I feel that this quote by Henry David Thoreau truly captures the essence of the trap that most physicians fall into. I believe that, for the most part, when we choose to make medicine our career, we are doing so from a place that is well aligned with our values. These values may, for example be, the love of helping others, the love of learning, the love of discovery, etc. However, as we move further into our careers and the day-to-day struggles of our work, in addition to the societal and cultural expectations of what we should be doing, what we should achieve, what we should have, or how we should be, we are often derailed from our purpose. We shift from a path filled with intentionality to one that is paved by our “yeses” to the wants, needs, and expectations of the world. This path then becomes the given- the way it is. And suddenly, we find ourselves in a place where we never really wanted to go. We are bogged down by duties, committees, meetings, responsibilities that drain our souls. All they do is to make us appear industrious, without serving our values-what truly drives us and gives us joy.
However, this does not have to be the end of the road. We can choose to find a new path. We can choose to rediscover our values and our purpose, and live intentionally every day in everything we do and simply in how we are. Again, I propose that the practice of MENTAL FITNESS is the way to start paving a new path for ourselves. By using mental fitness techniques, we can better access the area of our brain that supports us in living with intention.
One such technique is to grow the Sage power of Navigate. Navigate is the power to stay the course and keep our north star in clear focus. It is our ability to stay true to our deepest values and set our own standards for how we live our life day to day. One of the easiest ways to do this is to engage our “Wiser Elder Self”. Our “Wiser Elder Self” is the manifestation of our Sage that embodies knowledge and wisdom. It holds the knowledge of all that we have been, all that we are, and all that we can be. It can discern, without judgment, what is truly most important to us- what we need to make more room for, and what we need to say no to; so that we can choose how we will live out our day, instead of allowing the roller coaster of life just take us wherever it wants to.
In order to connect with your “Wiser Elder Self”, try the following exercise:
Start off by doing a PQ rep session as described in the last blog. Once you are feeling very present in the moment, envision yourself healthy of mind and body, at the end of your life. Where are you? Who are you with? What do you look like? What are you doing? Pay very close attention to all of the details. Try to make this vision as clear and palpable as possible. See if you can imagine details of colors, smells, sensations. What does your Elder Self reflect? Once you have a clear vision in your mind, greet your Wiser Elder Self. Allow yourself to fully engage in the experience. Then pose a question. You can, for example, ask: What have I lost sight of that is important for me to remember? Or, how do I need to be in order to come to live as you? Gently contemplate on the answers. There is no need to do any “hard” thinking. Even if you don’t get an immediate response, know that you are seeding the sage part of your brain with the questions, and you will receive an answer. Once you have finished speaking with your Elder Self, you can thank him/her knowing that they are a part of you, and you can always access their wisdom.
If you’re rolling your eyes at the idea of engaging in an imagery exercise like this, that’s fine. Imagery is not for everyone. In that case, I suggest you do something a bit more concrete. Simply contemplate about your last day on this earth. If on that day all the people whose lives you have touched over the course of your life were to come to you and tell you how you influenced their life, what is it that you would like to hear? Then, make a list of your five greatest values-the things that define who you are. Create a separate list of your goals for the next year. See if your values and goals align. If not, what do you need to make them align? Intentionality becomes possible when we align our deepest values with our goals so that we can embody them in all that we are and do.
Since we ended 2020 with reclaiming, let’s start 2021 with intentionality!