This physician chose not to do a triathlon. Here’s why.

I posted on social media that in 2019, I would compete in Ironman. I wanted to hold myself accountable and was announcing “I could do this.” My primary reason, so I thought, was that “I wanted to grow mentally and physically.”

Since then, I have been training six hours per week on top of my usual daily routine. I have been mentally and physically challenged in ways I didn’t think possible. Ironically, physically, I have felt weaker.

A few weeks ago, I attended Date with Destiny. This is Tony Robbins’ longest seminar. I went with fear and excitement of how my life could change. I was thrilled to be there. This was pushing me mentally and spiritually out of my comfort zone. I had the blessing of experiencing this with my husband. We went because every day, we demand more of our lives and our relationship. We are blessed, but we also realize a relationship takes daily work — those of you in a relationship know what I mean. We are 100 percent committed and have promised each other to continue to grow together as a couple.

What followed over the 14-hour next six days was amazing. A mirror was placed in front of me, and I realized how much of my life I had been asking “What’s the next level?” Don’t get me wrong, this primary question in my life has served me well, and I love where it has taken me. I realized though, at this point in my life, I needed a new primary question. This new question would serve to take my life to where I wanted it and needed it to go. I realized so much of my life I had not taken the time to enjoy the journey. I want my life to be lived more in the present, enjoying the moment and the gift of now.

“Becoming a physician” was my calling since the age of 11, this I am sure of. My primary question of “What’s next?” served me well to achieve this goal. However, medical school and residency training doesn’t allow you to enjoy the moment. In fact, it does the opposite. I chose to ignore my health, to miss out on family events, to sacrifice everything I had to sacrifice to “become” my calling.

About three years into my anesthesia practice, I hit a wall. During my residency training and career, I have unfortunately lost colleagues to suicide. This is one of the hardest things to endure. Perhaps because it hits close to home. According to new research, with one completed suicide every day, U.S. physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession. This is serious and alarming. As I was grieving the loss of my colleagues I realized I was having symptoms of “burnout.” I was physically and emotionally tired, irritable and unhappy. To this day, I don’t know exactly what led to this. I honestly believe it was a culmination of selfless sacrifice, emotional and physical exhaustion combined with a sleep debt I will never repay in a lifetime. I am fortunate to have a supportive network and a strong faith in God. I leaned on all my resources and my physical and emotional transformation story was life changing for me. Three years later, I can honestly say I am very cognizant of taking care of myself and know I can’t give what I don’t have. My wellness, including mind, body, and spirit is a must and non-negotiable. It comes first every single day. This experience is the primary reason I became a life coach. My story can be a gift to another physician and for that matter, any person, because we are all at risk for burnout and it is important to recognize the symptoms and act promptly.

I now have clarity about what I want for my life. Without clarity, life can be difficult to navigate. It’s like trying to drive in the fog. Going forward, I will be living my life with a new primary question: “How can I enjoy and appreciate this moment now?” Tony Robbins says that where focus goes, energy flows. So much of my life I have lived for the future. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe in having goals and direction, but this should never overshadow the beauty of the present moment.

I was doing Ironman for completely the wrong reasons. I choose to no longer live my life to “prove” anything to anyone. I realize our children are the only evidence we walked this earth. I will choose to spend more time with them and my husband. In Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage,” he talks about how we have had it wrong all along. We tend to pursue success thinking this will lead to our happiness when in fact it’s the opposite. Only when we pursue happiness will success follow. This is so true. How many of us have achieved success without fulfillment? Tony Robbins has a famous quote which I remind myself of every day, “Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” I realized I was not being fulfilled with my Ironman training, so I asked why should I continue? Just for the sake of saying I could? Ask, and you shall receive. I asked, and clarity came to me.

I will continue to serve my patients with dedication. I learn and grow from them in the stories they vulnerably share with me.

I will continue to serve my medical group through physician development because to help our physicians continue to find passion and purpose in what they do is part of my mission.

I see, hear, feel and know my purpose in life is to be a vehicle of love, playfulness, compassion, and Inspiration to myself and others!

I now choose to view my problems as gifts. As Tony Robbins says, “live with passion,” and with passion I live!

Dora C. Rodriguez is an anesthesiologist.

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