Design A Career for Impact not Hours
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
You have invested years of your life to obtain the education and training to become a doctor. Bam!! Before you know it, you hit the wall of inflexible work hours and overwhelming schedules. The juggling and daily chaos begins. During these periods of upheaval or dissatisfaction, clarity and conviction about the meaning of our work can diminish. A kind of tunnel vision develops that only sees the negativity and impoverishment of daily life. We become convinced that the answer lies within some perfect schedule, that is somewhere out there in the universe just waiting for us to find it. The focus of the search may be on the hours, the call, the pay, the commute, etc. Although, of core importance, these factors are more about the logistics of the job, rather than the nature of the job i.e. what kind of work you will spend your time engaged in. Does focusing on these parameters, potentially narrow your field of options? How do they satisfy the drive and passion that brought you to medicine in the first place?
During these times, it can be rejuvenating and empowering to change our mindset. Imagine that instead of resisting these moments of uncertainty and confusion, you try embracing them and seeing the challenge as an opportunity for positive change. (I know that this kind of suggestion can sometimes be extraordinarily irritating, but the alternative is hardly inspiring.) Try stepping back and looking at the big picture. Let yourself reconnect to your vision of the impact that you want to have through your work, rather than just the job description. Are there different ways for you to achieve the results that you are looking for? Can you take the time to broaden your perspective, so that you don’t trap yourself into a situation that doesn’t feed the heart and soul of why you are in medicine?
One way to brainstorm different ideas is to ask yourself thought provoking questions:
Do public health and/or environmental issues grab your attention?
Does innovation or entrepreneurship excite you?
Are you curious about social responsibility?
Are you intrigued about finding new ways to better communicate in healthcare?
Do you see yourself as a mentor to other physicians?
What healthcare need in the world are you driven to solve?
There are of course innumerable questions that you could ask yourself. The key to this exercise is to challenge yourself to think outside the box. Consider and explore all the different ways that you could use your education, training and many skills to have an impact in the world. This may feel like a lot of effort, but you never know what previously unrecognized interest and passion you might discover in yourself.
A different way to jumpstart this process is to think about a person or group whose story inspires you. This could be a patient or group of patients or simply individuals that you have met or heard about. If you look into your own history you may be surprised at the people whose stories have influenced you along the way. They may have appeared serendipitously or you have actively sought them out. If you feel that you are in need of motivation, I suggest that you reconnect to your gallery of influential figures. Take a moment to think deeply about the impact these individuals have had on you and the world beyond. What are the qualities they possess that inspire you? How does your own journey resonate with theirs? How can you use their example as a guide and support to exploring new paths for yourself?
Here are a few of the colorful characters (past and present) who populate my gallery:
John Higginson MD – Wisdom and Integrity (My Father)
Paul Farmer MD – Humanity; Compassion (Partners in Health; Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder)
William Kamkwamba – Ingenuity (The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kankwamba)
Elizabeth Blackwell MD – Persistence (British-born physician; First woman on the UK Medical Register and first woman to receive a medical degree in the US)
JR – Imagination (Street Artist; One year of Turning the World Inside Out – TED talk)
Professor John Malins MD – Excellence and Modesty (Exemplary physician and teacher- Birmingham Medical School, England)
Muhammed Yunus – Innovation – Founder of the Grameen Bank- Founder microfinance organization and community development bank in Bangladesh- Nobel Prize winner.
Marie Curie– Curiosity and Dedication (Scientist; Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry)
If you need fresh inspiration, find ways to continue adding to your list.
Discover books that further open your eyes to possibility. Some examples are:
How to Change the World by David Bornstein
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory
Complications and Better by Atul Gawande
Discover individuals who are innovating in healthcare:
Even if you feel battered by the current challenges in medicine, by keeping your mind open and stimulated you will be able to better preserve your sense of purpose and meaning and stay committed to finding a path that is both inspiring and sustainable. Never let go of the dedication and passion that have brought you this far.
In the words of Leonardo da Vinci:
“Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose”
Jacqueline Huntly MD, MPH
President and Founder
THRIVE TO LEAD MD,LLC
Physician / Physician Coach / Wellness Speaker
“Be Inspired and Thrive in your Life and Career”