Every year, thousands of new applicants sit down in a crowded, cramped classroom, nervous and scared. They are there to take a full day’s test. But it’s not just any test. A test that will determine the outcome of the past 8-20 years of their life. Years of dedication, excruciating pain, commitment, and borderline obsession. This little test is the final barricade to determine if an American medical student is allowed to legally practice medicine in the US.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination is a test that any future M.D. is required to pass. Although they have already gone through medical school, this final test was designed to weed out any of the weak links – only those that truly know medicine will survive.
I sat down with my friend Jimmy to understand more what the USMLE testing process was like. “It’s as if everything is resting on the last 20+ years of your life. Ever since I was a child I dreamed of becoming a doctor. Was my entire life’s work worth the struggle? The financial burden I put on my parents? The relationships I ignored, the parties I didn’t go to, the fun I didn’t have as a kid so I could study? Was it all a waste of time? Did any of it mean anything? Sure, you could take the test again if you didn’t pass, but it would mean, once again, delaying the life you know you were meant to live. The income you desperately needed. The anxiety and tension was excruciating. But that is how it is with the entire medical profession, it really is that only the strong will survive. It takes serious GRIT.”
For a hundreds of students, they wouldn’t pass the test. They would have to shelf the dream they had spent their entire lives working for. So much for a happy ending.
As we were talking, I grew more curious about this idea of GRIT. It is “a passion and perseverance to accomplish long term goals whatever the obstacles are and no matter how long it may take.” Facing insurmountable tests of intellect and medical understanding, a doctor has to be aggressive yet compassionate in order to survive the years of work. Tenacity is a core element of GRIT. Without it, a doctor won’t last too long in the profession. The school requirements alone would break them. While nothing comes easy in life; staying the course and holding to your convictions can be incredibly hard. GRIT is more than tenacity; as Jimmy realized, it’s about staying the course with enthusiasm.
GRIT is about being willing to make sacrifices to pursue what is most important. It isn’t strength or smarts or leadership potential that predicts whether or not a medical student would pass the test and be able to practice. It is GRIT. It is the perseverance and passion to achieve your goals that makes the difference.
Here’s the deal – GRIT impacts every area of our lives. From our work to our health to our relationships—it is our amount of GRIT, our perseverance that will help us achieve our level of success. In other words, intelligence and talent is overrated.
People with GRIT don’t let negative events or circumstances prevent them from continuing the striving towards their vision. They make a habit of building up themselves and the people around them—not just once, but over and over and over again. They are consistent and work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated.
The good news is that GRIT can become our defining trait! No matter what card we were dealt, we can learn to become more consistent and develop superhuman levels of mental toughness.
GRIT is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop. If we haven’t pushed ourselves in small ways, we will shut down when things get really difficult. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Developing GRIT is about the daily habits that makes it easy to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.
So how do we develop GRIT in real life?
We have to prove to ourselves that we have GRIT – in a series of tiny wins – to show us that we have enough GRIT to get into the ring and do battle with life.
GRIT comes down to our habits. It’s about doing the things we know we are supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about our dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.
We can do it. We can all develop GRIT. Today. So tell me, in the comments below, how have you demonstrated true GRIT in your life and what did you do?