What drives you?

Emilee Herringshaw
Student in lab coat

What drives you?

It’s the age-old question that dominates the landscape of college admission essays, job interviews and really applies to any age or life circumstance. So why is it so hard to answer?

We live as complex entities. Some of our goals are masked by competing influences. Compromise, or sacrifice, so to say. Each day presents a series of choices that require us to act on our motives. And we respond accordingly. 

So how can we improve our alignment?

There are many of us that want to lose weight, but don’t go to the gym. We want to eat healthy, but find a McDonald’s close to home on the evening commute. Each time these actions occur, an impinging guilt sets in... but the behavior continues to happen. 

It doesn’t mean we don’t want to be healthy. It doesn’t mean we don’t strive for improvement. It means we are experiencing a disconnect. My question is how to reduce that disconnect and create better alignment so our behavior begins to reflect our true motives.

The experience of living with type 1 diabetes presents a complexity of challenges. Food is everywhere. Stress is abundant. And mishandling these entities further complicates management. 


In my first couple of months of medical school, I encountered a lot of unexpected that extended beyond the bounds of a strenuous curriculum. Absolutely, the material required a diligence and discipline that was amplified in relation to my previous educational experiences. But it wasn’t the academic activities that felt far beyond my control. Inhabiting this new environment included transitioning and my blood sugars did not like it. Months before, I was in my familiar routine of running between rooms as a medical assistant and making it within minutes to spare for another Body Pump class before sitting down to my books at night for my MBA courses. Busy was familiar, but the business of the new endeavors of medical school were not. And I found myself baffled by the strategy of how to manage everything. 


The operations minded individual, who effectively optimized and managed medical supplies for a busy medical practice, took on quality assurance measure fulfillment responsibilities and developed training regimens for incoming medical assistants struggled to keep track of personal medical supplies. I was uninterested in tracking expiration dates of my insulin, which was never refrigerated anyway. The blood sugar levels on which my health and vitality were critically dependent fluctuated severely, even if I was able to keep pace with the professional responsibilities I maintained. In terms of recapturing my management and leveraging my strengths and resources, I possessed the functional capacity, but did not demonstrate translation of skills amidst the novelties of this environment. In a new environment, my medical care was unestablished and a phone call to my previous medical team felt too far away. 

It is incredibly easy to slide into behaviors that dismantle control, despite the realization that health is a priority and the experience of feeling better is paramount to any savory snacks or temporary freedom from routine. Selecting against what is known to be logical doesn’t reflect an unwillingness to improve. Yet, generating that improvement is challenging. I’ve found that these challenges are surmountable by reconceptualizing my decision making context. 


Do I want to map spreadsheets of blood sugars? No. Does it give me joy? No.


Do I want to defer the responsibility of taking care of myself to others because I have chosen not to care? Absolutely not. 


So if you find yourself troubled by the motivation to achieve a goal.. change your context.

To deliver the care I would hope my patients can access, I learned that I need to care for myself. I also owe myself the opportunity to apply the business and systems knowledge to my personal management. Que excel and conditional formatting for my blood sugars. It works. Network with professionals in the field and find the match of care provision that best enables my skillset and my management style. It is effective. I found a doctor in the local health care system who cares for me and exemplifies that care I hope to model for my patients. 

This thought pattern arose in wondering why I care so much all of a sudden. Years of not tracking blood sugars, hiding behind the excuse of eating healthy to minimize the guilt of my half-assed efforts, have evaporated. By choice. 

It doesn’t mean I didn’t care before (which is part of the reason why I didn’t abandon all methods). But, I am substantiating my efforts through a refocused perception, which generates agency. This provides resiliency and protection against destructive behaviors, because they no longer fit in the scope of this context. 

In this career and in my life, I will continue to negotiate with the unprecedented- we all will! So the best thing I can do to equip myself is an unwavering commitment to my goals and resources to invest in my own endurance. This also entails an investment in my environment, to further the connections that promote my wellness and develop a longitudinal commitment to myself. 

What drives me? My priorities, not my sacrifices. How do I motivate goals, especially those that seem multifaceted and complex? I understand my agency to recognize and reconstruct the context in which I approach my challenges. 

student in lab coat
Emilee Herringshaw

Emilee Herringshaw is a first year medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is pursuing her M.D./M.B.A. and intends to pilot care delivery solutions for under served populations. As a patient and provider, she hopes to advance advocacy for the communicates encountering issues of health and wellness. Successfully managing diabetes since age two, Emilee is thankful for the friends, family and mentors that encourage her throughout the challenges and opportunities of medical management, as well as her professional aspirations in health care.