Inhale, Exhale, Say Yes

23 Dec 2015

By Shree Agrawal

Saying yes is complicated, powerful, and full of potential. Celebrities like Shonda Rhimes, known for her Thursday night television series and recent book, Year of Yes, and Ryan Seacrest, whose persona hosts many media outlets, have participated in the social experiment of saying yes to every opportunity they each are offered.  They have earned success by saying yes and having the courage and ability to figure out how to fulfill each of their commitments.

Medicine is no different from Hollywood.  In each, only a small percentage of people achieve success.  In 2013, the AAMC reported 48,000 people applied to medical school, and approximately 20,000 matriculated into their first year. In addition to international medical schools, the NRMP reported 41,334 registered applicants in 2015 for 30,212 available positions. This does not include the 80,000 people who take the MCAT each year and 13.2 million students who attend four-year American colleges and universities.  At each level of pursuing a career in medicine, any student would likely attribute progressive success to saying yes, often.

“Yes!” at this point in my career, is automatic, feasible, and essential. This habit led me to the unbelievable chance to work with my mentor, Dr. Wood. I am not apt to change my ways in the near future because I am constantly discovering and developing my professional values by engaging in new experiences.

However, there a few guidelines I have found helpful to saying yes:

  1. Assess whether current opportunities contribute to overall growth
    • If yes, what are my next steps both within and beyond this opportunity
    • If no, assess my current investment of time and energy
  2. Is this opportunity exciting? Could it develop into passion?
    • Talking to peers/superiors, asking for a trial period, or researching more thoroughly helps me determine this for myself.
  3. Align the purpose of this experience to a personal area of development or exploration
    • Otherwise, I risk losing the motivation to perform at the level  expected of me.
  4. Always factor about 10-15% of weekly scheduled time for an emergency or unexpected time delay
    • I learned this rule from a time management workshop; it has saved me from being overwhelmed and allowed me to be there for the people I cherish.
  5. Organization and technology are essential.
    • A few great applications for your phone/computer: Google Calendar, Calendly, Boomerang, Google Keep, and Breathe
  6. Schedule fun activities to look forward to, immediately.
    • It is difficult to say no to maintaining my personal well being, after already saying yes in my schedule.
This is me, saying yes to yoga at the end of a long week. Photo credit belongs to my yoga instructor, who is also a phenomenal SICU nurse!

I do not have the ability to predict my future circumstances or potential opportunities. Practicing yoga has taught me to be present when I assess how an endeavor will influence my life. Being a medical student has given me the luxury to say yes, without providing a tangible reason.

These guidelines should not hinder any of us from taking risks and uncovering a new source of inspiration or fulfillment. When I have agreed to seemingly unreasonable or daunting responsibilities, I have found profoundly meaningful experiences that have impacted my professional path. So take a deep breath, be present, and say yes.



Shree Agrawal

Shree Agrawal is a member of the AWS Medical Student Committee and is a second year medical student at Case Western Reserve University. She is passionate about clinical research surrounding patient decision-making and medical education.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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