Many years ago a friend of mine shared with me an idea that has stuck with me these years. He said that he uses the Independence Day holiday as a time to reflect and make necessary changes in his life, changes that will lead to his “personal independence.” This idea means different things to different people. To me personal independence most certainly does NOT mean to break the ties that bind me or to walk away from my commitments. Rather it means clearing away tasks that are better not done by me, committing to completing my overhang of unaddressed and undone projects, resolving problems that I’ve been procrastinating on, and devoting more time and effort on tasks that move me toward my long term goals. Given this, here are some semi-specific changes for you to consider in your own life to help you achieve your own personal independence:
• Write or call people you’ve been putting off getting in contact with. By maintaining or re-establishing contact with people who’ve been important to you, you will feel relief from the nagging sense of guilt about not responding.
• Review your current insurance and identify what other insurance you may need. This point may seem to come from left field, but getting the proper insurance for the requisite amount can be extremely freeing. As the main breadwinner in my family and with three kids, I feel so much better knowing I have enough life insurance to take care of my family. I also am working hard to make my business more independent of me so that it can continue to function even if I’m incapacitated.
• Do a financial review. Physicians on average are highly compensated professionals, but our wealth on average is below that of other professionals at our income levels. There are reasons for this – such as older age at which our income rises, and our longer-than-average work hours that make focusing on financial planning harder – but these reasons should not keep you from better managing your current income and building your wealth starting now. You owe it to your future self and to your family.
• Review your commitments that require your time and effort. In the upper middle class enclave that I call home it is common for people to be involved in many social and charitable activities. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ at the start but hard to meet those commitments in the long term. If you feel overcommitted, consider consolidating your commitments, to fewer or even only one, and graciously extricating yourself from others. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to stress for you and not much benefit for others.
• Focus on the other aspects of your life. Practicing medicine can be such an all-consuming activity that it often does not leave adequate mental and physical energy to attend to life’s other important aspects. Consider if your lifestyle is conducive to your health. Can you improve your diet, increase your exercise and sleep, and improve your ways of decompressing and destressing? Consider next if you’re satisfied with your friendships, family life, and / or dating life. Consider also the state of your spiritual life, whether or not you are a religious person. All of these other aspects of your life deserve your attention, but they take time and effort, commodities that may feel in short supply. Thus, it may be necessary to review and reduce some less important commitments, as I wrote in the point above.
• Spend some time to consider your long-term life goals. Although they may be long-term goals, their implementation needs to start … well, right now.
• The 4th of July also falls on the first week of the second half of the year. So, this is also an opportune time to think about your New Year’s Resolutions made in those cooler days of January. How are they going? It’s not too late to get back on track if they indeed have fallen off.
Until next time,
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
– Coco Channel
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
– Steve Jobs