Exactly one year ago, I abruptly fell off my professional trajectory. I lost the battle I was fighting — trying to bring new and fresh ideas and a measure of fairness and accountability into a dictatorial academic establishment — and, pretty much, lost the war. The year that followed was a spectacular ride, filled with new ideas, meeting great people, creating business ventures such as my integrative practice and a start-up company, and relentlessly forging ahead. I finally listened to my inner voice and acknowledged my challenges. I learned that self-doubt is a luxury that I cannot afford. I uncovered the confidence and focus I did not know existed, the clarity of vision, and the guts to convince others in its value. Ultimately, through these efforts and the unwavering support of my family and friends, I regained my inner happiness.
Yet happiness is an elusive concept. As 2015 approaches and many of us are making the New Year’s resolutions, the very idea of happiness often equates with external values and attributes, the material things, and is devoid of inner focus. This is poignantly expressed by Dr. Robert Oliva in his recent blog post, “The Truth About Stress and Its Cure.”
The inner focus may be just what the doctor ordered to cure the pervasive stress, despondency and malaise experienced by many American physicians. One does not have to go far to hear their unhappy voices. Check out the community dialog on Sermo, blog posts on the KevinMD.com, or a book by my former colleague, “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.”
There is no question that we are at the most significant inflection point in the history of medicine in this country. Physicians have been marginalized and turned into “providers,” and over the course of several decades, the health insurance corporate tactics enriched the companies while costing us trillions of dollars. Older generations of doctors, our mentors, spent too much time defining their happiness through external attributions, and acquiesced to the troublesome developments even though they were internally unhappy over a loss of autonomy, public trust, and income. The Accountable Care Act, while sorely needed, and a significant step in the right direction, only added to the unhappiness and disengagement already experienced by many.
My resolution and my wish for 2015 are for me and my colleagues to cure ourselves by finding and growing our inner happiness. Go beyond your professional exterior, your titles, positions and degrees, and focus on listening to your inner voice. In every one of us, there are dreams, ideas and aspirations that hold the keys to fulfillment. The growth of inner happiness is critical to our survival as physicians and is a catalyst for change from passive observers who are feeling victimized to masters of our destiny.
Once you identify your ideas and aspirations, a business-like mindset is a must. It provides a framework to unlock your potential. If you are an experienced physician with 10 or more years still left in practice, or just entering the medical profession, you need to determine your focus, goals and personal milestones to succeed at inner happiness. It takes time, effort, original thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, and ability to tolerate risk. You may have to go outside of your comfort zone to get “in.”
Regina Druz is a cardiologist and can be reached at Integrative Cardiology Center of Long Island.
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