In the first weeks of medical school, a colleague asked, “What do you like to do?” My response still saddens me: “I used to like to cook, and I used to like to read and I used to like to run.” It had taken only a few short weeks for me to give up many things I loved, activities that brought me joy, interests that made me feel like me. As we travel further in our training, we feel other pressures – not to show or even feel our emotions, to feign interest in things that don’t excite us – that cause us to forget what is meaningful or inspiring to us. As we become increasingly disconnected from who we are, we begin to even feel estranged from our own lives. This isn’t the life I dreamed I’d be living…whose life is this anyway? These are important steps along the road to dissatisfaction and burnout.
How can we reconnect with ourselves and find the joy of living and practicing medicine?
Given the circumstances of practicing medicine, it may seem like this is an impossible task. Fortunately, even small shifts can make a big difference.
Clients have reported that beginning a meditation regimen – a mere 10 minutes a day – helped them feel more present in their life and almost immediately resulted in greater calm, better sleep, and less irritability. Others found that understanding their core values and planning one activity a month that reflected those values gradually changed the experience of their life. Their life suddenly felt more fun and they felt more alive. For exercises to help you find your values, click here.
Recognizing their strengths and seeking ways to use them at work allowed physicians to experience greater meaning in their work. We often downplay our strengths. Since they come easily to us, we believe that everyone must have those same abilities. This leads us to undervalue their importance and usefulness. Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0 is a simple and effective way to gain clarity on our strengths. One of my strengths is “Developer,” which means that I instinctively see others’ strengths and enjoy helping them develop their talents and abilities (a good quality for a physician coach!). I derive tremendous satisfaction and joy from mentoring medical students that I didn’t find in other aspects of my work.
So let 2017 be a year in which you grow to know and really connect with YOU. Allow yourself the joy of rediscovering what you love to do and the strengths you can contribute to your work, your family, the world. The world needs each of us to do that. Because the more we know and love ourselves, the more healthy and loving the world will be. And as you reconnect with yourself, your life will become more fulfilling, meaningful and joyful. A certain antidote to burnout.