Focus on the outcome, not what’s negative

A free moment to read my favorite health care blog is hard to find. The days are packed with complex and time-intensive patients. In between them, I struggle to complete documentation and take care of a myriad of tasks, making phone calls and plodding through cumbersome electronic medical records. Then, there’s still actual paperwork to review and complete. I still have to make time to read clinical literature in addition to interesting blogs and opinion pieces. After all that and braving a long commute, life at home is just as hectic.

For these reasons, I haven’t been reading my favorite blogs with regularity. But when I do have the occasional moment to read, I usually find posts about the exact things I just complained about. And inevitably, many conclude with something that goes like this:

“This is not what I signed up for!”

Despite these struggles of the modern physician, I continue to remain optimistic and happy with my career (primary care internist). My ability to cope, stay resilient despite these threats, struggles and challenges is all about perspective. This a perspective that has been forged through a lifetime of experiences, of which my last six years as a parent (of three kids) has been most paramount to my happiness as a physician.

The joys of parenthood are innumerable. Pick one.

Baby’s first smile. First step. First words.

Squeezing baby fat. Cute baby dresses. First baseball jersey.

First day of school, playing catch outside, watching a movie together.

This is exactly what I signed up for when I became a dad.

The horrors of parenthood are also plentiful! Pick one.

Sleepless, endless nights. Colic.

Teaching right from wrong, manners, the insanity during bedtime.

Potty training, homework, the teen years.

This is exactly what I did not sign up for when I became a dad. Or so I thought at first.

But eventually, I realized this is what it is to be a parent. The life of a parent, is one of sacrifice and you accept the struggles in order to achieve an important and meaningful outcome. And when you focus on the outcomes and try to recognize the positive moments along the way, you grow more resilient towards all the negative things that come.

I’ve applied this principle to my life as a physician. I don’t need to recount the problems in health care. There are plenty of other blogs that catalog the problems much better than I ever could. But there are also so many good moments. These are moments that make you laugh, smile, grateful and proud. And often, I’m tempted in a moment of weakness to try to weigh the good against the bad while trying to answer the question, “Why am I here?” That’s when I remind myself, the journey is unpredictable, both up and down. The destination is what really matters.

I want my patients to be well.

I want my kids to be happy.

And as a byproduct of getting them where they need to be, I will be well and happy, too.

Shabbir Hossain is an internal medicine physician who blogs at Shab’s Sanatorium.

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