Medicine is hard and getting harder. You know this all too well. Many factors contribute to this. There is one thing, though, that when missing, will suck the joy out of medicine. That missing link is passion, a passion for what you do every day. Without this passion, there is no joy, without joy it becomes work, hard work that is less fulfilling, less meaningful, and less soul enriching. The demands and expectations, though, continue to increase, slowly crushing what joy remains.
From where does this passion come? I believe from a commitment to something bigger than oneself. It is a commitment that shapes who you are and your actions so that they are subservient to something beyond your personal concerns, beyond any direct personal gain or benefit. It takes you from being self-centered to other- centered, from a selfish heart to a selfless heart.
Without this passion, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to persevere during the valleys of life that we inevitably experience. These are times when you may feel like a “dead man walking”, simply going through the motions trying to make it through another day and all the while no one seems to care. You reach deep inside yourself to find the strength to persevere. This may work for a while, but eventually there is nothing left inside. You have used all you have and your “bucket is empty”.
I know what it is like to live without hope, without joy. I have had my own personal “valley of tears”, standing on the edge of a pit called despair and its brother hopelessness. Each day is a day of survival. Where is the joy, the contentment, the purpose in that? However, when you are committed to something bigger than yourself that passion will give you the strength and purpose to continue.
Without this commitment, the inevitable question arises, “Is this all there is?” No matter how good you look, no matter how much wealth, fame, power, and position you have, you will experience a profound lack of fulfillment, incompleteness, emptiness, and even pain. Joy is lost and passion for what you do a distant memory.
Overcoming this crisis requires having a commitment to the future, a cause, that leaves you with a passion for living and the joy that follows. Every person has the power to choose this commitment. In doing so you will find passion, energy, and joy once again. You will live a life that counts, a life that makes a difference in ways you cannot imagine. I have chosen this commitment, and it has made all the difference! What would such a commitment look like for you? Even more, how would it impact you, your family, your friends, those around you, and the world?
Andy Lamb, MD