The first year of college poses a variety of challenges. From learning to adapt to a new daily routine to incorporating online learning into our studies, it was a year where we were all forced to adapt to our new reality during this pandemic. Last year, I was very anxious to start college, especially since I am pursuing a pre-med track. My mind was overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to balance volunteering, shadowing, and clinical experiences while maintaining a competitive GPA. That summer, I stumbled upon a book called Unlocking Greatness by Charlie Harary that shifted my entire view of the challenges that pre-health students will face during their journey. After reading this book and realizing its impact on my overall mindset, I wanted to use this opportunity to share a few secrets to unlocking your greatness, the key to living your life to your fullest potential.
Harary first explained the importance of “mental schema”, a concept centered on the idea that every individual will view reality through a unique lens. Each person is shaped by his/her beliefs and past experiences that contribute to his/her view of a situation. All pre-health journeys are filled with numerous challenges. Thus, we often forget to stop and look at the world around us to identify the good in each situation. For example, while some may view being a full-time student and working in a job at the same time to be extremely stressful, others may perceive it as an opportunity to gain exposure to their field of interest and develop new skills that will be beneficial in their careers ahead. The way we view every situation will directly affect how we feel about ourselves as well as the progress we make. Remember that it is perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed. To overcome this feeling and excel through it, you just need to change your schema by simply looking at the same situation with a different pair of lenses.
The power of our brain to adapt and build a healthy mindset lies within the concept of neuroplasticity which is defined as the brain’s ability to change and grow based on our thoughts. This means that we have the power to shape our brain and program it for success. Additionally, the human brain can rewire itself to think differently and even function at a greater capacity.
In simple terms, for neurons to connect, they must exchange electrical signals. These signals cause the neurons to fire. The more times the neurons fire, the stronger the connection becomes for certain thoughts. Thus, the more an individual has a specific thought, the more wired together those neurons will be. Since our brain constantly forms and forgets the connections it makes, controlling our thoughts is the key to transforming our lives for the better. Therefore, instead of focusing on building the connections between neurons for negative thoughts, we should strengthen the fire between our positive ones.
As future healthcare professionals, the road ahead may seem daunting. But if we change the way we view the marathon of becoming a doctor, nurse, PA, or any other related profession, we can appreciate the journey so much more. We must also remember to never limit ourselves since our brain constantly changes and adapts.
With that being said, I too strive to incorporate these ideas and internalize their effects on my overall mental health. The majority of pre-health students are striving towards a single goal, which is to provide high-quality medical care to each of their future patients. Thus, it is important to make sure that we are prepared and confident to overcome any obstacles in the way of reaching this goal.
Thank you for reading,
Harary, Charlie, and Mark Dagostino. Unlocking Greatness: The Unexpected Journey from the Life You Have to the Life You Want. Rodale, 2018.