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Cultivating Joy in the Journey of Medicine - Intentionality

We are continuing to unpack ways in which to begin enjoying the joy in the journey of medicine as we work toward our goals. We have already discussed awareness and expectations, and this week we are focusing on intentionality. 

 

So many of us have been deceived by the arrival fallacy in which we believe things will be better when (insert next milestone) only to be disappointed. To avoid that, cultivate a life that you enjoy now. It will require deliberate action to create time and space to avoid putting off the “good stuff.” What things would improve your day-to-day experience if you were more intentional? It will include the intention of being fully present with the person or task at hand since our minds tend to wander a lot – especially when we are busy or stressed.

 

One common area involves relationships. It is so easy to get caught in the daily grind and allow it to dictate what we do (or likely not do) and with whom.

 

Let’s start with personal relationships – friendships and intimate partners. Gone for most of us are the days when friendships organically happen. As busy physicians, beginning in residency and continuing into attending life, it takes effort to foster and maintain those connections. It won’t often happen outside of being intentional. Phone calls, meeting for coffee, going out after work. Who are the people you already have a connection with? How can you be more intentional at maintaining those relationships? Whom do you want to reach out to and begin forming a connection with? If you don’t have anyone currently in your social support realm, where can you intentionally meet others? Where will you carve out the time to prioritize it?

 

Even with our long-term partners and/or family, waiting until x, y, or z happens to finally enjoy time with them is a set-up for disappointment. How often can you intentionally have time alone? Date nights? Family nights? Get-aways or staycations? What will you do to remember to stay focused fully on them when you are with them? When you find your attention has drifted, can you non-judgmentally refocus?

 

We have discussed how vital relatedness is to our overall wellbeing. When you are feeling isolated at work, how can you be intentional in forming or improving relationships? Where can you be more purposeful in conversations, reveal your authentic nature, or be more present? Do you want to be deliberate about finding the balance of clinical efficiency and fostering a connection with staff members? Even during patient encounters, being fully present with the person in front of you adds a sense of connection, helps you deliver better care, and enhances your professional fulfillment.

 

It doesn’t have to be on an individual basis. What sources already exist to meet and discuss shared experiences, brainstorm solutions to common issues, and give and receive encouragement? How can you participate?

 

Allowing for a broad interpretation by using various semantics - what about your down-time, rejuvenation-time, or self-care?  What and how often will you be intentional in making time and space to do those foundational activities for yourself? Again, it won’t happen by default.

 

I have seen some of the most remarkable humans in my time as faculty who created time and space for so much outdoor activity even while working 80 hours a week on average. Two come to mind who were backcountry skiing at every chance they got. And it served them, their friends, and their patients well.

 

Becoming intentional in lifelong learning also adds to the enjoyment of your career as you feel more current in delivering patient care.

 

Scheduling is helpful with busy lives, but being intentional doesn’t always mean everything is scheduled to a tee. You can also get creative by creating “white space” in your schedule in which nothing is written. I heard one physician describe it as a trauma room. It’s an empty but prepared space that can be used for anything that rolls into the ER. You can choose in the moment what you want to prioritize there. Do you want to use it for the work that is always unfinished, reaching out to a friend, engaging in some form of self-care, or reading the latest journal article? 

 

Yes, there are only 168 hours in any given week. You may not fit everything in all the time. But being intentional and fully present during those hours can be incredibly rewarding. Deliberately investing in your personal and professional relationships, self-care, and education can be vital to learning to enjoy the here-and-now and avoid the disappointment of the arrival fallacy.  Where else might intentionality serve you?

 

Next week, we will leverage perspective to enhance your enjoyment of the present.

 

Have a joy-filled week! Tonya

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