Commentary

Focus on purpose and setting key priorities

Orthopedic surgery is a highly demanding profession. More than one-third of orthopedic surgeons work 60 hours per week, not including call responsibilities or after-hours academic or leadership work. Fortunately, for many, we have found a rewarding profession. However, the ego gratification can be addictive and lead to excessive hours away from family and friends.

The environment where we found professional success can be dramatically affected by external forces. When frustrated with our job or cynical about the future, or physically drained from the demands we place on ourselves, we can become unhealthy in our habits, depressed and withdrawn. We spend less time with those who love and support us. Work-related stress or job burnout becomes more evident. We feel less accomplished and autonomous, and struggle to see the bright future we have worked hard to create.

Work-life balance

Anthony A. Romeo, MD
Anthony A. Romeo

To perform our responsibilities at work and home requires appreciation of the principles of work-life balance. The balance between these two aspects of our life must focus on the relationships critical for our mental health and well-being. It is a myth to believe work and “life” are separate. We can artificially manage the time we spend at each and work to find the most valuable balance.

Instead of thinking of work-life balance in terms of time, shift the paradigm and think of it by first identifying and ranking priorities. Identify the most important relationships and responsibilities. Commit to be accountable to those areas and learn to say “no” to the ones at the bottom or not even on the list. We should work on this exercise daily. Recognize activities that seem to be most important, then ask why they are important. If it truly matters, we should be able to articulate its importance. When we accomplish this task, we can then develop the strength and mental toughness to say “no” to distractions, superficial goals and relationships that take away from our true internal compass.

Live, love, learn and leave a legacy

When seeing patients and performing surgery becomes our dominant life guide, we fail to appreciate that the human spirit needs more to be successful over a lifetime. Stephen Covey wrote that our spirit is most fulfilled when we follow our heart, and we balance our efforts, which are driven by our innate need to live, love, learn and leave a legacy. Some may argue we can get this from our professional lives, but that is a false hope and shallow in its understanding. We may see colleagues who are well-accomplished in their careers, yet are cynical, irritable or disillusioned, lack energy, or may have succumbed to vices of alcohol, drugs and false relationships or have unexplained medical issues. Clearly, something is wrong with their work-life balance.

We are social beings with an innate desire for redeeming relationships. Our overall system works best when we have fulfilling relationships. We live longer, accomplish more and provide hope and happiness to others. The desire to live is undeniable. We want to enjoy new events, locations and people. We need a healthy daily dose of redeeming relationships. Whether it is a spouse, partner, child or parent, we should prioritize the experience of sharing love every day. It is the most powerful medicine in the world.

One habit that has been cultivated throughout our professional life is the desire to learn. However, it is not enough to learn only for work. We should spend time every day learning something other than orthopedics. This effort opens minds in ways we do not understand, but is associated with innovative thoughts, creative endeavors and expanding horizons.

Leaving a legacy is about pursuing a purposeful life – one with meaning to you and those around you. Leaving a legacy is about creating a world that is better because you were part of it. Leaving a legacy is about leadership, mentorship, parenting, giving of yourself so others are better able to reach their potential and better able to pay your gift of time forward without expecting anything in return.

Set true priorities

As we continue to hear about increasing levels of burnout, depression and other mental illnesses among physicians, it is critical we work to break the vicious cycle of overworking, overachieving, overstressing and failing to delegate. Prepare to set the stage for a shift away from responsibilities that are not part of your true priorities. Get away from the tyranny of hand-held technology. Exercise and pay attention to nutrition. Focus on the most valuable relationships. Be mindful in their presence and truly interested in what is important.

The challenges we have overcome in the path to our current state have prepared us to accomplish what we set our minds on. Take a step back. Focus on answering your “why.” Focus on your purpose and setting key priorities. That is how we achieve successful, healthy and inspiring work-life balance.

Disclosure: Romeo reports he receives royalties, is on the speakers bureau, is a consultant and does contracted research for Arthrex; receives institutional grants from MLB; and receives institutional research support from Arthrex, Ossur, Smith & Nephew, ConMed Linvatec, Athletico and Wright Medical.

Orthopedic surgery is a highly demanding profession. More than one-third of orthopedic surgeons work 60 hours per week, not including call responsibilities or after-hours academic or leadership work. Fortunately, for many, we have found a rewarding profession. However, the ego gratification can be addictive and lead to excessive hours away from family and friends.

The environment where we found professional success can be dramatically affected by external forces. When frustrated with our job or cynical about the future, or physically drained from the demands we place on ourselves, we can become unhealthy in our habits, depressed and withdrawn. We spend less time with those who love and support us. Work-related stress or job burnout becomes more evident. We feel less accomplished and autonomous, and struggle to see the bright future we have worked hard to create.

Work-life balance

Anthony A. Romeo, MD
Anthony A. Romeo

To perform our responsibilities at work and home requires appreciation of the principles of work-life balance. The balance between these two aspects of our life must focus on the relationships critical for our mental health and well-being. It is a myth to believe work and “life” are separate. We can artificially manage the time we spend at each and work to find the most valuable balance.

Instead of thinking of work-life balance in terms of time, shift the paradigm and think of it by first identifying and ranking priorities. Identify the most important relationships and responsibilities. Commit to be accountable to those areas and learn to say “no” to the ones at the bottom or not even on the list. We should work on this exercise daily. Recognize activities that seem to be most important, then ask why they are important. If it truly matters, we should be able to articulate its importance. When we accomplish this task, we can then develop the strength and mental toughness to say “no” to distractions, superficial goals and relationships that take away from our true internal compass.

Live, love, learn and leave a legacy

When seeing patients and performing surgery becomes our dominant life guide, we fail to appreciate that the human spirit needs more to be successful over a lifetime. Stephen Covey wrote that our spirit is most fulfilled when we follow our heart, and we balance our efforts, which are driven by our innate need to live, love, learn and leave a legacy. Some may argue we can get this from our professional lives, but that is a false hope and shallow in its understanding. We may see colleagues who are well-accomplished in their careers, yet are cynical, irritable or disillusioned, lack energy, or may have succumbed to vices of alcohol, drugs and false relationships or have unexplained medical issues. Clearly, something is wrong with their work-life balance.

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We are social beings with an innate desire for redeeming relationships. Our overall system works best when we have fulfilling relationships. We live longer, accomplish more and provide hope and happiness to others. The desire to live is undeniable. We want to enjoy new events, locations and people. We need a healthy daily dose of redeeming relationships. Whether it is a spouse, partner, child or parent, we should prioritize the experience of sharing love every day. It is the most powerful medicine in the world.

One habit that has been cultivated throughout our professional life is the desire to learn. However, it is not enough to learn only for work. We should spend time every day learning something other than orthopedics. This effort opens minds in ways we do not understand, but is associated with innovative thoughts, creative endeavors and expanding horizons.

Leaving a legacy is about pursuing a purposeful life – one with meaning to you and those around you. Leaving a legacy is about creating a world that is better because you were part of it. Leaving a legacy is about leadership, mentorship, parenting, giving of yourself so others are better able to reach their potential and better able to pay your gift of time forward without expecting anything in return.

Set true priorities

As we continue to hear about increasing levels of burnout, depression and other mental illnesses among physicians, it is critical we work to break the vicious cycle of overworking, overachieving, overstressing and failing to delegate. Prepare to set the stage for a shift away from responsibilities that are not part of your true priorities. Get away from the tyranny of hand-held technology. Exercise and pay attention to nutrition. Focus on the most valuable relationships. Be mindful in their presence and truly interested in what is important.

The challenges we have overcome in the path to our current state have prepared us to accomplish what we set our minds on. Take a step back. Focus on answering your “why.” Focus on your purpose and setting key priorities. That is how we achieve successful, healthy and inspiring work-life balance.

Disclosure: Romeo reports he receives royalties, is on the speakers bureau, is a consultant and does contracted research for Arthrex; receives institutional grants from MLB; and receives institutional research support from Arthrex, Ossur, Smith & Nephew, ConMed Linvatec, Athletico and Wright Medical.