How to Get What You Want in Life/double minded

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QUESTION: Hi
I am a 2nd year med student and had a gap year as i couldn't make it into med school in first try.
Although i chose this field on my own, I've been having issues with trying to find a purpose for doing medicine.
I don't know why but i keep wishing to quit, sometimes due to study load, other times due to feeling incompetent of becoming a doctor

Initially I turned down the offer of getting a bachelors in virology and immunology from the main university my med school is affiliated with.And wasted another year just to get into med school which i did.My stubbornness to get in here was because i wanted to become the first doctor in my family and show to others that i was a capable student but now i have lost the purpose.
My parents have always believed in me and supported me 100%, my father even tried to stop me from entering as it is a very demanding field, both in undergrad years as well as professionally.I didn't realize then but now it feels out of hand, as i have become a borderline student who has a record of flunking one or another subject in each semester.I know its normal in med school to become drained at one point but my issue is i keep getting this feeling of wanting to quit every time i prepare for exams.Lectures feel like a drag.The only thing keeping me in here is my parent's constant support and the thought that i have paid two year's enormous tuition fee.this also makes me feel guilty thinking that i am making my parents spent so much on my education and i am not even working hard for that degree
I tried to watch a couple of med soaps like "HOUSE" but it made me even more scared of becoming a doctor.
Is it feasible to change my course of study or should i continue and work hard here.
I am scared of making a wrong choice, wondering what if i end up somewhere i don't like or even worse than here.
Also what will the rest of the family say about me, they'll judge my parent's upbringing and call me a quitter
I hate vicious gossips and really want to become something which will shut everyone up for good and also will make me a better person, something i enjoy studying and hope to enjoy doing professionally
thank you for your time and efforts

ANSWER: Anna,

There is a concept in business called "sunk cost".  When a business man is looking at a project in process, one of the things he or she disregards is the "sunk cost".  If the business is trying to determine whether they should abandon the project or continue it, the sunk cost is not relevant to the correct answer.  That money is gone.  If the project does not merit going forward, it does not matter how much money has already been spent on it.  

So from a cost/time investment standpoint, I do not think the money or time you have invested in med school should enter into the decision of going forward or abandoning med school.

I think there is one question you should ask yourself and answer as best you can.   Knowing what you know now, if you were at the start of med school, would you still enroll?  Don't worry about anything else.  Just answer that question.  If the answer, based on your current feelings, is no, then I would suggest that you drop out.  If the answer is yes, you would still enroll, then you still have a keen interest and you should continue.

You should not beat yourself up about the time and money that is spent.  That is history.  There is nothing you can do about what is past.  If you are not 100% convinced that med school is the right thing for you, then the sooner you drop out, the better you will be.  You certainly do not want to sink any more time and money in med school, get your degree, become a doctor and then realize (or admit) that you do not want to work as a doctor.

I do not view your time as wasted.  You have certainly learned a lot of things in med school.  You also have learned a lot about yourself.  I would suggest that you spend some time figuring out some complimentary course of study where you are more likely to enjoy what you would be doing.  

As far was watching med soaps, I do not think those give a realistic view of what it is like to be a doctor.  So do not base your decision on what you see in a fictional TV program.  I suspect that being a doctor in your country is a lot like being a doctor in America.  It is hard work - very demanding, you often work 12 hour days and are often called with some emergency in the middle of the nights.  You would also work with a very wide variety of people from all walks of life.  Being a doctor is not glamorous - you must deal with people who are sick, unhealthy and in poor physical condition.

You might want to consider some profession that is less demanding but equally rewarding.  Psychology comes to mind.  That is very interesting and you have much more choice about what sorts of patients you deal with.  

There are other similar fields you can consider that are health related.

Please do not spend a lot of time and energy on trying to prove yourself to others.  As long as you are happy with yourself, do not worry about what other people think.  Even if you become a doctor, not everyone will be happy for you are appreciate your accomplishments.  Whatever you decide to do, the decision should be based on what satisfies you.  There needs to be a strong reason why you choose to go into a particular field.  Making money or impressing people is not a good reason.  Your reason why should satisfy your own needs.  You should be looking forward to getting up each morning so you can engage in your calling.

I hope this gives you something to think about.  Please feel free to follow up with additional questions.

John

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for such a quick response.
I cried while reading your answer,it is very difficult to admit that the answer is no to that question. That i would not enroll of i knew then what i know now and yes, it is very demanding here as well to be a doctor.
Although there are thousands of doctors graduating every year,we still need more doctors.Having said that, I still feel that it is not possible at this stage to drop out.

the "sunk cost" concept though an interesting one seems a bit difficult to apply.I mean i would still consider the effort i pt in even if i decide to leave this institution.
May be because it would seem like my efforts, y parent's efforts they all went to waste.
No matter how hard i think and no matter how strong i make my myself,looking at my mother every time and gazing at her when she is worried about my health or how much study load is on me, it breaks me down and i cannot bring myself to tell her that i want to quit.
Because right now my professional exam for 2nd year is approaching, I will have to apply to other institution after a thorough thinking about what i would want to study in now but the hardest part is that i don't know if i want to leave this place or not.
Our institution is the most prestigious medical institution in the whole country,people dream of coming here and i am thinking otherwise.But i know that if a place doesn't make u happy,even its international ranking will not help.
What i really worry about is my parents though and my fear of other people's comments is directly linked to them as well.
what choices i make will not just affect me but my parents and those around me as well.That is the sole reason stopping me otherwise i would have left just a month after enrolling here when i felt that this is not where i am meant to be.I don't want my parents to be hurt, after all we don't live in a cave but in a society and no matter how much i try to be myself and live by "MY RULES, MY LIFE", i still have to live in this planet among other people in a society deeply influenced by stupid mind set and cultural barriers, utterly baseless and pointless cultural barriers.
What i am just looking for is a way to get out of this mess without hurting those around me, my parents foremost.
but i am not a risk taker, what i don't know is that if i go somewhere else, it might just be bad or even worse, then i might have screwed my life for sure.
thank you so much for your patience and time, it means a lot

ANSWER: Anna,

I know the sunk cost concept is difficult to grasp.  I work with seasoned businessmen and I can't tell you how many cannot or will not accept the concept.  I understand the reason.  We place value on things we have spent time and money on.  We do not want to admit that we made a mistake and should not have invested all the time and money on something that will prove to be a loss if we just walk away.  But if you can detach the concept from your own situation, you might be able to see that what has happened in the past is fact.  Nothing we can do will change the past.  But our best decisions going forward are what really matter.  And we should strive to make the best decision going forward without giving thought to what we did in the past.

For example, if you were going down a road and realized you were on the wrong road, would you continue on that same road even though you realized it was not leading you to the destination you really wanted to go to?  No you would turn in the direction you really wanted to go - you would admit that you had been going in the wrong direction and it would be foolish to continue on the wrong road just because you have been on that road for a few hours.  As soon as you realized you were on the wrong road, you would change direction.

You are making an assumption about how your parents will react.  What do you think they really want for you?  Take a moment and think about it.  Do they want you to be miserable but become a doctor so they can brag about you to their friends and relatives?  No. I can tell you a parent that loves their child, only wants that child to be happy.  A parent would never want a child to be miserable just to save face.  Do not assume what your parents are thinking or how they would react.  The only way to really know is to ask.  I think you owe it to them to sit down with them and tell them how miserable you are.  Then I think you should ask for guidance.  After all, that is the job of a parent.  To be there for their child, to offer love and support.  To comfort them and give advice that will help move them to do what is best for the child.  

It is simply not worth it for you to be miserable and bring more stress on yourself trying to do something that your heart is not in.  As you know from your study of medicine, stress is very dangerous for the body.  It can cause all sorts of medical problems.  You are under far too much stress.  The only way to reduce that stress is to change what is causing the stress.

I know that your culture is different from mine.  But it is not what people say and do that will hurt you and or your parents.  It is how you let it affect you.  Said differently, it is not what happens in life that hurts us, it is our reaction to it.  You will never be able to live a life that is pleasing to everyone.  No matter what you do, there are some people who will find fault with something you did.  If you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody and in the process you create a miserable life for yourself.

If you absolutely must have a reason (or excuse) for dropping out, it should be fairly easy to create one.  Again, stress is the underlying cause of a wide range of medical problems.  You are certainly under stress.  Pick a medical condition that would be easy to describe and easy for people to understand but difficult for people to dispute - such as migraine headaches.  You could easily say that because of the stress of study, you have developed migraine headaches and the doctors have told you they will only get worse.  You could also choose stomach ulcers or some other illness that would be stress related.

Personally, I would rather you just say that you have found it too stressful and you have lost your drive for medicine.  So between inventing a medical condition and just simply stating the fact, you should be able to develop a story that you are comfortable with.

As a side note, I think you are worrying way too much about other people.  I have found that most of the time people are fully involved with their own problems and issues and while they may talk about your dropping out for a day or two, it would soon be old news and they would move on to something more interesting.

Hope this helps.  I know this is heart wrenching - so I have one  other bit of advice. When people have a difficult situation like yours,  I always tell people to take a 5 times view of things.  Here is what I mean.  What difference will it make in 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades, or 5 centuries.  Someone might remember in 5 months, but you would probably be the only one who would remember in 5 years.  No one, not even you would think it important 50 years from now.  And 500 years from now .... well you can see it just would not matter.  So it is huge today, but with time, all things pass.

I am available as long as you wish to exchange thoughts.

John


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: John , thank you for your sincere advice
I laughed so hard when i read about making up the migraine but not so much as when i read the stomach ulcers.

But on a more serious note,I forgot to mention that, in fact, I already spoke with my parents a year ago when i finished first year, and they were quite reluctant in transferring me to any other course because it might disturb me.
Contrary to my fears, my father did not think about the money that had been invested, rather he thought about the time put in.My mother, however, was concerned that i might get behind my peers and end up getting an inferiority complex or such issue after being done with graduation.

In short i am still in medicine and so after 1 year i don't think so their point of view has changed, besides this one year only adds to the worsened situation.

Thank you for your time, i will try to analyze this situation keeping in mind all that you have said including the "sunk cost" concept
Hoping to get back to you as a happy professional , whatever I may be, God willing

Answer
Anna,

You still might consider talking to them again.  Things are not better for you.  They are worse.  So your parents might give a little more serious thought to your situation and this time they might encourage you to take a different path.

I feel certain that the med school has some type of counseling service.  Have you considered talking to a faculty adviser and seeking an additional viewpoint?

One thing to keep in mind, once the formal studies are I am sure you will need to do a residency ... or what ever the equivalent is in your country.  That is a higher level of difficulty.  You will actually be working on a wide variety of patients - some might even be life and death situations.  Plus if the doctors there are anything like the doctors here, some will be rather short tempered, difficult to please.

Again, thanks for sharing your situation with me.  I am honored to try and help in any way I can.  

One thing to keep in mind is that most decisions in life are a trade off.  The real tough ones often involve a timing difference - some are easy in the short term but tough in the long term.  Some give us real problems in the short term but are in our long term best interest.  I have always found that a good philosophy is to focus on the long term.  If you observe most people, there are two things you can predict about them - 1) they are not very happy with life, that is they have a lot of problems and 2) they are more focused on the short term - opting for instant or short term ease but in turn accepting long term pain.  I wrote and essay about this - here is a link
http://www.teachthesoul.com/2012/08/choose-the-short-pain-2/

I also wrote another essay you might find worth thinking about.  Here is a link
http://www.teachthesoul.com/2012/11/jumping-to-conclusions/

There are essays posted each week.  Some very good Lessons that can guide you to a better life.  You might enjoy reading some more of them, these two just seemed to be on target.

I would love to hear how things go with you.  

You do not need to go through Allexperts.  You can write me direct, my email address is John@teachthesoul.com

John

How to Get What You Want in Life

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John Chancellor

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How to set and achieve goals, how to find your major purpose in life and the power of focused action. Why you need an emotional attachment to give you the drive necessary to achieve goals.

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