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Seven Secrets to Success: Patience, Purpose, Perseverance, Pain, Planning, Pep and Positivity

Read about a young woman’s determined pursuit of her life’s ambition to become a doctor. Despite many setbacks and roadblocks, she kept her eye on her cherished goal to gain entry into medical school.

“I want to be a doctor!” Zeynep proclaimed time and time again since her childhood. Here she shares her seven secrets to the successful completion of her first year of medical school.


When Zeynep was a young child, her mother, an immigrant from Turkey who did not speak fluent English, suffered a stroke. Over two years of medical care, her mother obtained a full recovery. Inspired by all the doctors who helped her mother, Zeynep wanted to help people in the same way.

“We’re all here on this Earth for a special reason.” Zeynep said. “We occupy space for a meaningful purpose. Therefore, why not turn this valuable opportunity that’s been given to you, the right to live, into a moment of self-improvement and the ability to evolve and progress? As long as you’re alive on this planet, your time and energy should always be working towards a better you.”


For eight years, Zeynep kept a “laser focus” on her prized goal to attend medical school. Starting in her freshman year of college, she earned an impressive grade point average, received scholarships, participated in extracurricular activities, gave piano recitals and earned the honor of speaking at her commencement ceremony at her community college called Moraine Valley in Palos Hills, IL. During her junior year at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a Biological Sciences major and a Spanish minor, she started studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test®), a critical hurdle for admission to medical school. After graduating from college, she pursued volunteer work in nursing homes and hospice, taught science in English overseas in both Spain and France, and also worked in Illinois as a substitute teacher, while applying to medical schools.

For a young person, eight years seems like a lifetime. Yet, Zeynep patiently worked to make her dream become a reality.


Although Zeynep had always been an outstanding student, she struggled to obtain a competitive score on the MCAT®. Her first two test results did not meet the minimum requirements for most medical schools. Like many others, she just wasn’t good at taking standardized tests.

Zeynep took the MCAT® five times. “The average medical student who was admitted would take the test usually only once or twice.” she shared. For more than five years, she studied, completed MCAT® study courses, sought tutoring and learned effective test-taking strategies. The fifth time was the charm – she earned a high enough score to be admitted to medical school.


Zeynep accepted the pain of failure and disappointment with grace. “A person should not be measured by the number of failures that they go through in life, but rather by the amount of perseverance and resilience that one has.” She emphasized. “This says a lot more about someone than their failures ever will. What doesn’t kill you truly does make you stronger.”

Although most of us avoid pain whenever possible, Zeynep said, “my skin truly has thickened as a result of all the mentally and physically straining-hardships I’ve been through. I now know that I can face any obstacle that comes my way.”


For many years, Zeynep carefully planned around MCAT® test dates and medical school application deadlines.

“I keep on pushing and planning to be the best person that I can be, in all aspects of my life. I say this since I have a determination to help make a difference in the world, however big or small it may be. It’s the small things that add up, which can make a huge difference. I aim to be a part of that difference.”

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“Sometimes, the Nike Phrase, ‘Just Do It’ is what you have to say to yourself to push in getting you through. You only miss the shots that you don’t take and you never know unless you try. Going ahead with something might be the hardest part, just starting, but afterward you take off with the momentum. I can finally say that I’m proud that it took as much energy and strength as it did for me to get to where I am,” Zeynep exclaimed finally.


“In a time when the Coronavirus has preoccupied us all over the world and in the space of reality where Black Lives really do Matter,” Zeynep commented, “I’d also like to quote Alicia Keys’ phenomenal song, “Underdog”: ‘They said I would never make it, but I was built to break the mold. The only dream that I’ve been chasing is my own.’ And she, later on, continues with, ‘This goes out to the underdog. Keep on keeping at what you love. You’ll find that someday soon enough, you will rise up.’ I find this song resonates very well with me because I too, have always been laser-focused on my dream, and knew that I was an underdog, but I didn’t let that stop me, and I rather turned into a fuel of motivation to work even harder since I knew that I could make it. When you think you can do something, you really can. And when you think you can’t, then you really can’t.”

“The right attitude (or seeing the glass as half full) is everything since what we say to our mind is in fact, intertwined with our behaviors and actions,” Zeynep continued. “And the more you focus on yourself, the less you compare yourself or compete with others, the more you’ll reach your very own goals. Investing in yourself is one of the best choices you can ever make. How can I improve?”

Zeynep cited Beyonce’s 2020 YouTube Graduation Speech as an inspiration where she declares that you really do need to step out for self-discovery and bet on yourself. To own your future. To write your own story. That if you don’t have the chance to be center stage, that you go and build your own stage and make people see you.

“It’s human nature to be influenced by others. However, don’t let their negativity deter you, but rather motivate you even further to keep on furiously going after your goals, Zeynep remarked. “Keep your eyes glued on your own intention, without letting any outside distraction or even your own insecurities hinder you. Quoting Beyonce’s final remarks, ‘Keep pushing, forget the fear, forget the doubt, keep investing and keep betting on yourself.’ This is the mindset and positive attitude that helped get me through.”


Zeynep concluded, “I have just completed my first year of medical school and my journey of struggle and trials will undoubtedly continue. However, I know that I am strong and brave enough to beat every challenge that comes my way and I will. We’ve seen times where the breaths that we take, become way more important than ever before. Whether it’s all the breaths that we have already taken for granted when many people globally have taken their last ones, or whether it’s the number of breaths we don’t realize the value of, until it’s our final breath due to social and racial injustice. Make that breath count. It’s worth it.”

What will your success story be?


Story told with permission

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Seven Secrets to Success: Patience, Purpose, Perseverance, Pain, Planning, Pep and Positivity

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2020). Seven Secrets to Success: Patience, Purpose, Perseverance, Pain, Planning, Pep and Positivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Jul 2020
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