Examine Your Past to Remember Your Future

 If you're a stressed-out, burning-out physician considering new work but confused about your next steps, you can get clarity. And one way to get clarity about your future work is to look back at your decision to pursue medicine.

What's your story? Did you choose medicine because of other's dreams for you--dreams of prestige, influence, and presumptive wealth? Or perhaps you wanted to be a healer since day one. How did you get here?

Consider the moment you decided to pursue medicine and what fueled that decision? Look at it, eyes wide open. How much of a fit was it?

What I saw when I looked back.

I’ve always loved to read and learn, writing my first book at 8 years old. When it came time to choose my life’s work at the tender age of 15, my grandmother suggested medical school. I thought, “That sounds cool.” What a great way to learn about life! Of course I wanted to help people. But it wasn’t until a patient vomited on my shoe that it hit me: “Oh. These people are sick.”

After I burned out decades later, I asked myself why I chose medicine. I looked back. And I saw that I went into medicine for the learning and life experience, not because I yearned to cure diabetes.

Practicing medicine is a unique privilege. It can be lifesaving. And I'd like to think I've helped many patients over my 20-plus years in practice.

But I also saw that I want to do my first work—to learn and to write, to slow down and ponder. I want creative work teeming with ideas and possibilities, work that helps people achieve their highest potential by fully expressing their glorious gifts, skills, and talents in joy. When I examine my past, I clearly see the desire to learn and grow extended to both myself and others. Now I remember what I’m here to do. I remember my future.

What do you see when you look back?

Why did you become a physician as they say, “For real for real?” If you came to medicine like me, a bit outside of a deep desire to treat disease, it’s okay. Please, no shame. Shame is pointless and harmful.

Just work with that. Use that protoplasm to create your new work. If you wanted wealth, if you wanted to study the human body, how else might that be satisfied now?  Your path got laid for a reason. It's vital and it’s true.

If you came to medicine to heal the sick, imagine an alternate clinical setting where you are healthy and happy. Visualize your best day. How are you practicing? Go and build it, or at least a piece of it. You might be the one who finally innovates a new clinical practice model for other stressed healers to follow.

What's your next step?

Act on what you already see is true for you. Do one small thing about your insight today.

Your initial decision to enter medicine gives you great clues to what your next work change should be. Examine your past to remember your future.


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