Sometimes, you reach a stage in life where each day has become predictable. Despite success, you slide into a rut. The status quo doesn’t cut it. Your patients are interesting, but not stimulating enough. Your staff is well-trained, but not helpful enough. You make a good living, but you’re not earning enough.
The ennui extends beyond the clinic and hospital. You live in a comfortable house, but it isn’t big enough. You took a nice vacation, but it wasn’t exotic enough. You have a great relationship, but it isn’t satisfying enough.
The world no longer measures up to your high expectations.
I remember a time with more optimism, more fight in my belly. I was eager to rectify life’s inequities. How hard could it be to provide high-quality health care to everyone? But after decades in the trenches, I’ve become more of a slogger than a Don Quixote. Bills need to be paid. The toilet won’t flush. There’s a bat in the attic. Who has time to fix the EMR?
With experience comes wisdom, or so they say. If that were true, I’ve got enough gray hair to be Yoda by now. Then why am I reading blogs for advice on how to better manage my finances, relationships, time, and work?
Perhaps I should concede the obvious: Life is a complex puzzle that never gets solved.
It wasn’t until my son was born that I encountered a true master of the game. Of course, he’s a charmer, and my wife and I celebrate him every day. For a guy who can’t talk yet, I never expected he would teach me so much.
Here are five life hacks this young fellow has shared:
1. Wake up happy! Each morning, usually way too early, he greets the day with a big smile on his face.
Lesson: You’re lucky to be here. (I had my son late in life, and his birth was a minor miracle. He acts like he knows it.)
2. Don’t go out with a dirty diaper. Protest until somebody changes it.
Lesson: Dress for success.
3. If you want something, persevere. He will reach, grab, crawl, scream, whatever it takes until he gets what he wants or an overpowering parental force intervenes.
Lesson: The difference between perseverance and stubbornness is success.
4. If you don’t know what to do, put a smile on your face and laugh. The first time he saw a dog, he didn’t know what to make of the four-legged creature. Then the dog barked. He smiled and laughed his head off!
Lesson: Life is good.
5. Tomorrow will be even better. You might get a new tooth or learn to stand up.
Lesson: Life is an adventure! (See lesson #1.)
My 9 month old has taught me that maybe the world really is good enough. Now I treasure each moment, even those that are disagreeable. When confronted with a new challenge, I pause to consider how my son would handle it. I imagine his three-toothed smile and keen gaze. Then I respond with our combined wisdom.
Colleagues have noticed my improved demeanor. My stress has diminished. Lost energies have returned to fight for reform.
After work, I’m greeted by a cosmic smile and embraced by outstretched arms. With a rekindled zest for life, I await new life hacks from my baby boy, Master of the Universe.
Andrew Wilner is a neurologist who can be reached at this self-titled site, Andrew Wilner, MD. He is the author of The Locum Life: A Physician’s Guide to Locum Tenens.
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