Doing what you love and loving what you do

August 1, 2010

People rarely are completely satisfied. It's human nature.

People rarely are completely satisfied. It's human nature. Moreso when you're a physician, because your focus is constantly on what is wrong and how to fix it; therefore, you are preprogrammed for continuous improvement. That being said, with the exception of where you decide to work and how long you choose to stay there, you have little to no control over the conditions and people you rely on to satisfy you.

So what keeps physicians in their jobs and productive despite conditions they can't control and that can't be made satisfying except on a temporary basis?

Paradigm possibilities

You have exclusive control, of course, of your ability to think, reason, and feel. Everyone holds dear some very essential core values that guide his or her actions and behaviors. Realizing or actualizing those values is the foundation for personal fulfillment.

It is this simple realization-that a physician's purposes do not necessarily line up with the employer's purposes-that creates a new paradigm within which to operate. This realization can empower you to experience your best career independent of any outside efforts to influence you.

What keeps physicians in their jobs despite their inevitable lack of satisfaction is the decision from within to be content with work that they decide is meaningful to the fulfillment of their own purposes.

Work conditions such as job duties, income, benefits, and so forth are all very important, but they are meaningless until physicians assign those conditions a meaning and react.

It's no secret that many physicians must deal on a daily basis with conditions that are inherent to the profession and may cause them to feel as though they are on the borderline of burnout. For the opportunity to fulfill one's most meaningful purposes, however, some of the most resilient physicians naturally view their challenges in a manner that causes them less strain.

More than simply doing what they love, these physicians have learned how to love what they do with less complaining and without the mental, emotional, and physical consequences of wallowing in their job stress and inevitable dissatisfactions.

What the most resilient physicians do is create an ease response by assigning more tolerable meanings to their conditions. They reason to recognize the agreeable middle ground between the exhilarating highs caused by their occasional satisfaction and the disappointing lows caused by their inevitable dissatisfaction.

Career contentment

The advice to take charge of career contentment is not unlike encouraging patients to affect their own healing by making positive changes.

A physician's behavior or engagement should adhere to all facets of his or her career plan. Rather than wanting more or complaining about what you don't have, career contentment involves learning how to appreciate what you do have as you continue working toward what you desire.

Being a physician is one of the most respected and rewarding careers on the planet. You already have attained a level of success that few people ever achieve during their entire lives.

DR HAFRAN is a family medicine physician in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. MR GARTON is an author whose background is in global talent management with major corporations. A version of this article appeared in the July 9, 2010, issue of Medical Economics.