Have you ever been really excited about an experience that ends up being completely different from what you imagined? If so, you're not alone. This happens all the time from students shadowing someone in their dream job to executive directors becoming vice presidents. Although it can certainly spur feelings of disappointment, experiences like this are for the greater good. It's all part of the journey. Let's talk about how to approach these situations and reframe our thinking in order to turn a negative into a positive.
Many times throughout pharmacy school I would find myself excited to start a new class. I would go into the semester with a preconceived perception of what the topic was about and I would be bouncing with anticipation (in fact, those sitting around me found my constant leg shaking quite annoying, particularly during exams). Here's the thing, more than half of the time I would end up wildly disappointed. I would complain to myself, "Is this class seriously all about memorizing formulas?" or "I'm never going to use this information."
Sometimes I genuinely couldn't contain my disappointment and I would all but throw my hands up in annoyance during class. I wasn't the only one either. I remember looking around the room and seeing eyes glazed over, students on Facebook marketplace, watching a basketball game, or reading a book. The same thing can happen outside of class too, especially during rotations or in your first job.
Still, looking back on what I can only recall as boring classes requiring hours of bona fide suffering, I find myself glad to have experienced them. The truth is, these classes weren't completely worthless. If you want to be well-rounded, have a diverse understanding of topics, and know where your strengths and weaknesses are, you'll need to spend some time learning things that don't strictly interest you. Over time you can certainly move away from this model and specialize in the things you're most passionate about, but until then, you should make the most out of the required experiences thrown your way. I say "required" because in many cases these experiences are rungs on a ladder. If you miss a rung, you'll either fall or prevent yourself from climbing any higher. You can't graduate without taking the required courses, you can't evaluate literature if you don't know statistics, and you can't do research without IRB training.
So the next time you find yourself disappointed with an experience, try looking at it through a new lens. At least now you know what you don't want to specialize in and where some of your weaknesses will likely be (everyone has weaknesses). As a leader, these are the tasks you can consider delegating to others that actually have a passion for them. Plus, you'll still be building your overall competence and knowledge as a human being, which is vital.
There will also be experiences you dread that end up being better than you ever imagined. I love it when this happens, and it's one of the main reasons why you should cast a wide net. Why not try to experience a little bit of everything? How else will you find out what you actually enjoy? This is the mindset I recommend going into rotations, residency, and fellowships with. Much of the value of these programs comes from exposure to a variety of areas, including those you will end up enjoying and potentially even specializing in. This has certainly been the case for me.
Many well-known adages apply to this topic such as, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "Don't judge a book by its cover." My personal favorite comes from the mother of a legend known for his well-rounded experiences, "Life's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."