Goals are the expectations that we set for ourselves and what we use to measure our success. I have always believed that it is important to “be real” with yourself when setting goals—you know yourself better than anyone else, so it is expected that you should understand your limitations, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have an idea of what you’re capable of achieving. This doesn’t mean that you should ever sell yourself short, but be realistic and set goals that are both measurable and attainable. For example, I understand that my schedule is very busy with academic, social, and other obligations, so it would be unreasonable for me to set a goal of shadowing 100 hours during a semester—I’d either be setting myself up for failure or would sacrifice doing well in other areas of my life to accommodate this goal. While a large number of shadowing hours would look nice on a medical school application, it’d be more reasonable for me to commit to shadowing once a week for a couple of hours at a time.
Setting both short and long-term goals is also important to your success. Long-term goals serve as a sort of finish line, while short-term goals represent the hurdles you must overcome to make it there. For example, I have the personal goal of practicing emergency medicine one day. I have to do well in my undergraduate classes every semester, volunteer, and shadow just to get into medical school. Then, I have to succeed in medical school and do well on STEP and board exams to get a desirable residency program. Next, I have to survive my residency program and, finally, seek employment at a hospital with an emergency department. The long-term goal (becoming a doctor) requires that I first accomplish my short-term goals (everything in between now and then).
Remind yourself of your goals often. Revisit and revise them. Write them down. It’s nice to think that you’ll do something simply because you say you will, but if you write them down, you’ll be able to remind yourself of the commitment you made. You can use a journal, a Word document, or whatever else works for you! Personally, I use a white board. Here, I write down all of my assignments for the week—I see these as short-term goals. At the bottom, I wrote “Do all of this, to earn this: Marcus Gonzalez, M.D.” It’s VERY corny, I know, but it really helps when I don’t feel like I’m capable. I glance over at my board to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing and that my efforts will pay off in about 6-8 years.
Those who know me well will probably laugh when they read this, but DO NOT give up when the “going gets tough”. There have been several times during my three-ish years at Texas Tech that I have thought I can’t do something and that giving up or taking a different direction was the solution. Thankfully, I have some pretty amazing people in my life that have discouraged me from doing so. They know what I love and what I’m passionate about, and know that I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do. Success doesn’t come easy. College isn’t supposed to be easy—if it were, everyone would be here. We’re all here because we have dreams and are more than capable of achieving them. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of that. I cannot stress the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people enough. Find friends who are not afraid to set you straight, tell you what you don’t want to hear, and support you in all your endeavors. Don’t be afraid to vent and ask for advice (Heather and Christy are great for this!). Understand that you’re not alone and don’t your let pride get in the way. We’re Tech Terry Scholars—we’re family and we’re in this together!