Dear Career Doctor:
I am 50 years old and a medical doctor, have been for 23 years. One of the few things I like about it is the money I make, otherwise it’s so unfulfilling. The only things I like are playing golf and surfing the net. Could I change my job to one I like?
It sounds like you would like to retire, but don’t have the money to do so. Many people are in that position these days. I assume you have decided it is too difficult to morph into sports medicine or into something like emergency room medicine where you only have to work three days a week, so here are some other suggestions:
1. Try to remember what initially drew you to the profession — what interested you and what you enjoyed. Often, as people rise through the ranks, they give up the things they liked most. For example, physicians get more involved in administration than in patient care or research. See if you can get back to doing more of the things you like about your profession and less of the things that are unfulfilling.
2. Try to focus on doing the best work you can. Often, people get burned out and don’t try to be their best. This becomes a vicious cycle involving lack of self-respect and the respect of others. Try to care about each patient that consults you. Imagine that you had the same problem each patient has and that you were consulting a physician. Behave the way you would like to be treated.
3. Take a sabbatical. If possible, take a long vacation where you only play golf and surf the internet. You might be so bored that you want to go back to work. But if that is fulfilling, perhaps you could find some low cost place to retire and just play golf all the time. (Yes, there are places where people live on very little and do just that. I know a sales executive who retired to a town in Florida with very little income and works a few days a week at a golf course to cover his greens fees.)
If this is financially impossible, try to change your attitude by being thankful that your work pays for the golf and surfing, rather than seeing it as a burden.