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Could Short-term Memory be More Important than Long-term Memory for Premed and Med Student Success?

The beauty of success is that only one person can define it for you: you. If your idea of success is being the best damn Mom in the world, then pursue that wholeheartedly. If you desire to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry, then by all means, do it! Whatever it is you want in this life, be it x, y or z, aim for perfection. Of course, no one is perfect (with the exception of my cats), so we will all inevitably fail. Because of this inevitability, most people are afraid to shoot for perfection. Naturally, they set the bar a bit lower, still high, but not quite at the level of perfection. Maybe they achieve their goal, maybe they don’t. Regardless of the outcome though, they have created a ceiling for themselves. They have put a limit on their potential. Because of this, I counter that we should all aim for perfection, with one caveat: utilize short-term memory.

What do I mean by this?

Like I said, you should aim for perfection, but when you inevitably fail, quickly learn from your mistakes, forget your failure, and move on. This way you have not artificially limited yourself. You aimed for the impossible, failed, but more than likely achieved much more than if you would have if you relegated yourself to lower standards. In the premed world, there are no shortage of things to apply this to. Let’s start with the obvious. I believe that every Freshmen ought to have the long-term goal of achieving a 4.0 GPA. If this slips to a 3.7 at some point, then evaluate what led to that result and LOOK FORWARD! Your new aspiration is to maintain that 3.7. This will only roll into subsequent endeavors. Take the MCAT. No one (to my knowledge) has ever aced the thing, but if you say to yourself, “I want to score in the 75th percentile,” you have in essence created that ceiling. Who are you to say you can’t score in the 100th percentile. You have mentally handicapped yourself. If you shoot much higher, don’t quite reach that, but land in the 85th percentile for instance, you have far surpassed your original expectations.

Additionally, short-term memory creates resiliency…

No longer will you dwell on the past, which cannot be changed. You will make an assessment and move forward with your new, deep seeded knowledge. This is crucial as you combat the obstacles ahead, ranging from the MCAT, to Step exams, to everyday practice as a physician. Honing these skills early in your career sets you up for success, but in my opinion, also happiness. Personally, there is nothing more satisfying than giving your full effort. If the outcome goes your way, whatever it be, kudos to you. If it doesn’t, although it may be emotionally taxing, you know that you held nothing back and truly could not have done anything else. Part of this happiness comes from not dwelling on the past too. Aiming for “perfection” can take a toll mentally and physically, which is why the short term memory is so vital.

Ultimately, it is up to you to unlock your true potential. When someone tells you that you can’t be perfect, do your best to prove them wrong. I’m fairly certain you will be satisfied with the result.