Self Discipline: Without It, Excelling in Medical School is Impossible
Students frequently ask me which skills are the most critical for success in medical school. And I tell them that there are too many skills to list—but that there are several which are far more important than the rest. And arguably the single most important skill for a medical student to possess is self discipline. Without it, it will be virtually impossible to get into med school, let alone excel.
Why is self discipline so important for medical school students? Simple: there is not enough time in the day for you to do everything you WANT to do as well as everything you HAVE to do. That means you will have to make choices—should I play my XBOX, or should I study? Should I complete this next application, or should I go out for dinner with my boyfriend or girlfriend? Do you see the problem? Unless you have the ability to force yourself to make the necessary choices, you’ll fall hopelessly behind and will eventually drop out.
But the importance of self discipline goes beyond simply making the right choices on a daily basis. The discipline to create and follow a schedule is another essential tool for any successful med student. Proper scheduling requires looking into the future and identifying important due dates and deadlines as well as any other important milestones. You must then have the ability to create a plan for meeting these requirements. Once you have created a schedule, only then does the discipline of making the correct choices on a daily basis come into play.
If you have the ability to create and follow a schedule, you are off to a good start. But there’s more. You must have the ability to prioritize important tasks—because there will be times when you simply can’t get everything done. You must have the discipline to keep your mind focused while listening to a lecture at 8 AM. And you must have the self discipline to keep distractions from eating up your precious time.
In short, without self discipline, medical school becomes impossible. You’re an adult—if you can’t keep yourself on task, nobody else is going to. The good news for those of you that may be lacking in this area is that self discipline can be developed. It’s not too late to begin adopting the habits and systems that will help you become a disciplined and effective person.
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“I learned some nice and knowledgeable things about Medical School. Thanks for those nice words of wisdom.” A. C.