Written by Joanna Hughes

Medical school students require many skills and talents to succeed in an intense and competitive field. Now comes news that one characteristic in particular may be the key to achievement: positive thinking. Here’s a closer look at why experts say it matters so much for med students, as reported by the American Medical Association.

The Vision Imperative

According to organizational behavior, psychology, and cognitive science professor at Case Western Reserve University, Richard E. Boyatzis, an expert in "coaching" in medical education, medical school students stand to benefit from taking a “longer, holistic view” driven by their life ambitions as opposed to one that’s primarily motivated by more immediate goals.

"What we’ve discovered is that sustained change and learning starts with an epiphany about what you want out of life. What I’ll call a vision. A better word might be your dream -- not goals," said Boyatzis.

In encouraging students to adopt this perspective, coaches are also supporting the development of more compassionate relationships.

Leading By Example

However, the role of the coach transcends mere encouragement, insists Boyatzis. Rather, coaches should lead by example.

"When you're the position of authority, guess what? You are more infectious. Your feelings are permeating a lot of the people around you. If you're feeling anxious, they're feeling anxious. If you're feeling joyful, they're feeling joy. On top of whatever else they're doing, people are realizing that if you're not on top of what you're really feeling, how can you be in control of how you're affecting other people around?" Boyatzis continued.

Not only that, but leaders who exhibit positive emotional traits, can actually spur better outcomes for the people under them. Boyatzis further highlights the important role that positive feedback -- as opposed to a sole emphasis on task-mastering -- plays in the process.

He said, "We need data feedback to know if we're doing well, and what we have to do for corrective action, but it's not motivating -- it's fear-inducing. So the problem is that what you want to do is create a positive incentive for people to learn and change."

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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