You might be inclined to dismiss some of the exercises you read in this chapter as “weird” or “hippy” or whatever derogatory term people use these days. Please do read through (and try to apply) what we’ve said with an open mind. If, after that, you still think it’s not for you, then fair enough. But we know this stuff is going to help at least some people (it certainly helped some of us), which is why we’ve included it here.
The importance of Inner Game
The concept of inner game is important in countless things in life – it’s about overcoming limiting mindsets, wrong assumptions, self-doubt and fear. We’ve included this section because we don’t want any fears or negative attitudes bring you down on interview-day. Don’t underestimate how important inner game is: working on external (outer game) things like body language, eye contact, or your voice is important, but it’s so easy to slip up (even if it’s just for a few seconds) because of an internal conflict. If you’re someone who gets gripped with fear to the point you can’t function normally before an important event, then developing your inner game is essential.
Good inner game practice can also give you more confidence, and make you a more charismatic person. There isn’t a magic bullet for these things, but think of confidence and charisma more as ‘tools’ rather than gifts: you can work on it, although being super charismatic isn’t the purpose of this section – our aim is to simply give you enough stuff that will help you get through your interview without fear and with confidence.
We’re going to try to give you as much practical advice as possible and limit the waffle; a lot of the exercises we’re going to give you are well established and used by top business people and professionals around the world. We’re going to put an interview slant on it, but you can use a lot of it for other things too.
Finally, working on outer game stuff like keeping eye contact, smiling, etc. is important, but you should always start with inner game first and use outer game techniques to complement: what the mind thinks, the body does.
Tip 1 – Staying Present
On the day of the interview and when speaking to the interviewers, for many of us, it isn’t enough just pretend to listen or interested in what they’re saying – you should be properly engaged in the conversation, with every ounce of attention on the interviewer. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and although they were nodding, smiling and even encouraging you to keep talking, you feel like they’re not really listening? Unless you’re a brilliant actor, there really isn’t a substitute for being 100% focused on another person.
This is our first tip, walk into the interview and make sure all your attention is on the interviewer – don’t let your mind wander, and if it does, bring yourself back to the present moment. Trust us, and don’t pass this tip as an obvious point – by forcing yourself to being completely present and focused on someone, it’ll improve your body language and listening skills, as well as keep out any negative thoughts.
- It’s a bit like meditation – if you feel you’re zoning out, or even if you’re 80% focused and just drifting a bit, just completely fixate on your breath and the sounds around you for 10 seconds or more until you feel out of your head and completely focused.
- Do this exercise if you think you’re regressing a bit too much inside your head or if you’re extremely distracted. It’ll bring you back to the present moment.
Tip 2 – You’re not alone, be grateful, and whatever happens – you’ll always be okay
Here are some things to help you get over any anxiety or fear you may have:
On the day of the interview, or the days and weeks leading up to it, many of you may begin feeling more and more anxious and worried, but the fact is, thousands and thousands of students are going through the same thing. You’re not the only person going through this, and it’s normal to feel scared or anxious. A powerful tip to help you handle anxiety is by reminding yourself that people around the world are going through the same thing.
It’s easy to get stuck even further in a state of anxiety if we focus too much on our faults, worries, and fears. If you’re not careful, this could lead to a state of resentment or neediness – traits which, if unchecked, are detrimental in an interview. This is where gratitude comes in: the art of being thankful and appreciative of what you have. Numerous studies have shown that in times of anxiety and resentment, taking some time to write down what you’re grateful for – from the simple things in life (the fact we’re healthy, etc.) to what other people like about us and the friends we have. Spending time on this will have significant effects on your attitude – not only will you just generally be more happy, you’ll more naturally come from a place of warmth and confidence when interacting with others.
Finally, on interview-day, don’t feel like the interviewers are judging who you are as a person – they’re just looking at how well you present yourself on the day of the interview. Also, although medical schools will be following criterion based on GMC guidance when selecting students, they’ll have their own criteria too – for example, some universities may demand a strong scientific grounding than others due to their compulsory intercalated BSc course. Don’t attach yourself to the process, and just enjoy it because whatever happens, you’ll be okay; life will go on, and we all have plenty of things to be grateful for.
- Next time you feel anxious, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel worried, and anxious, and that there are loads of people in the world going through the same thing. Visualize it – picture the thousands of medical applicants going through what you are.
- Sit down, get out some pen and paper, and write out all the things you’re grateful for – the more detail and the more thought you put into it, the more useful this task is. The actual act of writing these things down has a more powerful effect than just simply thinking about it.
Tip 3 – Eradicating limiting beliefs
“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy.”
– Anthony Robbins
Limiting beliefs are those that constrain us in some way. We seek out reference experiences to confirm whatever belief we hold: for example, if you believe you’re not very intelligent, you’ll naturally look for things that confirm the belief. You can find experiences to back up almost any belief – the key is to make sure that you’re consciously aware of the beliefs you’re creating. The first step to replacing disempowering beliefs is by first recognizing what they are – sit down and write them down, and well before the day of the interview. You must address any beliefs that are creating tension or limiting you from displaying your best self.
‘I’m not good enough for medicine.’
‘I was lucky to get this interview.’ ‘There are so many better candidates.’ ‘What they don’t like me?’
‘What if they ask me something I can’t answer?’ ‘What if I get rejected? What would I do next?’
Whether a belief you hold is true or not doesn’t matter – what matters is that you’re not going to let any limiting belief impinge on your performance on interview-day. You’ll probably have heard that people who believe they will succeed generally have a higher chance of success – and likewise those who think they won’t succeed will respond with less conviction and generally won’t be as successful. Now is the time eradicate your limiting beliefs, whether these beliefs have been generated from what a teacher has said, your parents or friends, or just through your own negative thought processes.
- The first step to eradicating a limiting belief is to acknowledge them – write down all the beliefs you feel are holding you back and don’t empower you to succeed.
- Once you’re aware of your limiting beliefs, realise that you have the power to question your belief and find them completely useless.
Tip 4 – Visualization and affirmations
Visualization is a powerful technique, and you can use it for many things, from winning sport matches to making a fantastic speech. The skill of visualization has been endorsed by many of the greats as a basic tool for turning your goals into your reality. Visualization is useful because it has powerful mental and psychological effects – it can also increase your confidence and your ability to project it, as well as diminish any limiting beliefs you may have.
If you can, consider visualizing yourself in the interview – be as detailed as possible: picture the way you smile and nod when the interviewers are talking; hear yourself speaking confidently, with conviction, and in a way that isn’t arrogant at all; see the interviewers responding positively to you, smiling and clearly enjoying their time with you. The trick is to involve all your senses – touch, sound, sight, even smell and taste if you can; also try to involve your emotions – laugh, smile and visualize yourself celebrating after the interview.
A way of aiding your visualization is by having a few affirmations you repeat to yourself, and this can be especially useful before your interview.
Here are two examples:
‘I possess the qualities and ability needed to be extremely successful, yet I am humble’.
‘There are few challenges I cannot overcome, but I also have the humility to accept when I need help’.
You have to be careful here – you don’t want to cultivate an attitude that can come across as arrogant in the interview. These affirmations are powerful: if you go in with the wrong mindset, it may work against you.
- Having identified your limiting beliefs, begin replacing them by writing down positive affirmations. Internalize these affirmations by repeating them everyday, and, vitally, before your interview.
- Visualize in detail (using all the senses) the interview itself. Imagine your success, and try to picture yourself displaying the traits and characteristics the interviewers are looking for.