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Cultivating Joy in the Journey of Medicine - Overview.

For my new blog series, I thought I would tackle how to enjoy the journey of medicine.  Many greater philosophers, leaders, and authors than myself have taken on the expansive subject. So, I find myself questioning my ambitious quest to assist readers in this manner, especially divorced from coaching. However, the one thing I have learned after almost 2 years of weekly blogs is I do my best writing whatever is on my mind. And currently, that’s learning to take pleasure in the steps we take to get to where we are going.


We, as physicians, are, for the most part, goal-oriented, task-driven individuals. This can be a wonderful thing. However, we often delay gratification and tolerate many difficult circumstances to make it through the process and get to each goal. And this is how the arrival fallacy grows strong. We trudge through medical school and make it to residency – finally, we are doctors. And yet, it often feels different and more difficult than we imagined. Then we hustle and endure training – finally, we are attendings. Somehow, it still isn’t what we pictured. Often, when life unfolds in this manner, we can feel disillusioned.


Not only can we be disappointed that reality looks very different from our romanticized version of life as an attending physician, but we likely have missed out on engaging fully in life until that point. We then set a new goal that will help us feel better – when we pay off the student loans, when we can get out of this contract, when we cut down our hours, when we can start our own practice, when we can retire or leave medicine.  We can continue wishing the current days in which we are living away. And then what? While I haven’t quit medicine or retired, I do have friends and family who validate that the arrival fallacy is still in effect – even at that point. 


So, how can you start embracing and loving whatever point of life you are in currently? There are multiple approaches. The approaches are much like varied classes of medications that affect various targets of the allergy pathway, most of them additive. I will offer you a menu over the coming weeks. Pick only those that resonate with you. Take one and begin to work on it until it seems settled. Then move on to the next best one. 


I recently reflected upon my daughter and her spouse’s 2-hour car ride followed by a 3 ½ hour flight to Alaska with 2 toddlers during a pandemic. (In some ways, it wasn’t too dissimilar to my 8-hour summer car rides to visit cousins as a child.) The awareness that the journey not only could be made bearable but even enjoyable was the initial step needed for a successful, memorable trip. Snacks, games, singing, waypoints, and family chats are part of my most fond memories. So, that’s what I offer you this first week –awareness. Reflect on your planned destination in medicine and all of life? How much are you savoring the time along the way? What would it be like to enjoy the process of moving toward your goals as much as the anticipated joy when you achieve them?


Over the next few weeks, we will unpack the various strategies. Until they are out of my head and onto paper, er, I mean into a Word document, I cannot be sure how I will group the various approaches. I anticipate there will be at least five broad categories of strategies after awareness - maybe with a bit of overlap:  Expectations, Intentionality, and Maintenance,

Perspective and Language.


I look forward to unpacking Expectations next week.


Have a Joy-filled week! Tonya


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