Thursday, May 21, 2009

More on "Work Worth Doing"

I'm obsessed with the the question: What is Work Worth Doing? In an earlier post I'd written about what former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had to say about happiness and its direct link to "work worth doing". An attractive hypothesis, these three words still have me flummoxed personally.

I'm seeking the proper mental approach to the work I've done for over 25 years. Somewhere in the soup sits the key to unlocking the door in my mental block that says what I do has little or no meaning to me. I know that what I do often has meaning for patients and our interactions are "worth doing". Why am I left with the emptiness that comes from struggle and a sense that little that I say or do results (I'm a results sort of person) in meaningful change for the better? I'm not talking about prescribing antibiotics to cure a pneumonia. I'm talking about the weight of age, and problem lists with a minimum of 6 major diseases, the total body decline that is inexorable. What do I have to offer but an organized ear, a mirror that talks back in a language understandable to to my patient, a trained mind? It's just not enough I say to myself over and over; it's just not enough.

And so, I'm destined to wrestle with this question after decades of plodding along. My colleagues who love what they do tell me the worth (and the joy) come in the moments, however brief, when there is human connection on a deeper level, a trust, a link of understanding; call it what you will. For me it still translates to exhausting work that gives back little in nourishment.

I'm too scared to quit however.

I cannot imagine that there is anything else out there for me. I need to juggle my mind, mix it up, re-boot the neurons so that this becomes (again) work worth doing.


  1. There was a good article on Slate today that might be an enjoyable read for you:

    The book mentioned in the article seems interesting, as well.

  2. I hear your questions and feel your uncertainty. The idea of work worth doing has been with me since you first wrote about it. It's something I struggle with, too, as I try to change careers. This limbo is uncomfortable and it was a winding road that brought me to this point. Now that I'm here I figure I might as well stick it out to see what happens. Truth be told, I don't think I would have taken the risks I did two years ago if I had known everything would be so murky for so long. I am holding onto the hope that what I am supposed to be doing will become clear. The upside is that I could not have made the personal changes I've made if I had stayed the course I was on. The cliche "everything happens for a reason" has been my default mantra more times than I care to count.


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