How do you keep yourself motivated?

We premeds have quite a few years left to go, so I thought a thread of ideas and things could help.

Keeping myself in the ED as a volunteer helps. But, I also bought a bookmark with a quote by Winston Churchill "“Never, never, never, never give up.”

My motivation might be best illustrated by a simple metaphor: a game of tug-o-war. On one side of the rope there is a sick population of people that want help and the big ugly guy at the end of their rope represents all of the social ills that help people to get and remain sick. On the other side of the rope are health care professionals & paraprofessionals & administrators & lots of others with a vested interest in treating illness & preventing sickness and premature expiration. The big ugly guy at the end of their rope represents medical professionals of all specialties who have become uniquely qualified to lead in the struggle.

Their “big ugly” has entropy on his side. He isn’t very organized, but he is really big & he doesn’t even take an occasional nap. Our “big ugly” requires the efforts of numerous highly educated, trained, and motivated individuals with the will to sacrifice much in exchange for the responsibility of leading a fight with an outcome that is far from certain.

When I start to feel beat down, this metaphor often pops into my head to remind me to just keep tugging regardless of my tenuous grip, or my position on the rope. One day I may be promoted to the back of the rope where I will begin pulling in earnest, picking up the slack where others falter, and leading by being a servant to rest of the team.

I really understand now why it is that so many doctors say, “You really have to love this job, otherwise it just wouldn’t be worth it.” Even as an EMT I sometimes feel like I have made less than the slightest difference in anybody’s life on a given day. I can only imagine what it must feel like to encounter the same perception after years of study & residency. It occurs to me that, ultimately, it must be a heartfelt regard for humanity that rolls you out of the sack at 00:dark:30 day after day. I can’t imagine any material thing that could adequately compensate someone for those kinds of hours & responsibilities.


Volunteering at the MS clinic has been a big motivator for me; it puts me in a medical environment once a week or so, and the patients are some of my biggest cheerleaders; they keep reassuring me that I’ll be a great physician. I don’t know whether I will, but it’s nice to hear it once in a while.

Talking with other students about their plans keeps me pepped up; each person has their own fascinating story to tell.

Massage therapy classes have also been a big motivating thing, surprisingly; it’s like a miniature medical school, including gross anatomy, physiology, patient contact, etc. It’s like a little taste of medical school to whet the appetite.