5 Easy Steps to Living Your Authentic Physician Life

authentic physician life

francis yooEditor’s note: I’m grateful to Dr. Francis Yoo for submitting an excellent post on living your authentic physician life.  Medicine is not an easy career.  Also, with more and more colleagues suffering from burnout, we need real solutions, not platitudes.  Dr. Yoo’s perspective is incredibly refreshing.  Don’t chase someone else’s dream!  It’s time to live authentically!

Most of us signed up for medical school with hopes and expectations for a rewarding career that would contribute to peoples’ health using the knowledge and training we would gain. 

Instead we are taught and trained to conform. 

To become part of the faceless crowd.

To let others make decisions for us that we need only to follow. 

Physicians who follow and stay on this path squander their education and training, skills and talents, opportunities, money, relationships, and ultimately any meaning in life. They do not learn about their finances and do not formulate a plan for wealth. They let others dictate their career and clinical practice decisions for them. Someone else controls their time and energy. They give up health, wealth, and relationships. They serve those that do not have their best interests in mind. These physicians unnecessarily sacrifice time with their loved ones and other meaningful pursuits. They are in a fog, often checked out and asleep to themselves. 

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Is this you?

It doesn’t have to be. 

Let me say that again: it doesn’t have to be. 

Keep reading if you want to check in, wake up to yourself, and live your authentic physician life.

The first step to living your authentic physician life is to define and refine why you are alive. As odd as it may sound, the best way to do this is to stop and remember that you are going to die. Maybe it will be fifty years from now, five years from now, or five days from now, but it’s going to happen sooner or later. 

You are going to die whether you like it or not, and your life in this world as you know it will come to an end. It could be from a terminal medical condition or an acute event. It could be in the hospital, in your own bed during sleep, or anywhere, really.

Perhaps your children, estate, and story will remain, but eventually all those will also pass away. Also, consider that all of humanity can easily be wiped out any day by natural or human-caused disasters or even by changes to the Earth’s rotational axis or distance from the sun. 

It could all be gone in an instant. 

Living authentically means facing your mortality and asking yourself: “What will everything have meant? Have I lived a life true to myself up to now? Am I being true to myself today?”

The second step to living an authentic physician life is to realize that only you can live your life and that there is absolutely no time and space to let others decide your life for you. Decisions are being made all of the time, and if you are not making the decisions that affect your life, it means that someone else is making those decisions for you. Think about it this way: when you die, will you and everyone else say that you lived true to yourself and fulfilled your potential by actively making decisions and taking deliberate action? 

Or will you have lived life satisfying and catering to decisions made by the AMA/AOA, board-certifying bodies, hospital administration, insurance companies, society’s expectations, or what your parents want? Living authentically means making your own choices and not letting others decide your life for you.

The third step to living an authentic physician life is to acknowledge and accept your one real obstacle: yourself. You are your own worst enemy. You can come up with any and all excuses possible to prove why you are not able to achieve and accomplish more and fulfill more of your potential. Instead, you must know that amazingly successful people started with many fewer resources and less education than you have. Consider:

  • Tony Robbins had a chaotic home that he left in his teenage years and did not attend college; 
  • Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty and was abused at home. 
  • Nick Vujicic was born without limbs and lives an unimpeded, successful life. 

So, what’s stopping you?

What’s stopping you is not the absence of education, ability, or resources. Rather, you have an internal drama fueled by cognitive biases, defense mechanisms, distortions and automatic thoughts, emotions, and habits that you use to “explain” why you cannot do this or that. 

Living authentically means observing and becoming aware of that internal drama and then deliberately moving past it to continue your journey.

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The fourth step to living an authentic physician life is to align your strategies, goals, objectives, tactics, and actions with your purpose, vision, and mission.

For example, a part of my vision is to transform lives by applying integrated knowledge in clinical and non-clinical settings and to help physicians wake up to their authentic physician lives. Part of my strategy is to create multiple, diverse sources of income that erases financial uncertainty and enables me to be charitable with my time and money. Accordingly, one of my current action steps is to learn how to earn income by investing in real estate. 

Living authentically means having a definitive plan that leads to your definitive purpose. This does not mean the plans will always succeed, but having the framework allows you to pivot and make adjustments.  

The fifth and final step to living an authentic physician life is to get help from mentors, coaches, teachers, and more. Find mentors who have already accomplished what you want to do. Find coaches who can keep you on track and help you level up. There are all sorts of coaches out there: life coaches, weight loss coaches, business coaches, relationship coaches, and many more. Living authentically means knowing you need help and then being able to find and invest in it. 

Final thoughts

In short, living an authentic physician life is about facing yourself, being fully responsible for your choices in your rather fleeting lifespan, leveraging all that you gained from becoming a physician, treasuring that which is most precious to you, having a definitive purpose and plan, and taking action to make it happen. When you get lost, remember, acknowledge, and accept this: You are going to die. There is nothing you can do to avoid it. What you can do is to refuse to let other people and circumstances decide how you live. 

So, will you stop living someone else’s life and start living your own?

It’s your choice.

Dr. Francis Yoo, DO


Dr. Yoo is a physician who teaches personal and professional development to physicians and guides them to take control of and live their authentic physician lives.  He is a business and professional coach who enjoys helping physicians achieve career and life satisfaction.  You can connect with him through a variety of mediums.  

Further Reading

Please leave a comment below!  What do think “living an authentic physician life” looks like?

burnout, dentist, financial goal, giving, physician, purpose

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