Learning to Embrace a Challenge Mindset Along Your Journey

Parker Opening.jpg

Today’s post is a bit different than those I’ve done in the past, but I think it may be the most insightful. As a premed, medical student, busy entrepreneur, athlete, or any other individual in a high-stress environment, you are guaranteed to encounter situations along your journey that challenge your motivation, commitment, and will to succeed. If I reflect on my journey as a student-athlete, premed, and now medical student, I realize that I didn’t always handle these situations perfectly. I often let small failures or setbacks ruin days, weeks, or even months of my journey. For example, I once left an Orgo I final so nervous that I didn’t get a high enough score that I returned home, locked myself in my room and avoided my family for hours, only to find that I scored even higher than expected. On a night where I should have been relaxing and celebrating the accomplishment of successfully completing a very difficult course, I let my own narcissistic thoughts blind me from seeing the big picture. Why am I sharing this?


The point I’m trying to make with this post is that often times as someone with a Type A personality, I (and many of you) forget to realize that the path to success is a series of small, incremental steps. Some of those steps will be upwards toward the ultimate goal, while others may be downwards and lead to subtle set backs. While we don’t always have control over the outcomes of every single situation, we do have the power to choose how we approach, interpret, react, and grow from such situations. In my experience, this is where learning to embrace a “challenge mindset” serves as a useful tool in maximizing your steps forwards and minimizing the time spent stagnant or worse, moving in reverse.


Let’s use my above example (the ORGO I test) to show the potential power of embracing a challenge mindset. As I mentioned, in that scenario, I approached the test with nerves, anxiety and fear of failure. I doubted my knowledge of the content, answers, and ability to achieve the score I desired. As a result, I left the test feeling defeated, disappointed, and incapable. Is that any way to live your life? I think not. As an alternative, if I prepared, viewed, and took that exam with the mindset that it was simply another challenge along my journey, regardless of the outcome, I would have left with a much more positive outlook.

Over the past year, I have slowly started to adopt this mindset both in approaching the challenges associated with medical school admission and daily obstacles as well. For example, rather than feel defeated by rejection letters, blown interviews, or a variety of other small moments of defeat, I have begun to take a step back, view the situation in light of the big picture (attending medical school) and learn from it. Further, I constantly challenge myself to learn from my mistakes rather than harp on them. To me, becoming a great doctor, husband, athlete, or anything else is much more about maintaining consistent growth and I feel adopting a challenge mindset proves very helpful in doing so.

Final thought- I realize that it’s very easy to doubt yourself, especially in a world such as medicine that is flooded with extremely bright individuals. However, since adopting this challenge mindset, I have found that I think more clearly, maintain positivity more consistently, and maintain an excitement for the future. What I hope you take from this is the message that the one thing under our control is our actions and how we respond to adversity. If you can learn to approach situations as a challenge, you will not only succeed more along your journey, but you will live a life less filled with stress, fear, and doubt.