What Does It Mean To Be Successful Outside of Academics?

When I was young and naïve at the beginning of my medical training, I defined success and accomplishment quantitatively – class rank, GPA, exam results. Getting an A meant I was successful and getting any other grade else meant I was not. As students, we are constantly overwhelmed with people telling us how to attain “success.”

Following someone else’s expectations can be destructive and counterproductive to your personal goals. One year later, how I came to define succes achievement is entirely personal. Defining what success means to me is important to be able to groom myself as a young doctor. Measurements defined by others are no longer significant to me. And I am not concerned about my grades as long as I am passing.

But, even when I fail, I never feel bad about it anymore. Instead, I congratulate myself on trying my best and try to learn from my mistake. I no longer abide by other’s ideas of success imposed on me. And I most definitely don’t compare myself with other classmates.

By defining my own standards that I want to live up to, I have actually created higher standards for myself as a person. My life does not revolve around school; it is simply one aspect of my life over all. Previously, success meant doing good in school to the exclusion of all else because that was an expectation imposed upon me. I looked inward to figure out what matters to me and realized the important things in my life did not even include school. A lot of my core values included self-care and maintaining relationships with loved ones.

It’s refreshing to realize that I am more than just a student. By ignoring the common external definition of success, you are shaping your own character and standards according to who you aspire to become.

How do I become successful outside of academics? How do I define success on my own terms?

– Making time to read a book for pleasure

– Look forward to one thing everyday, like watching an episode of a TV show

– Talk to my boyfriend everyday

– Reflecting on my experiences and journey by writing

– Staying in touch with friends and family (including sending cards occasionally)

– Taking leisure weekend trips during the school year

– Going to the gym (or some kind of work out) 3x per week

– Trying new recipes and expanding my culinary expertise

– Sleeping at least 8 hours every night

– Meditating at least 3x per week

– Always having food in the fridge and doing meal preps for the week on Sunday

These seem like very simple things that normal people do regularly. But, as a student, I have to make a deliberate effort to make this part of my routine. By wanting a life that is truly your own, you are living your best life from a place of truth and self-awareness.

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Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.