Authenticity: What works for them may not for you
Updated: Mar 13
By Chris Sutton
One of the most important lessons I have learned since pursuing a career in medicine was this: do not compare yourself, your life, your accomplishments, or your abilities with that of others. We know how vastly different we all are as complex and evolving human beings, so how can we look at someone else’s way of life and assume it can be anything like our own?
For example, when I studied for exams, I noticed that I moved a little slower through the material than my peers. Naturally, I would criticize myself and desire to move quicker through lectures. Because of this, I thought that I must be a slower and less capable student compared to my peers. I had convinced myself that I was not cut out for anything more than average. But as time went on, and as I became more passionate about learning and my future, I began to see that maybe what makes me different from everyone else isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s just who I am and that’s just how I learn—more meticulously.
You aren't them
The truth is that there will always be someone who is "smarter" than you. But guess what? You aren’t them. And if you were them, you would find something and/or someone else to put above yourself. It’s all relative, as are most things in life. Humans adapt, they get comfortable and often tend to want more. The sooner you focus on your progress, and only yours, the better. Anyone is capable of anything, it just depends how badly you want it, and how hard you are willing to work for it.
I used to look at the “smart” kids in school and write off the idea that I could ever do what they do. And maybe they were a little smarter than me. I mean let’s be real, they definitely were. But that really isn’t what matters in life. I learned that I have to spend more time on my studies than my peers. And you know what? That doesn’t even matter. Your life is your own, and the journey you take to your goals is your own. If you didn’t have to do it in your own unique way, it wouldn’t be yours. And that’s one of the many beauties of human life: We are each our own unique creatures. There is an infinite number of factors that have come together to put you in your life and give you the characteristics that make you who you are. It’s your journey. It becomes easier when you isolate your struggles and understand that they are your battles and nobody else’s.
I learned throughout college, and especially during my MCAT studying, that what works for others likely will not work for me. I often created my own study skills and techniques. These skills needed refined, but they eventually worked for me. I used to get up at 4:30AM to begin studying for the MCAT, before classes began, and go to bed at 9pm. Besides a select few who did this with me, everyone else thought we were nuts. Maybe we were nuts.
It took some adjustment, but once we were in the rhythm, it was like clockwork. The bottom line was that I, personally, needed that extra time to study, and the morning hours were my most productive hours with minimal distractions. I am easily distracted, and these were hours in the day that nobody else was awake and I could just focus on my work. This worked for me. It was a hurdle that I had to find my own way to overcome.
I do not mean isolate yourself completely. You need interpersonal relationships in life. But don’t spend so much time comparing yourself to the others. Keep others close to you and learn from them, but understand that you may need to modify what you learn to make it fit your individual life.
Roads less traveled
Just because most of the world operates on a standard template, does not mean that you have to do the same thing. I strongly believe that everyone is capable of their own greatness. And this can be achieved when you stop following the preferred guidelines and start finding what works for you. Try doing things differently—experiment.
Change the roads you take when you drive or walk to work. Change the order of the floors you attend when doing hospital rounds. Break some old habits. Add some spice in your life and watch what kind of revolutionary and contemporary ideas you can come up with. We get so fixated on doing things one way, like the rest, we rob ourselves of our own creativity. Think abstractly and push yourself to do things in your life differently. Break out of that comfort zone and let your mind grow.
As humans, we are creatures of habit, and whether or not we’d like to admit it, most of us are afraid of change. Some people can make it by on the regular ways of doing things. Others like myself, and many others, need that extra push. If I had not broken out of my bubble and took on the risk of change, I would have never discovered my own potential. So, break your habits and step out of your comfort zone! Get a different flavor coffee in the morning, wear that shirt in the back of your closet, brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. You might learn something new about yourself.