Last week I spoke with a gynecologist in private practice who told me that he couldn’t remember the last time he took a vacation. His wife and children frequently travel to the beach and overseas, but he just cannot take time off from his practice. When I asked him how he felt about not having vacations, he replied that he is glad that he can provide this lifestyle to his family, but sometimes he does feel resentment towards his family, who enjoys life and spends the money.

He stated, “I wished I had more work-life balance, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. The thought about all the work that is waiting for me after my return is just too overwhelming. Then I prefer to stay here.”

And when I asked, “so what do you do to renew yourself and get some distance from your practice?” He said, “oh I play golf every so often but by far not enough as I would like to.”

Now to me this sounds like a sad life because so many physicians become slaves to their practice rather than being their masters. They are slaves to a “rich-looking lifestyle” that they cannot truly enjoy. And yes it is easy to fall into this trap when you are not careful.

During our conversation, we discussed the question, “How do you restore balance?” An important question to ask yourself when work is becoming a burden and life has lost its joy.

He said, “I don’t know, and I wouldn’t even know what this means and how to do it.” He continued, “I try not to think about it and maybe one day an opportunity will open up.”

You see some physicians think that the opportunity will present itself but I can tell you from experience, it won’t unless you create it.

Work and your practice are part of your life; they are not life itself unless this is something you want and only enjoy. Based on the conversation I had with this physician, this is not what he wanted, but he got trapped and didn’t know his way out.

When you don’t know what you want to get out of life and set boundaries for your practice accordingly, it will become a greedy entity that will take anything it gets. And if you think that you will ever get finished with your practice and get home with no more tasks on your desk, you are fooling yourself as well. There are always more patients to be seen, more clinical papers to be read, better medical notes to be taken. You will never get it all done where you feel you are caught up with it all.

As for the gynecologist, he decided that he had to draw a boundary. The next day he emailed me that he spoke with his family that same night and decided to join them on a one week trip to the mountains. I responded to him that should he get cold feet when the date approaches, he should reach out to me first before canceling the plans. Hopefully, I will hear from him later how important and valuable this time out will be for him.

Are you someone who is sacrificing your well-being for your practice and its success? And are you getting full pleasure out of it? If so, you can continue what you have been doing. If you feel resentment, burnout, and exhaustion, I urge you to make time available to restore your balance by restructuring your priorities. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take a long vacation; time-outs and priorities can have different forms and feelings for everyone. Again, in the end, your practice is part of life but not life itself. And your patients deserve it too that you are feeling good about your life and work.