We all go through seasons of shifting into higher gears. I remember the first time in college where I was being challenged to move into a student manager role in the dining halls. Suddenly, in addition to my regular classwork, my extra-curricular activities, and my normal job, I was also expected to go through some leadership training classes. How was I going to handle all of this "new pressure?" I wondered. Now, I was a communications major so it wasn't that intense, but I know you can relate in similar ways, whether it was moving into med school, residency or parenthood for the first time
And then come the seasons of shifting into lower gears: children moving out, vacations, recovering from an injuring. Learning how to negotiate these can be just as challenging for the high-speed, type-A personalities that drive many physicians. In fact, think of the times where you've had to quickly come down to 25 MPH on a state highway to pass through a small town: whhhyyyy…doooeeesss…everrrrrryyyythinnnng…goooooo…soooooooo….sllllloooooooowwwwwwlyyyyyy?
Gearing your mind to a slower pace can be a real challenge: you don't feel productive, you don't feel effective, you feel wrong about sitting idly by while others are contributing to the good of society. But this is a necessary part of life, especially as you grow older and begin to look towards retirement. You just can't keep the same pace as you did.
May I offer you some encouragement about this, having had at least one season of unexpected idleness in my life: start by taking some deep breaths – physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. Begin to open your eyes and ears to the people, environment and circumstances around you that you may have been going too quickly by to perceive. Journal your gratitude at the new opportunity to be curious, to relate, perhaps to rebuild friendships and family life. Don't squander it, don't complain or whine it way, and don't be afraid of puttering around to find out what might grab your attention.
Whether you stay in this season of "lower productivity" for good or not, this can be a season of taking inventory of where you are and where you want to be next. So enjoy the luxury of dreaming about what you might do with that amazing mind, energy and character that's been developed over many years of practicing medicine.
And then act with intention and purpose!