Work should never be your first and only priority. Maybe you have this vision that once you ‘accomplish X’ then you will be content, or deserving of admiration/love/respect. That is a delusion.
We prioritise the wrong things for contentment. This is going back to the post on Maslow’s boat
One analogy I found useful is metaphorically dividing your life into various aspects : health, friendship, family, and work.
It’s as if you are juggling all these various aspects of your life - health, relationships, work. Work is like a ‘rubber ball’ - if you drop it, it will bounce and you can always pick it up later.
The other ones are made of glass. If you drop those, they will shatter. If you drop your health : mental and physical, it can be permanent. Similarly with relationships, they can be irrevocably damaged.
How should you think about work?
Work is important. It provides a sense of purpose, a structure to your day, contribution to a community/social aspect and continued learning.
But burnout is very real. I’ve seen it in practice throughout medical school and beyond.
I’ve thought about work before in several posts. But a few thoughts again :
- Focus on the process rather than the outcome (Autotelic)
- Minimum amount of effort for maximum output (Taoist concept of Wu Wei)
- Work smart not hard
- Work within your circle of competence
- Work on micro problems > macro as an individual - locally provide value
- Join institutions to work on macro problems in a community to globally provide value
- Look for intrinsically rewarding work
- Focus on your strengths
Paradoxically, caring less about work often makes you more effective. You want to be ‘slow/smooth/calm/collected’ rather than anxious to be effective.
you can drop the ball of ‘work’. It will bounce back.
What is more important is your own mental/physical health, and your friends/family.