Periodic rough patches are normal in any career, but in the life-or-death world of medicine, they can be especially difficult. Sometimes the best way to move through a difficult period is to seek outside perspective and context. These five books provide both.
Meditationsby Marcus Aurelius
Useful for: Learning to master your emotions
Meditationsis the private journal of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was the last emperor during the Pax Romana, ruling from 161-180 A.D. Aurelius was no stranger to hardship during his reign, having witnessed war and rebellion, and dealt with his own deteriorating health. Meditations illustrates how Aurelius used Stoic philosophy to inform his decision-making and restrain his emotions.
You could almost see this compact volume as an instruction manual for dealing with the emotional anguish and frustration that sometimes accompany the medical profession. You can’t control the curveballs patients and your superiors will throw at you, but you can learn to control how you feel about them and how you respond to them.
10% Happierby Dan Harris
Useful for: Learning mindfulness
Dan Harris is a television journalist who stumbled into the world of mindfulness and meditation after having a highly publicized on-air anxiety attack. 10% Happier almost serves as a skeptic’s guide to mediation. Harris turned to mindfulness work after other attempts to control his anxiety symptoms failed. The book demystifies meditation, making it more accessible.
10% Happieris useful for any doctor looking to better manage their stress and anxiety by developing a mindfulness process. It maps out how you can become a meditator with minimal time, effort, and weirdness.
Essentialismby Greg McKeown
Useful for: Learning to manage your time more effectively
Essentialismopens in the aftermath of the birth of McKeown’s child. He finds himself torn between going to a meeting deemed important by his superior, or staying with his wife and newborn. No spoilers: You’ll have to pick up the book to find out what he decides. What follows is an exploration of how our failure to set priorities in life often leads to discontent. McKeown goes on to lay out a system for determining what is essential and what isn’t.
Often in medicine, it’s crystal clear what is essential and what isn’t. Sometimes it’s as black and white as life or death. Doctors thrive with this level of clarity and specificity. It’s what they trained for. It’s all of the other tasks, social demands, and seemingly important minutiae that exacerbate an already tense and challenging career. Essentialism will give you a blueprint for managing these things.