Celebrate Small Victories!!

December 12, 2011

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! …”

Psalm 150:1-6 ESV

I bring greetings from the other side of the most gruesome academic challenge I’ve had to date (and hopefully ever): STEP 1.

 Best. Feeling. Ever.

I am proud to announce that after 3 months of poring over review books, and thousands of practice questions later, I have finally taken this darn test.

Some say, and I agree, that this is perhaps the most important test of our medical career.  Sure, some would argue the MCAT is more important, because if you don’t do well on the MCAT, then your career won’t even begin.

Well, they are both right up there.  However, what puts the STEP above the MCAT, in my opinion, is the simple fact that the STEP is pass/fail.

At the end of the day, you want to get the highest possible score for both exams; however, you can’t really fail the MCAT.  If you got a few points lower than expected, it’s not the end of the world, if your overall presentation compensates.  However, if you fail the STEP 1 even once, then the chances of a residency you truly want diminish dramatically.

Therefore, students frequently retake the MCAT to get a HIGHER score, and some schools consider an improvement a positive, and look only at the HIGHER score.

However, if you pass the STEP with the lowest score, that’s it.  You’re not allowed to retake it to improve your score.  And if you fail…then, oh boy.  I don’t even want to think about it.

There’s always more anxiety for a pass/fail test, in my opinion…especially one that costs close to $900.

I digress.

The purpose of this today’s blog, post STEP 1, is to introduce the need to celebrate victories.

It’s common sense, I suppose, yet not one that medical students do efficiently.

Most med students work hard to party play hard.

Balance is essential.  So, while it is crucial to celebrate large victories, such as taking and passing STEP 1, one must remember to celebrate the little victories along the way or you’ll burn out quicker!

Little victories are as varied as the people who celebrate them.  Anything can be a little victory.  But of course, balance is key.

Examples of such could be: after every few hours of diligent study, you’ll watch 20 minutes of your favorite show.

Another example would be: after a week of studying, you’d take a whole day off! Thank God that plan is already included in the Seventh-Day Adventist fundamental beliefs!  (My friends used to envy the fact that I’d take Saturday off).

Another example: After taking block exams every few weeks, you’ll treat yourself to a massage (loved this treat for myself), or dinner/movie/trip to the beach with friends.

Another example: After passing the semester, you’ll travel to an exotic locale internationally (my personal favorite).

As you can see, I started out with the smallest of victories, and progressed to larger and larger ones.

These have always helped served as motivational tools to fight the good fight when every cell of my being wanted to throw in the towel.

The fear of failure didn’t hurt as a motivation tool either. 😉

After the STEP 1, I frantically searched “Groupon Now” for a nice meal and a nice massage, walking around downtown Chicago, in the frigid cold for more than four hours.  It was my favorite night in Chicago…because for the first time ever, I had guilt-free fun. No more: OMG, I should be studying!  Not for awhile, at least.

So, I want to encourage you, in whatever step you are in your journey to fulfilling your dreams, make room to celebrate victories.  Visualize your victories and how you’ll celebrate them before they come.  The mind is a powerful motivator as well.

For those of you who do make it a habit to celebrate large and small victories in your academic journey, what sort of things do you do?  I’m sure some other readers, myself included, would love to get great ideas for future celebra-shi-ons.

Happy Holidays to All and God Bless on your Journeys!