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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Realign dreams with reality - Ask your counsellor Q&A column

[This column answered by me appeared in the Deccan Herald Education supplement on November 24, 2016]

Dear Madam,
I am studying MBBS. Though I try to study hard, I am not able to focus as I start thinking of the future. I start doubting my ability to understand the subjects and some of the questions that come to my mind are — Will I be able to understand everything? Will I be able to remember everything? Will I be good at clinicals? Will I be a good physician? All these questions eat me up! In short, I lack self-confidence. Please guide me to overcome this situation.
Sadikha Sultana

Dear Sadikha,
I have written extensively in this column on the need to believe in yourself and your capabilities. All my previous columns are archived at I particularly recommend that you read You are often limited by your own self-image. If you believe you can do something, you muster the strength, determination, motivation and courage to make it a reality. If you don’t believe you can do it, then you are overcome by self-doubt and are unable to gain the motivation to work towards it. Your beliefs about yourself become like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having said that, I notice that you wonder whether you will be able to understand and remember everything. It is important to help our brain understand that if you don’t remember ‘everything’, it doesn’t mean you don’t remember anything. Remember that nobody can remember and understand ‘everything’. 

You often need to just be able to access information, not necessarily retain it in your head. To be a good physician does not necessarily depend on how much you remember. It depends also on your ability to listen and relate to people, your ethics and empathy, and your ability to access the necessary medical information when you need to. And as you gain experience and confidence, you will start retaining most of the information you need. There is a reason why more experienced doctors are considered better doctors. Because they learn and become better on the job. 

You cannot control the future and what will happen. But your worry and anxiety about the future has the capacity to immobilise you in the present. So don’t try to control the future. Just live in the present and make the most of it. And don’t forget to believe in yourself. Good luck!

Dear Madam,
I have completed my MSc in Physics with second class. I always wanted to do higher studies and research in Physics as the subject interested me since my school days. However, I didn’t get good marks in MSc as expected. Now, I am worried about my next step, because, if I want to get into research, all educational institutions ask for good marks with valid NET or GATE qualification. But I don’t have both of them. Also, I’m afraid about NET because I am an average student. Now, my family members are forcing me to find a job. They are also suggesting that I take BEd course and become a teacher. So, I am in a dilemma, but I don’t want to kill the scientist inside me!! Please suggest a good path. I believe every problem has a solution.
A confused student

Dear Student,
Sometimes, we need to realign our dreams with our reality. Which does not necessarily mean you give up on your dream but merely find ways to let the different paths converge. If your family situation demands that you become a financially contributing member of the family now, then that is something you may need to pay attention to and look at ways of pursuing your interest in Physics in a way that may permit you to get a job. Being a teacher may give you a great alternative route to pursuing your interest in Physics and Science. It is a reality that the best way to learn something is by teaching it. Your passion for the subject may allow you to teach it in a way that is more enriching to students than most teachers, Passion for the subject is probably the biggest asset a teacher can bring to her class. So, while it is great to have dreams, sometimes, reality takes over, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Trust in yourself, and trust in the path that you take. There are no perfect paths, and there is no one right answer. Merely several choices, and many possibly equally good answers. Good luck!

Dear Madam,
I am a teenager with many interests. I grasp subjects easily, but don’t have the patience to study anything in depth. As a result, I am not able to achieve the maximum in both curricular and extracurricular activities. My teachers and family say that I have talent, but I lack dedication and hard work. My problem is that I get bored easily and cannot sit in a place for long unless I am playing a videogame. Please suggest some ways to improve my attitude. 

Dear Nesar,
You may want to check with a psychiatrist and get tested to see if you have concerns around your attention span. If you do, then taking the help of a psychiatrist can help you stay focussed on what you want to do. Having said that, it is important to remember that everyone is different, and maybe you are just the kind of person who likes a width of knowledge and experience, instead of a depth of knowledge. There is a place in society for both kinds of people, none is better than the other…they are just different! To help you change your attitude and understand yourself better, you may find it beneficial to take the help of a counsellor who may help you identify and modify some underlying irrational beliefs that you may be operating from. I am not sure which city you are in and if you have access to a counsellor. You could call the free Parivarthan Counselling Helpline at 080 65333323.

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