The following post is part of a series highlighting Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and how it can apply to students in medical school. The series will stretch out over seven weeks, giving each habit the spotlight for one individual post.
Habit #1: Be Proactive
“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’”
Being proactive is essentially taking responsibility for your life. It’s about controlling what you can control. Whether you’re a first year medical student or about to graduate, you have the ability to choose the attitude you attack each day with. You are in charge, and that is a beautiful thing. Once you grasp the notion that what separates those at the top of their class from those that drop out in their first year is a proactive mindset - as opposed to a reactive one - you can then understand how to achieve the former, as opposed to the latter.
A reactive person constantly for searches areas in their life to place blame upon. They feel victimized by things entirely out of their control. If it’s raining outside, they choose not to go to class and blame the rain when they fail a test because they weren’t there to receive the material. Why? It’s simple - because that’s the easy way. It takes less effort to do nothing and complain than it does to take the initiative and overcome adversity – even if that adversity is something as faint as a little rain. What they don’t realize is that even if they do choose to sit and complain, and even if their complaints are objectively valid, it still won’t get them anywhere.
A proactive person, on the other hand, realizes that all the rain has done is present them with a choice: go to class and proceed as usual, or take the easy way out. Covey stresses that what distinguishes us as humans from all other forms of life is our inherent ability to examine ourselves and make choices based upon our examination. Despite what your weather app may be telling you, you can still choose to go to class.
What it boils down to is this: In medical school, you are going to face a lot of external sources that will tempt you to be a reactive person – long hours, plenty of bills, etc. In the end, it’s all on you – you have the ability to be a proactive person and go where others are not willing to go.