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The Cycle that Broke Me

October 3, 2021

If you fail you study harder…Right?

I was in my second year of medical school and I had received yet another failing grade on an exam. The worst part was that I missed the pass mark by one question.

I felt so dumb at the time but I still believed in myself. I just need to buckle down, go out less, spend less time on youtube, and study harder. I needed to devote all of my time on studying in order to pass.

One problem. I didn’t go out at all, I didn’t really watch all that much TV, and I had already sacrificed my Sundays to do more studying. I was maxed out. Maybe if I just read faster, or did more questions, I’d then be successful. That’s what I sought out to do.

I barely passed the next exam. Success!!! Or was it? I couldn’t be sure. What should I do next? Well, study harder! Read faster, do questions for longer, post diagrams all over my room and study while brushing my teeth. It worked this last time, I’ll surely do better.

I failed my next exam. And then the next. And then I had to go to the administration to discuss taking a leave of absence.

Something was wrong.

Unbeknownst to me, I was actually perpetuating a bad cycle. I would get a poor grade and then neglect my mental health for the purposes of doing better. This would cause me to do worse which made me feel dumb. This decreased my motivation which made me study in a more superficial manner. This then caused me to get lower grades. The cycle kept going on until it couldn’t.

When I reflect on this time of my life, I began to recognize bad cycles I adopted. It was all related to the American Dream to succeed at all costs. I began appreciating that true success comes from creating good cycles.

Bad-cycles are ones where your response to a bad event causes the bad event to occur again. Good-cycles are ones where your response to a bad event causes the bad event to lessen or go away.

It makes sense that the more good-cycles one incorporates into their life, the better one’s life will be. The converse is true as well.

Cycles are a complex issue which is why I felt I needed multiple parts. But for next week, let’s get to the core of what I want to share – How to break bad-cycles.

Dr. Eric

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