly not be a part of it anymore.

Even though I knew the lay-offs were company wide and were not a reflection of my performance, I still couldn’t help feeling shame and guilt, “Had I done something wrong?” or “Was it because I requested an additional few months of maternity leave?

For the past 10 years, I have had the desire to become a doctor. There have been various planned and unplanned detours along the way and we ultimately decided to start a family before medical school. Once we had our two beautiful children, the question then became, “When do I apply to medical school?”. It was not an easy decision to make. Our children were very young, we had financial commitments, stable careers and paychecks. When would be the right time to rock the boat and make such a big change to our life?

Following the loss of my job, my husband encouraged me that this was the perfect time to make a change and focus my sights on medical school. I have to say that the last few months have been some of the most wonderful months of my life. I have spent valuable time with my children, become healthier, focused my sense of direction towards medical school and developed new hobbies such as writing and blogging which I have come to love!

Now that my medical school applications have been submitted and as I wait to hear back from medical schools, I cannot predict what will happen. But I do know that the past few months have been a breath of fresh air and have allowed me to strengthen the bonds within my family and gain a greater sense of perspective about what is most important in life.

So I would like to encourage you that no matter what comes your way, something good can come out of it. It may not seem like it at the moment when we are sinking, but there is always a way to get back onto solid ground. An obstacle or hurdle need not stop us. It can redirect us to something better than we could have imagined.

Image courtesy of shechanges.com

Whenever a door closes, another door to greater things opens. Image courtesy of shechanges.com

Dreamer…Keep on Dreaming!

When we have a lofty goal in mind, there can be days when it seems that the dream has been launched exponentially far ahead of you, as if it were placed on a rubber band and flung far beyond what you can see. Nagging doubts can creep in about our ability and our decisions. When this happens, I try to remember that anything is possible if we only hang in there and don’t give up!

If negative thoughts come into our minds, we must push them aside. We cannot dwell on them, allow them to fester or let them blind us to what we are truly capable of. We acknowledge them and move on, looking for a new way to launch ourselves to the next level, a new way to get us one step closer to our dreams.

But how can I do it?  What about my age, my income, my race, my education, my health, my family, my gender, my past mistakes, my fears…It seems impossible.

It is only impossible if you believe it is impossible!

When we have a goal we want to achieve, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, we have to coast on the wave of determination! We must persevere and keep going! There is no shame in making a mistake and trying again. There is no shame in falling and rising once more!

Dreamer…keep on dreaming! It may take you a day, a month, a year, 10 years or more to achieve it but don’t lose sight of that dream!

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius at freedigitalphotos.net

See How Much I Love You

When my husband and I got married in 2007, one of the things he pledged to me (aside from a lifetime supply of chocolate) was that he would write me a note every day for the rest of our lives. I was impressed and waited to see if he would pull it off. He was inspired by a book called “Night Light, a devotional for couples” written by Dr. James and Shirley Dobson.

Within the first few pages of this book was a little excerpt describing the love between grandparents. They would play a daily game with each other where they wrote the word “shmily” somewhere around the house for each other to find. It was an expression and reminder of their love for each other.

They dragged “shmily” with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio…”Shmily” was written in the steam on the bathroom mirror, where it would appear after every hot shower. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave “shmily” on the very last sheet” [pg. 16].

My husband has been true to his word and somehow a note (usually a brightly colored post-it) has materialized in some unusual corner of the house. Sometimes it is in a kitchen cupboard where I find it when I’m cooking. Sometimes I find it rolled up in a box of cereal. Sometimes I find it hidden behind the leaves of one of our house plants as I’m watering it. When we travel, the note makes its way into a sock or a hidden pocket in the suitcase. We are certain someone might find one of these notes in a hotel room, left behind by mistake. Hopefully, it will brighten their day. Today, I found my note in my shower cap!

Caleb, our son, is starting to catch on. He proudly presents pink notes he has discovered and says, “Mummy, here’s a note from daddy”.

I sometimes joke that I will enter my husband into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of personal notes ever written. Since 2007, when we got married, they now number close to 3000 notes! I have kept them safely in a box in our bedroom hoping that one day the kids will read through them and know that their parents loved each other very much. I love these notes, they brighten up my day, motivate me, make me laugh, and remind me that I am appreciated and loved.

“S-h-m-i-l-y…..See How Much I Love You”

A note of encouragement from my husband

A note of encouragement from my husband

Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.

Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.

Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.

Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.

Our traditional wedding, Nairobi Kenya, May 2007

Our traditional wedding, Nairobi Kenya, May 2007

Support Networks….We Need Them

When going after something as crazy as a dream, we can’t do it alone. We need equally minded, if not more so crazy people to uplift us, challenge us, guide us and to help get us on our way towards our dream. I call these crazy people “support networks”.

My decision to pursue medicine has unfolded over many years and during this period of time, I have bounced ideas off of family members, my husband, friends and colleagues. Most have been extremely supportive of my decision while at the same time being realistic about the sacrifices as well as financial and time commitments. There are times when I have doubted my decision for one reason or another and it is these key members of my support networks who have walked me through my concerns and given me a fresh perspective on things. Before giving up, it’s important to talk through doubts, anxieties and worries with others. Our brains are prone to making “mountains out of mole-hills” and sometimes our concerns weigh needlessly on our minds. Talking things through with other people whom we deem trustworthy of our concerns can get us questioning ourselves more rationally and objectively. More importantly, these people in our support networks can give us the motivation, the “psych”, the pep talks, the encouragement and the soul food that we need to get back on track when we have become lost on the wayside. These are the people who love you, who believe in you, who want to see you succeed and that’s why we need them. They are our….support networks!

Below are a few encouraging excerpts from my support networks. When pursuing your dreams, stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize. Pin encouragements like these on a board where you can see them often and remind yourself that you can do it!

I am behind you all the way. Let me know how I can help with MCAT, the application or anything else you need. You will make a fantastic doctor!!” -From my older brother.

I can really picture you in med…that’s my girl!” -From my husband.

Am really happy that you’re back on track with med school, MCAT etc…. Ciao, ciao house in the ‘burbs! We can always get another one.Let me know how i can help. At the very least, I am cheering for you and will be praying.” -From one of my good friends from university.

“If being a physician is what you really want and you can not see yourself doing anything else, don’t allow anyone or anything to discourage you. Whatever you need, I will be here to support you along your journey.” -From a new friend and fellow blogger.

This is exciting stuff! God bless you guys!” -From my other big brother.
“…go for it, and just cast all you cares on Him because He cares for you and will direct you” -From my mother.