Why “you must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

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When David asked me to help him sort out his career,  he said,  “I thought my calling was to be a healer so I went to medical school, did  my residency and joined a managed-care group practice.  About a year into the job, I felt frustrated that I wasn’t getting enough time with patients to really listen to them and make a difference. I needed this experience before I could open my own clinic. Also, I had enormous debts and plans to pay it off in ten years. Eventually, I realized that  just as I had spent high school focused on getting into a good college, spent college working hard to get into med school, and med school and residency looking forward to getting into my “real practice”,  I’m still spending my time and energy focusing on “someday”.

 

“Honestly, once I achieved the goal of getting there, I wasn’t so sure I really was meant to be a doctor at all.  Now my loans are paid off and I’m completely burned out. I’m at the point where I dread going to work every morning. I’d love to do something completely unrelated to medicine but I feel like it would be foolish to waste all that time and money I spent on education.”

 

I asked him what he didn’t like about practicing medicine and if there were any parts he’d enjoyed.  “I’m a good listener and enjoy solving mysteries of difficult cases and also educating patients about their own responsibility for healthcare but I don’t get the time to do much good.” We talked about several options for David to use the skills he does enjoy in his medical practice to do something on his own. He got excited at the prospect of doing something different but kept coming back to “all the time and money I put into learning to do something I don’t want to do anymore.”

 

David is not yet forty. I asked him to try to imagine how he’d feel if he was sixty and had spent another twenty years in medicine. He said, “I’d feel like I wasted my best years.” Hearing himself say that,  he realized what a tragedy it would be to not make a change now.

 

If you are stuck in a job or profession that you feel is not your life’s work, ask yourself that same question: “How will I feel in another twenty years if I am still doing this?” Also, ask yourself if there are skills you can take from your present work and apply to something you will look forward to waking up for everyday.

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