From time to time, I have the privilege of running workshops for professionals where we discuss everything from communication issues, to stress management/burn-out prevention, to career development. One of the topics that often emerges in these discussions is the challenge of maintaining motivation over time in the face of complicated, physically draining, emotionally demanding work, often in fast-paced settings where every moment of the workday is packed, and the work is never done.
So the question arises, “Why am I doing this?”
Uncovering the myriad answers to this question can provide a starting point for an in-depth examination of personal motivations, an opportunity to re-connect with a sense of meaning in the work, and a chance to mentally and emotionally re-charge and re-invest.
Some of us fall into our fields almost by accident, some because we’re encouraged by a teacher or mentor, some have family role models that lead the way, others have a passion for science and medicine or nurturing, some have a calling to help humanity, and still others find their way into healthcare because it is a field where real jobs are really available. There may be any number of factors that influence the decision to choose this kind of work, but, nearly universally, altruism ranks high on the list.
Most of us, it seems, whatever our specific roles, entered this field at least in part because we wanted to be of help to others. We believed that we could have a positive impact on someone else’s life. We wanted to be a part of a healing relationship built on trust and compassion.
Along the way in our work, the tedium of repetitive tasks, the challenges of certain interactions, and the obstacles to spending quality time with our patients, can dampen that initial enthusiasm. Over the long haul of our careers, there may be periods where we begin to lose touch with the essence of our attachment to our work. It’s times like these when that question, “Why am I doing this?” becomes a critical life line, a link to the driving forces that can help us remain fresh in our work.
From time to time, even when things are stable and quiet in our work lives, taking moments to revisit the reasons (both mundane and idealistic) that bring us to this work can remind us what we love about it, help us focus on what we may want to change, guide us in our career development, and keep motivation high.
Why am I doing this? Because I love people, because I am fascinated by how we work, because I am fascinated by medicine and the body and illness and healing, because I need to make a living, because I am always learning, because it is hard but satisfying, because I can make my own hours, because I have always been interested in unpacking what makes life important for each of us and how we, as human beings, learn to live fully and well, even in the face of illness, even in the face of mortality.
It would be wonderful to hear what you make of the question, “Why am I doing this?"