Are You a Victim of Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage consists of the negative behaviors and habits that people engage in when they feel an unconscious ambivalence about achieving their goals. "It's very easy to become attached to our dreams, because dreams are perfect," states Andrea Woolf, a personal success coach who has run workshops for PreMed Success clients. "As the prospect of actually living the dream-and the possibility of disillusionment-comes closer, it's very common for pre-meds to retreat into procrastination."

After 10 years of experience with hundreds of students applying to graduate and professional schools, we at INQUARTA know quite a bit about how applicants undermine their own best intentions-and their chances at being accepted to medical school. Some of the topics below may seem like common sense, and some may seem far-fetched, but each topic is based on a real experience we've had!

Self sabotage - A note on time awareness

Many of our clients live in a three-to-five day bubble of awareness. A lot of life is built around last-minute preparation, i.e. a quick deadline, a sick child. Unless you extend your time awareness, you will struggle with your application process. Make sure you know when you are applying and how much time you will need to prepare everything. You need to be thinking six months ahead.

Using your commitment to avoid self sabotage

Your commitment to your medical school education starts with your commitment to the application process as well as to your support team-the formal mentors and informal advisors who have promised to guide you with your application. Often, when a student enrolls with INQUARTA, a wave of relief ("Somebody's finally going to help me!") results in a feeling that they now have permission to procrastinate. You may have the very best intentions, but balancing school, a job and family obligations can make it easy to put off the work you need to do on your application. Avoid this problem by sticking firmly to all deadlines.

When Problems Arise

As you get closer to your MCAT or application submission date, you will experience heightened anxiety. Words like "I'm never going to get in. I'm a terrible candidate" will ring in your head.

It's important to understand that applying to medical school feels emotionally risky. When you suddenly realize that you are finally going to be physically sending a real application to med schools, you will unconsciously sabotage your application. You may skip a meeting with people who have promised to help you, "forget" a deadline or simply wait until the last minute to complete an application assignment. Stay vigilant; even though you may feel like you won't be accepted, keep working on your materials. You will feel much better after you have applied!

Examples of self sabotage: fake delays

As your personal deadline for submitting your application arrives, it's common to re-read your application, changing a few words and trying to get the "perfect" personal statement. "I'll just work on this one more day" turns into two months of worry and uncertainty. For grad schools that use a rolling admissions process-like medical school, law school and business school-the obsessive desire to tweak your application actually reduces your chances of getting accepted.

"Let's face it, the physical act of sending an application to grad school is scary," says Don Osborne, president of INQUARTA. "Let that be okay. Anticipate that the fears will come up, and do not let them interfere with your goal. Stay on task, stay proactive with your counselor and editor, meet your deadlines."

Examples of self sabotage: catastrophe

You don't like your test score, you get in a fender bender, your daughter asks you to help with her school project, etc. These life events can create enough chaos that you put off working on your application indefinitely ("It's just too much! I can't deal with my application right now!") There's no question that setbacks and responsibilities to loved ones sometimes necessitate that you postpone your medical school dreams for a year or more-but often, it's just external drama. In your heart, you know the difference between the two.

Examples of sabotage: passivity

To "go passive" means to skip meetings with advisors, default on self-imposed writing assignment, decide to "take a break" or any other act of avoidance that delays your application. Watch for the signs of these mental gremlins.

The only problem that your support team cannot solve is the one they don't know about. If you find yourself frustrated by the quality of the support you're getting, it's frequently because of your unconscious expectations that are not being fulfilled. Don't expect your support team to read your mind. Talk openly with your editor and counselor about your expectations. Concerns of this nature can usually be solved with one phone call. Be comfortable with your requests - you can start by saying "I wish..."

"When you commit to fully listening to yourself, you rediscover your dedication to living your passion for medicine," adds Woolf. "Once you do that, you discover the energy to discard your resignation, procrastination, and limiting beliefs, and to replace one day' or some day' with now!'"

Self-sabotage is much more common than you might expect. Don't make these same mistakes. Stay proactive and you'll do fantastic!

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