Even before medical school, success came as a result of hard work. Whether it was the long hours of studying as an undergraduate to make the grades for entry into medical school or consuming vast amounts of information to pass exams for med school graduation or working long hours in training, physicians equate success with working harder and doing more. 

But is that really success? 

And after doing all the things physicians are led to believe will bring them success, why do docs share more about the stress of a physician life than about the success of it? 

In academic medicine success is defined by: the research project you’re on, the latest publication, or the committee you chair.   In the clinical setting success is measured by the number of patients you see, the acuity of the patients, and the revenue generated from each patient visit. 

The competition is fierce. The quest for the next project, the next promotion, the next title is stressful and exhausting.  It leaves physicians striving for balance and harmony between work and home life.  It makes success feel like it’s just beyond your reach.  The cycle of striving and achieving is never ending.  

And when you take a moment to breathe you wonder if it was all worth it. 

Success in medicine and in life is achievable right where you are.  There is success at every step of the journey.  But the journey is so demanding that once you’ve achieved one thing, it’s time to focus on the next.  There is little time to bask in the achievement and allow yourself to feel good about what you’ve accomplished before looking to what’s next. 

Physicians have become accustom to the stress of striving.  We are more comfortable with the feeling of stress than success.  It’s the failure of enjoying your achievements from a heartfelt place that keeps physicians from more success.  

It’s time to break that cycle.  Begin by examining the career and life that you have right now.  Not the one you wish you had or the career someone else thinks you should have, but right where you are today.  From a heartfelt place answer the following 3 questions: 

1.What is going well for you today in your life and career? 

  1. How does that make you feel? 
  1. How will you celebrate this present moment success? 

I smiled when I did this exercise.  I realized that I already have what I wanted and needed in my life.  I have a career that doesn’t look like many of my colleagues.  For most of my career I worked nights and weekends because these shifts allowed me to be there for my children during the day.  I went to school performances and book sales and school trips.  

And I intubated neonates and placed umbilical lines and worked with teams in the delivery room and supported parents on their journey in the Neonatal ICU. 

My journey was not the traditional journey.  There were times when I questioned my success.  Now I stand firmly in it because I defined what a physician mom means to me.