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Tuesday
Jun152010

Motivation and Focus

I've received a decent number of requests about writing a post with study tips that I have found helpful. I’ve thought long and hard about what to write as the subject is so large, and there are various tips that help with different subjects. I’ve decided that instead of writing this post about studying tips, I’ll begin by writing a post about two things that you need to succeed in any subject. I’m sitting here in my regular coffee shop, trying to study for the MCAT, realizing that these are two things that most people forget about when complaining about how they aren’t doing well in a subject.

What are these two crucial elements you ask? They are motivation and focus, without both you are like a boat lost in the ocean without any power. You are fighting an uphill battle, if you are trying to master a subject without plenty of both. The best analogy I’ve ever heard about this is any subject is like an ocean, there are many ways you can cross it and many places you can end up at; focus gives you a target and a place to land, motivation is what keeps you going forward instead of going out a couple hundred feet and giving up.

Focus

Focus is a very important part of studying; it is very easy to get distracted or to focus on something you find easy or interesting. A perfect example would be when I study for the MCAT, it is very easy to spend most of my time focusing on physics, why I enjoy physics, and I find it pretty easy for the most part, but I know that my major weaknesses are in organic chemistry and general chemistry. I can feel good about myself and keep studying physics, or I can focus on subjects that I find a lot harder and struggle a little bit. In the long run it will help me a lot more to focus on harder subjects. Don’t fall into this trap and focus on subjects that make you feel good.

Another method that you can utilize to increase your focus and concentration is to focus on one thing at a time. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend amongst premeds who talk nonstop about what kind of doctor they are going to be and have every minute of the rest of their lives planned out. Take one step at a time, calm down, I didn’t start this site expecting it to grow to its current size, I have no clue what kind of doctor I’m going to be, and I certainly wasn’t planning on becoming a doctor until fairly recently. Forget about being a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, and focus on passing your classes, doing well, nailing your MCAT and getting into medical school. Which brings me to my next point, analyze and organize your priorities, no matter how many times I say this people don’t listen. Your main priority as a premed is getting in to medical school, not becoming X type of doctor. Focus on that goal, and for the sake of all that is good, stop procrastinating.

Motivation

The other key element to succeeding is motivation, many of us are motivated extrinsically, and in my experience most of the highly successful students that I have encountered are extremely intrinsically motivated. While you may be doing this for someone else or to impress someone else, you will have better success and enjoyment if you can internalize this motivation and do it for yourself. I absolutely hate organic chemistry, I just spent 2 semesters struggling and fighting my way through it, and now I’m studying it again for the MCAT, I keep going because I want to master the darn subject, many of my friends say that I’m pretty cocky, and they are right, nothing stops me, and I’m sure as hell not going to let a couple carbon molecules stop me.

Another thing that is crucial in increasing motivation is minimizing self defeating behaviors, stop procrastinating, all three of us here (Brian, Jon, and I) are masters at procrastinating, and we will be the first people to tell you that it takes an unbelievable toll on your body. It is by no means easy, you feel like crap after an all-nighter studying for an exam or writing a paper. Constant procrastination breaks you down really fast. Stop putting yourself down after a mistake, pick yourself up and vow never to make that mistake again. Too many premeds I know spend too much time dwelling on mistakes, what’s done is done, now try to do better next time and fix it. One B isn’t going to keep you from getting into medical school.

I’m planning on writing more detailed posts on both focus and motivation, but I would love your feedback on this post. Make sure to leave a comment, and keep a look out for more posts on the subject.

How do you focus? How do you remain motivated? Post in the comments and help other premed students.

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Reader Comments (4)

Great post Mohammad. I can't think of any other ones that could possibly be more important than motivation and focus. Live in the now but plan for the future. Work on the classes that you're currently in and work on the future courses in the future. Procrastination? I like Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy, what can I say.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

If you have the motivation, you're more than halfway there. The rest is execution, technique, and showing up. As John Madden said, "If a quarterback needed help with his throwing, his playcalling, or his footwork, I could help him with all those things. But if he didn't want to play the game... there's not much I could do about that." A lot of the problems students encounter in pre-med isn't so much a matter of intelligence, it's a matter of motivation and commitment. I'd advise students that they go into premed for themselves, because it's something *they* want to do, not their parents, friends, society, or anybody else. If you really own it, you care about it a lot more. If you secretly wish you were doing something else, it isn't going to work.

Good luck with the MCAT studying Mohammad - drop me a line if you need anything organic chemistry related :)

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Phew, man, I couldn't agree more. I'm trying to study for the MCAT right now, and it's really hard to focus. That is due in part to my summer classes and research I'm doing, but I'm sure I could fit it in if I was more motivated. Focus is also important because there are times where I study for 4 hours and I don't remember or understand anything, but then after a 10-20 min break eating food or youtubing, the next hour I learn more than I did in the other 4! It's pretty werid, but what I'm trying to do is only studying 55 minutes at a time. I took that time from high school class periods. I think that's a good time for intense concentration so I can focus.

Of course, there is always the, Oh, I can't even focus in 55 min and I'll get distracted if I keep taking breaks, however, for me it's different. I think of it as something to look forward to. Instead of going to the library and being like, "yes! only 6 more hours until it closes!" I just go like, "yes, only 6 more minutes of studying before a 5min. break, WOOT!"

So that's just some advice from me. I hope it helps. Mohammad's post was very informative though, haha. I'm jealous!(*glares)

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThymur A. Chaudhry

Focus is SO important! Listening to classical music, especially Bach/Mozart/Handel/Brahms, can really boost concentration.

:)

July 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

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