Career & Life Advice

What’s Your Definition of Success?

Tuesday, 27 Feb, 2024

What does a successful life mean to you? This is a question I ask all my coaching clients. I don’t mean passing the primary exam or landing that training position. They’re important, of course, but what’s the big picture?

Often when doctors come to me for coaching, they’re at a crossroads in their career. They may be struggling with the juggle of career and the rest of life or they may have realised that the path they’ve chosen doesn’t really suit them. Many of my clients are burnt out and ready to quit medicine. In almost every case, I find that people have lost sight of the big picture. Before we start talking about career options, I encourage everyone to take a step back, remember what’s actually important to them in life and then see how their career might fit into this.

There’s no single definition of success or life satisfaction and for some people, career achievement means everything. For others, life is all about everything other than their job and working is a means to an end to fund their lifestyle. Just in the last week, I’ve talked to someone who has decided to leave surgical training because he’d looked at the people senior to him and didn’t want the stress they were experiencing. His priority in life is to be an involved father and get to his kids’ sports games and school concerts. He doesn’t have any kids yet but he knows what he wants his life to look like. Another client has realised that, since commencing O&G training, her life has become consumed by work and she’s lost touch with much of the life outside of work she loved. Her priorities are surfing, travel and being an involved mum to her young baby.

Almost by definition, most doctors are high achievers. If it’s a choice between a relatively easy road and a more challenging one, we feel like we should rise to the challenge. And the culture of medicine does foster a sense of obligation and a feeling that she “should” put our careers first. Sometimes short-term sacrifices in terms of lifestyle can be worthwhile if they mean that we’ll end up with a career that suits our desired lifestyle. But sacrifice for the sake of obligation, just doesn’t make sense to me. 

I’m a doctor. I’ve been there. I’ve chosen the difficult path when there was a much easier option. Medicine can be all-consuming and there may be stages in our lives when it has to come first. But for most people, medicine is only a part of their life and I really encourage you to think about the big picture and what really matters and then see how your medical career fits in.

This is the basis of all my work with doctors. If that approach sounds like something you’d like, get in touch. Get more info here.


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