It’s just life. And choices.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed this inspirational post about extraordinary success.  I’ll be honest that I really love most of the wisdom in it, and I’m likely to work through various pieces of it over the next month or two, simply because much of the wisdom resonates with things I write about frequently in this blog.

May has been wild and crazy in terms of deadlines and commitments.  A couple of weeks of clinical service.  AHRQ grant proposal due.  Trying to get out of ATLS Instructor jail (I forgot to teach in 2014 and my instructor status was due to expire this month).  Ogden Half-Marathon. Manuscripts to finish before mentees leave town.  In other words, lots of the usual stuff shoved into the same 31-day time frame (though, remarkably, no airplane time).

As I was reading through Jeff Haden’s post, #3 hit me like a ton of bricks.  “You don’t think work/life balance.  You just think life.”

I’ve previously bemoaned the concept of work-life balance (I still can’t stand that idea), and have also emphasized the importance of “no” as a central part of the professional vocabulary (when you say yes, it’s honestly forcing you to say no to something else anyway).  While Haden writes about your work being who you are, for most of us in medicine that’s even more true- our career, our calling is a central part of our identity.  I’ll admit that while the first thing in social conversations is definitely not, “I’m a surgeon,” it definitely sets parameters for my life and how I life it.  Those parameters aren’t good, aren’t bad…they just are part of the whole picture.

Can my cats write my research strategy for a grant proposal?  Well, no.  But does taking time out for a run or dinner with a friend make me a better surgeon?  No question that it does.  I’m also learning that the to-do list will ALWAYS be here.  It’s not going away, and the project post-its on my Personal Kanban white board in my office seem to multiply faster than bunnies.  Watching the sunset while I go for a walk with my dog?  Yep, that can’t be replaced and won’t always be there.  And my mind might be just a bit clearer for editing that manuscript when I come back.

I’m not saying we don’t ever deserve time off from work; I’ve made a deliberate move to take a day a week off from the projects and my email, and it’s honestly been helpful for me.  What I am saying is that if you’re obsessively focused on work-life balance, it’s quite likely you’re looking for something that doesn’t truly exist.  It’s all just life.