Insight, Inspiration, Motivation

God, grant me the serenity…

I read the recently reported survey on Medscape, about Burnout amongst Physicians, and the findings are scary! Thirty seven to 53 percent of the physicians who responded, reported burnout! Looking at General Surgeons alone, it was 50%. The scarier part is that this number has risen significantly (almost 15%) from what it was, just 2 years ago.

Looking at some of the reported causes for burnout, I felt I had to make some comments – hence this blog post. The top 5 reasons cited are: too many bureaucratic tasks, too many hours at work, income not high enough, increasing computerization of practice, impact of the affordable care act, and feeling like just a cog in a wheel.

Too many bureaucratic tasks: In this profession, there is a certain amount of ‘mandatory’ bureaucratic tasks. It depends on the kind of hospital you work in, and what positions you hold. The question you have to answer is – which of these is really mandatory, and which ones can you let go of? Ultimately, we each have to prioritize, and decide how to handle these tasks. It is also up to us to say ‘No’ to anything we don’t absolutely have to do.

Too many hours at work: This is something, again, that most of us can decide for ourselves. If you are employed by a hospital, and find the hours too much, then you can decide what you want to do about it. I am sure there are regulations on hours of work, and you may have to negotiate with the hospital, to reduce your hours. For those who work in private practice, it is easier, since many of you can do your own scheduling. Either way, the reason many physicians don’t limit their own hours is that the remuneration does drop, when you work less. Again, it is up to us to decide what is important, and what is the price we pay.

Income not high enough: I wonder how much income is ever “enough”! While there is a huge discrepancy in remuneration from one country or state to the next, within any given geographical area, physicians earn a decent income. It is also true that some physicians live lavish lives. And the most important thing is that we do not get any training on financial management, during our training. It is up to each one of us to acquire the knowledge, or get advice, and learn to manage our own finances. It is no use if you use all your time working to earn more, and then have to spend all of it to either fix your health problems, or pay alimony and child support, or fix whatever other problems arise as a result!

Increasing computerization of practice: Well, like it or not, computers are here to stay! The sooner you get used to the idea, the sooner you can learn to use these computers to your advantage. They do save us a lot of time, and make our work more efficient. We just have to decide not to fill up any time saved, with more work!

Impact of the affordable care act: Living and working in Canada, I am unable to comment on this, because my knowledge of this is minimal. But going by the general principle of trying not to resist what is, and trying to work with the system, can certainly reduce stress.

Feeling like just a cog in a wheel: This speaks to me of low self-esteem. I admit I feel like that at times too, but only if I allow myself to. The truth is that we do have a great deal to offer – and this goes for every human being, not just physicians. If we can understand that every cog in a wheel is indeed important, for the wheel to work efficiently, we can make ‘a cog in a wheel’ feel pretty significant.

So, at the end of the day, I think it is what we tell ourselves, and how we interpret things that really cause the stress, to a great extent. There are things that are within our control, and there are those that aren’t. It is imperative that we recognize the difference, and not play victims of the system.

Which is why, I remembered the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Please let me know what is your top stress factor, and what you do to manage it!




February 9, 2015 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Refocus and Thrive, Self Improvement, Stress and Resilience, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How is Harper Leading?

After sending his 100th book, to  Prime Minister Steven Harper, Yann Martel says he is finally planning to stop. He sent him a book along with a letter every 2 weeks for four and a half years – and got …. NOT A SINGLE NOTE IN REPLY!

Yann Martel was in the visitor’s gallery in the House of Parliament one day, and began to think of stillness which is required to read a book. He apparently felt a wide disconnect between the politicians and the artists of this country (who received very little funding, and, he felt, were not appreciated).  So he decided to send Mr. Harper the books.

Whatever his reasons, he chose his books well, starting with ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’ by Leo Tolstoy and Animal Farm (George Orwell), including great books like  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Good Earth, Chronicles of a Death Foretold, The Old Man and The Sea, Julius Caesar, as well as translations of famous works from different languages. In his letter with each book, he included a little opinion of his own, which would inspire anybody to pick up the book and read it. (He published these letters on a website called

He received a total of five replies none from the man himself. There has been no sign that Mr. Harper read a single book so far.

I am not very political and in fact do not pay much attention to the  games that go on in the political arena. I get easily disillusioned, I realise that journalists don’t always tell the truth, I know that the truth has many sides to it…  and anyway, I just don’t have the time to go out and find out for myself. So I join the apathetic masses – except at election time – then, I do take stock, for what little that is worth! If I do have an opinion, I do not discuss it publicly either.

However, this situation with Mr. Martel does worry me – a lot. It seems to be true, for Mr. Martel could not lie on television. Having read many of his letters, I find it impossible to imagine how any human being – much less the leader of a nation – can keep mum for 4 full years. While the man may have had a political agenda, it was still a personal gesture, which took a lot of time, effort,  thought, and above all, money.  Even one of those books – or even letters, for that matter, could have you thinking, reflecting,  for hours!Anybody would be changed by it if he paid attention.

To completely ignore such an effort on every level, shows to me a distinct lack of leadership – personal and political – that is frightening. Here we have an elected leader in one of the world’s large democracies – who will not so much as acknowledge a persistent citizen’s gestures (at least they were nice, respectable ones). Why are we complaining about dictators?

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


If one were to make a list of all the missed opportunities in this world – opportunities missed simply because of a failure to act – this list would perhaps be longer than Santa’s list of kids! How often do we fail to act on an idea and then almost want to hit ourselves when we see somebody else benefit from having done exactly what we did not? Everybody, even those people who seem perfectly self-confident, have their own insecurities and list of lost opportunities.

I listened to a speech by the great Randy Snow, who won the silver medal in the 1984 Paralympics for the 1500 metre wheelchair race, where he admitted to having listened to the inner(doubting) voice which said, “what if you exhaust yourself” at the most defining moment in that race. He said that to the end of his life, he would regret that he did not listen to the voice of the inner champion instead (which asked him to sprint ahead to the first spot) and would never know what could have happened.

The fear of failure is a very powerful deterrent that often stops people from doing what they want. The truth is that nobody is free of wants, and nobody could really be unafraid either. So, how is it that a few people are able to overcome the fear and go after their dreams, while most settle for less?

Different people perceive failure differently. Those who intend to succeed will not take failure too personally. Thomas Edison made the light bulb only after a  thousand attempts.  When he was asked, “How does it feel to have failed a thousand times?” he said, “It was a success with a thousand steps”. What a liberating concept! It was the attempt that failed – not the man.

Similarly, if somebody refuses to buy a product or service you are trying to sell – it could just mean that this particular product or service does not match their particular needs at this particular time. It does not have to mean that they reject you. You make the choice to think what you want – of yourself and of others.

Successful people also are very clear about what they want – whether it is a measurable goal (as in business or other achievements) or just the pleasure of doing what they enjoy (as in the creative pursuits like writing, music and arts). They do not think consciously of success, but on the contrary, they focus on exactly what they want, and go after it with a passion. Success, as the rest of the world perceives,  inevitably follows.

Ultimately, nobody ever became successful without having made mistakes. The smart ones learn quickly and try again – and again. It is certain that if you don’t try, you will never succeed. The only chance you have is if you try so there is no sense in not trying. If you do fail, “Join the club”! You’re all the better for trying.

As Randy Snow said, “There is nothing wrong with living a silver medal life if you’ve made a gold medal effort”.

January 15, 2011 Posted by | Self Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Goal Setting

I started off the new year like everybody else.  There were things I needed to do better this year. From prior experience, I knew that just having goals was not good enough. I knew exactly what I needed to do.   Make a plan. Make a plan to plan. Make a plan to review the plan.  Review everyday. Review the week’s activities. Review and revise or modify plans and strategies every 3 months and finally at the end of the year. Put it all down on the calendar. So far, so good.

Now, for the next step. For each goal, what is the one small action I can take each day, that would help me reach my goal, by the end of the year? I had one down for each goal. I had one physical, mental, emotional,and  spiritual  goal and one for my career. Even that I made simple. Exercise, read/write, spend time with kids, meditate, and complete my paperwork on time. For each one of these, I only asked of myself a committment of 10 minutes.  That seemed like an attainable goal.

Well, at the end of one week, here’s what I have accomplished. I set the alarm to wake me up at 7 am. I am still on my holidays and I really don’t need to wake up until noon if I don’t need to. God knows I need the sleep. But I have drawn on all the mental toughness I could, and got out of bed every morning. I have done my 10 minutes and sometimes more of exercise and meditation everyday. I did not write or read a single word some days, and have been stressed out with having to complete everything that I want to achieve that I haven’t really been much company for the kids at all. I did get caught up with the paper-work, although I don’t know how long I can sustain that once I start back at work.

I certainly did no daily reviewing at all – formally, that is. In my mind, I did all the time. I still think I will do it once a week.

What have I learnt? It is important to have a plan, an ultimate goal. It is more important to have an immediate action to take, a small step towards the goal. It is imperative, that  small seemingly harmless temptations be fought – viciously, for they are the ones, that can ruin every good intention.

Sow an act – and you reap a habit. It is important to focus on developing habits that will lead to success in the long run. It is said that it takes 30 days for a new action, if repeated daily, to become a habit. If this is true, then goals should really be set for 2 or 3 month periods, not every new year! This way, one can form one new habit towards a goal each month, and start to see real changes within two or three months.

This reminds me how my grand mother used to consider the first day of every month sacred. Maybe there was a point to that after all!

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


I’ve come a full circle! Having grown up in a culture where you are taught not to speak unless spoken to, not beating your own drum, letting the other person discover your abilities, it was difficult to learn to sell the self – or “market” the self, as they call it. I still struggle with it.

One of the first classes I took at ICA was about Listening. I was at first uncomfortable with the silences I heard at these classes. Soon, I came to realise the value in it. The afterthoughts were more insightful than the initial ones, and more revealing – both to the speaker and the listener.

The ego often wanted to jump in and make its opinions heard. It felt bad when somebody else said it first. But then, one day, I decided that I would wait to see if anybody else could come up with the same ideas that I had – and waited. Sure enough, there was somebody else who had the same thought as every one of mine. Now, that was exciting. No longer was it necessary to tell it first. If the idea is to add to the pool of shared ideas, then, it will all come in. No extra points for saying it first. The ego can rest. The world is not going to be lost without me!

While I will still jump in occasionally to offer my comments, I do it more often when I want to learn something from the responses – and this has helped me immensely.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


%d bloggers like this: