Are You Sure You Want to Become a Doctor?
Learn a simple 5 step system for figuring out if doctor life is right for you!
Choosing a path in life isn’t like selecting an ice cream flavor down at Coldstone. Some people take years to find the right one. Others never find it at all. A lot of Premeds come up for air in their second or third year and realize they have no idea if they want to be a doctor. And this is after they, like you, have been asked thousands of times, ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’
At this point, you’ve probably practiced your answer to that question enough that it comes readily. And the more we repeat a statement, the more it becomes real for us, regardless of how true it is.
But have you ever stepped back and really reflected on your answer?
I want to share with you a process that I myself went through under the guidance of my colleague Ulrich Schmidt. It really helped me create a clear vision of what I wanted in life, and why I wanted it.
To say Dr. Schmidt is unusual l would be the understatement of a lifetime. From his thick german accent, to the oversized multi-colored t-shirts he wears underneath his scrubs to the fact he has 3 advanced degrees. At first, he though he wanted to be a hardcore research scientist, so he obtained a PhD. Then he realized he had an interest in business, so he attained an MBA, only to then pursue an MD. He then completed an anesthesia residency, but that was still not enough training, so he completed a critical care fellowship. Needless to say, his life has taken quite a few twists and turns.
From all these twist and turns comes my favorite quirk of his, his unique point of view of life. Every time I work with him, we start off talking about medicine, but I always end up walking away with some piece of sage life advice. It’s kinda comical.
Anyway, one day he asked me what I wanted to do with my life after residency, and I said I was weighing some options, but was struggling to identify the right path. He explained that many people think that he got a bunch of degrees because he wanted to be some kind of scholar. He clarified, that he had spent a ton of years getting a ton of different degrees because unfortunately, he hadn’t yet taken a minute to reflect on how he wanted to live his life. At one point, he finally figured out what he wanted from life, and couldn’t be happier with where he is now.
The process he went through (and he went through with me) includes five steps.
Step 1: Go to your favorite place alone, write a list of 15 things you value and want from life.
Step 2: Weeks later, go to another one of your favorite places. Rank your list and pull out the the top 3 values.
Step 3: Write down the careers you’ve been considering. Figure out which one gives you the most efficient achievement of those 3 values.
Step 4: Consult your partner. Or your parent. Or your sibling. Sit down with them and show them your list. Ask them what they think. Do they have the same values? (And if your partner’s values don’t line up with yours, maybe that’s an indication they aren’t in it for the long run.
Step 5: Make a contract. Type it up, print it out, and sign it with ink—both you and your partner.
To do this, you’re going to need two things: clarity of vision and definiteness of purpose. You’ll need to see clearly. You’ll need to put aside your ego and take an honest look at where you are and where you want to go. And you’ll also need carry through. Your purpose must be definite, and not vague or confused. Otherwise, you will be susceptible to being lured off the path you were really meant to take for one that is easier or quicker to get through.
Neither of these two qualities are easy to come by. But following these steps will pay dividends in the future. They’ll save you time and money. And if you do decide that, actually, you have a ton of great reasons to become a doctor, then you’ll be more certain of the road ahead as you strive for something you are really passionate about.