A piece I wrote for the year book of the 2012/2013 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Graduating class of the University of Nigeria.
Congratulations! That is one word you will hear in excess today and in the next couple of days or even months. It is an acknowledgement of the feat you have achieved, for successfully passing through and graduating from Vet School. You deserve it, and all the high fives and shoulder slaps that come with it. It is no mean feat. I know, because I have been there and on this day of your Oath Taking, I join your teachers, friends and family in saying “Congratulations.”
When the cameras have stopped clicking away, when the last bottle of beer has been drained, when the party to celebrate you and your achievement today has long ended and all is quiet again, I implore you to carry out this brief exercise which in many ways will determine how the rest of your life pans out.
Take a second to grab hold of your future and begin to realize it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself ten years down the road. Imagine every aspect of your own life. Your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends. Don’t simply imagine the future towards which you are heading, but rather the future which you consider ideal. Forget the expectations which your parents, friends, teachers and relatives have for you, as well as the one’s you have for yourself. Ignore, for just a second, all those expectations and concentrate on what you want. Now visualize the road that will take you there. That is your path.
A couple of years ago a mentor of mine shared with me seven questions the answers to which will help you in the exercise above. I strongly suggest that you take a pad of paper and write out your responses remembering that anything that isn’t written “hasn’t been said!” or as in this case thought or desired….”
Question Number One:
What are your five most important values in life?
This question is intended to help you clarify what is really important to you, and by extension, what is less important, or unimportant. Once you have identified the five most important values in life for you, organize them in order of priority, from number one, the most important, through number five. Not three or seven but five!
Question Number Two:
What are your three most important goals in life, right now?
This is called the “quick list” method. When you only have thirty seconds to write down your three most important goals, your subconscious mind sorts out your many goals quickly automatically prioritising them based on your previous thoughts and actions. Your top three will just pop into your conscious mind. Even with only thirty seconds, you will be as accurate as if you had thirty minutes.
Question Number Three:
What would you do and how would you spend your time, if you learned today that you only had six months left to live?
This is another value question to help you clarify what is really important to you. When your time is limited, even if only in your imagination, you become aware of who and what you really care about in life.
Question Number Four:
What would you do if you won ten million dollars cash, tax free, in a lottery tomorrow?
How would you change your life? What would you buy? What would you start doing, or stop doing? This is really a question to help you decide what you’d do if you had all the time and money you need, and if you had virtually no fear of failure at all.
Question Number Five:
What have you always wanted to do, but been afraid to try doing?
Answering this question honestly will help you see more clearly where your fears could be blocking you from doing what you really want to do.
Question Number Six:
What do you most enjoy doing? What gives you your greatest feeling of self-esteem and personal satisfaction?
This is another values question that will help indicate where you should explore to find your “heart’s desire.” You will always be most happy doing what you most love to do, and what you most love to do is invariably the activity that makes you feel the most alive and fulfilled. The most successful men and women in the world are invariably doing what they really enjoy, most of the time.
Question Number Seven:
What one great thing would you dare to dream of doing if you knew you could not fail?
Imagine that a genie appears and grants you just one wish. The genie guarantees that you will be absolutely, completely successful in any one thing that you attempt to do, big or small, short or long-term. If you were absolutely guaranteed success in just one thing, what would be that one exciting goal that you’d set for yourself?
Study the pad of paper that you used to answer these questions. This paper represents your future goals. Look at what you wrote every day and shape your life the way you see it on that paper. You’ll be amazed at how far you get towards them in very little time.
Let me add here that you are of a special mettle having trained as Vets but that fact alone does not secure for you that life you’ve always dreamed of. Indeed the practice of our profession in this clime as you must have been reminded over and again by your tutors presents some additional unique challenges. There is the pressure from society on you to perform on the one hand and also the impediments presented by the same society which doesn’t seem to have come to the realisation that it needs your expertise. Through all these, you must show yourself worthy by digging deep and making informed decisions along the lines of both your education and the path outlined in notepad exercise above.
Good luck, fellow doctors, as you cross the line between the safety of Vet School and the brutal reality that is life. Make your life a conscious decision. Don’t confuse fun with happiness. And remember that in the real world, it is your hard work, resilience, and creativity more than what your certificate reads that makes you fulfilled.
Dr Sylva Nze Ifedigbo DVM Nigeria (2007)
@nzesylva on twitter.