Perspective Changes Everything

No matter what it is that you are doing with your life right now, at one point or the other, you may have experienced a moment in which you were not completely engaged with the task at hand, or maybe your mind wandered off to a variety of places. This is normal, my friend. In fact, it’s a part of being human. Not every high school student will be amazed by the immense knowledge their teacher will bestow upon them. Not every Fortune 500 company worker will appreciate the seemingly overwhelming projects their boss will assign them. Let’s be real. Different individuals have distinct interests that are more than likely tend to carve out their realities into the most pragmatic way possible.

Let’s start with a basic and painfully simple question: Have you ever felt like NOT doing your homework and doing what you love instead (if it’s not homework)?

As cheesy as it sounds, what if you loved your homework? No, really. What if you had such intellectual pleasure from reading seven poems by William Blake in British Literature? What is you were truly amazed by all the natural phenomena in the universe that physics could govern? What if you viewed every single thing in life (including homework, tasks, and the things you love) with the same state of awe? This curiosity could take one so far, that he or she may not even be bothered by the simple act of homework. What may first seem like an infinitely long list of tasks to do may eventually become a simple pebble in the grass that one can kick away. The goal of being extremely efficient with one’s time, energy, and resources may as well be accomplished.

Ask yourself: What is your definition of a genius? Is it simply someone who memorizes 1000 SAT flash cards front and back, or is it someone that truly enjoys learning about the human body and actually understands conceptual information? It is clearly the second person, unless you consider a “genius” to be someone with a merely strong neural circuit.

Perhaps the most famous quote to put this into perspective is when Einstein says: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

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Picture adapted by the Imaginary Foundation. 

Imagination is what governs intellectual pleasure and allows for curiosity to grow into one’s natural state of being. It opens up infinite possibilities through which one could probe the “adjacent possible,” as Steven Johnson refers to it. Moreover, imagination and curiosity intermingle with each other to form serendipitous encounters with new ideas, that could potentially be applied to produce more dopamine in the brain, and an overall rewarding experience. It is all about perspective, though. If one were to view their work in such a way that poses an interesting challenge, or captivating puzzle to be solved, then that work would not be considered “work.” To become high-performance individuals, we could transform our realities by simply having a childlike state of wonder for whatever we study or learn. Jason Silva, the futurist and performance philosopher explains this in the most interesting way, referring to the fruit of curiosity as a “mindgasm, or an exhilarating neurostorm of intense intellectual pleasure, fully revelatory understanding of a certain topic, involuntary contractions of brain muscles, usually accompanied by the overwhelming sensation of truth proximity, visionarism, and the state of awe.”

The only challenge that remains is to experience these heightened state of awareness more frequently.

Changing perspective on our work lives may be a daunting task, as it requires a lot of patience, diligence, and more importantly, the willingness of the person to redefine his or her intentions and expectations. However, it is certainly not an impossible task. Through meditative techniques such as Mindfulness, one could achieve this flow state in a reasonable amount of time. Yoga and challenging physical exercises can also produce these results. Regardless of the method chosen by the individual, being curious is really a magical remedy for having the motivation, or drive to achieve something meaningful in life.

Inspiring Videos – The Ecstasy of Curiosity by Jason Silva

 

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Can We Defy the Process of Aging?

Recently, I was going through a chapter called the “Physiology of Aging” from my Environmental Physiology course on the Stanford website. This chapter intrigued me specifically because although it is amazing how dramatically our life expectancy has increased over the past centuries due to modern medicine, there are still some factors beside allopathy that could greatly affect our aging. In this section of the course, I watched a video of one of the professors go to the MIT AgeLab to try on AGNES, which is essentially a suit in which anyone can experience the deficits and incapabilties involved in the process of aging. The effects were so profound, and they seemed impossible to observe over the gradual lifespan of an adult. The video eventually showed how the professor wearing the suit lost motor, visual, flexibility, strength and dexterity skills. It actually got to the point to where I really felt sorry for elder people whom I have always assumed to have the same faculties I have. I obviously did not think old people could do everything but I did not realize it was that bad either!

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On the brighter note though, the point of the video was to show the natural physical effects of aging in a normal person, not an immensely active and healthy person. The video also showed a brief interview with a 79-year-old sprinter! This guy still performs a lot of his work manually, even though he could use machines and has taken up the hobby of sprinting at such a late age. Despite that, he is in optimal health. He is essentially decreasing his chances of developing a myriad of devastating health disorders such as hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, or type 2 diabetes. With that being said, the professor also mentioned the lady who lived till she was 122, breaking the life span record so far, Jeanne Calment. Although her secrets included olive oil, chocolate, wine and a lot of humor, there is a far more convincing observation about this:

As human beings, we have literally transcended our biological drawbacks through biotechnology and new means of improving the human condition. This doesn’t just include the use of scanners or machines to detect cancers and kill them. This also includes the mere fact that a good number of us have given significant value to having a healthy lifestyle. Another words, a lifestyle rich of mindfulness, productivity and vitality. Moreover, factors such as physical activity can make such a big difference in the end, as it can enhance repair mechanisms in the body, slow the rate of cognitive decline associated with aging, and literally stretch out telomere length on ends of chromosomes, associated with longevity. In fact, the benefits are so copious that it is too difficult to even mention them all! Regardless, we should definitely take pride in the fact that we have expanded our life span out so much by just modifying a few things here and there, and if we continue to do so, we can go even farther!

A Generation Plagued by “Stress”

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Stress, is an immensely overrated, and overused term to describe conditions of students, working professionals and even homemakers today. It seems that we give stress too much of a negative connotation. However, stress can be fun and exhilarating too!

Recently, I was reading this article Clifton B. Parker about looking at stress from a different perspective than usual. This was published on the Stanford website at http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/may/stress-embrace-mcgonigal-050715.html

Essentially, the Stanford psychologist, Kelly McGonigal expresses how stress can actually make people smarter, stronger and happier they simply look at it from a positive perspective. An integral message this article conveys is that we all know we have to encounter stress at some point or the other in life, and therefore, we should embrace it and live with it, rather than run away from it. In fact, those who can thrive under high stress conditions, are really the ones who have made it!

As I was thinking about this very idea about stress, an important realization occurred. In the field of medicine, health care workers have to work hard under stressful conditions to make sure their patients can be in better shape. As premeds, medical students, or even residents, we are going to have to deal with so much trauma, stress, negativity, apathy and inferiority in our profession. Thus, there is really no point in looking at this path as a stressful, and debilitating one.

This article mentions studies being done in which people show that their lives have been more meaningful with stress. Moreover, psychologists prove that stress can make a person stronger, more compassionate, and resilient over time, granted the person takes stress in the right approach.

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Go check out Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk on How to Make Stress Your Friend for more info: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en