Ever heard of the concept of diversifying your income stream?
It’s a commonly dispensed piece of advice these days, handed out readily to those who wish to invest their money smartly, retire early, or just come out on top, financially.
Here is the definition of what it means, from money.usnews.com:
“Diversification remains important throughout your retirement years and will protect you in the event a primary income source loses value or becomes unstable. Instead of withdrawing your living expenses from a single source, consider funding your retirement from multiple income streams.”
It Hit Me.
I realized a while back, that the same concept Of diversifying income stream can be applied to finding happiness in life.
It came to me as I sat back in my chair, on a warm weekend evening, as the sun began to set. I looked around me – at all the things that I had – and a grin of pleasure crept up on my face. Not because I had it all – I don’t – but because I had found a way to make due with what I did. It’s an emotionally stable place otherwise referred to as ‘feeling satisfied’. It’s a good place to be.
But some of us seek for more than just satisfactory. Some of us possess the drive to push ourselves to the above and beyond. We may be seeing the glass half-full, but we also continue striving to fill the other half.
What I mean is that you can appreciate what you have while also pushing through barriers of achieving more. Although it can be a slippery slope (some may refer to this as focusing on the half empty), I’m confident there’s a way to embrace this in a perfectly health (and happy) way.
Focusing on filling the empty half comes from a healthy place if you’re satisfied with the part that’s half-full. If tomorrow, all that I work to achieve will *poof* disappear, I’ll still be the happy person I am today.
The key, I believe, is the drive involved in filling that glass; not focusing on the fact that it’s empty, but that you possess the ability to fill it (and that if you don’t, things will still be ok).
My life streams became diversified during a hiatus from medicine.
I started to partake in things I had never done before (having dabbled in very little until I became a physician).
Many physician paths are straight and narrow. It’s somehow determined we’ll become doctors (for me it was back in the womb) and then we wake up one morning, well into adulthood, wondering if life is missing substance. We can’t always place our latex-gloved finger on what that substance is, not realizing it may be due to the straight-edged medical path we’ve been traveling on.
This is especially true if you take it on without a break. 28 years later (more for many), you find yourself at the end, in debt, and now facing the pressures of a responsible medical practice. You realize the rough road you took on was actually just the start – the rehearsal – and now comes the real deal.
Taking a Late Time Out.
It was during my time off – a luxury not everyone can partake in and for which I’m thankful for – that my senses began to feel satiated.
Fast forward several years – spent molding talents I never knew I had – and *voila*, I had in front of me a whole new world of possibilities.
It was around this time that the aforementioned smile started reappeared on my face. I was happy. There was a world outside of medicine that I had not only discovered, but now was enjoying.
Maybe this separate world serves as an escape. Though I loved medicine – back in the thick of things now – I also had something else I can focus on, when I got home from work. My kids were growing older, becoming more self-sufficient, and it became difficult letting go of my newly diversified life. I had found passion outside of medicine.
I realized, all of a sudden, the uncanny similarity behind achieving financial success and discovering that happiness factor that many of us continually search for. It’s not because we aren’t happy in our white coat, but because we need diversification. Just like our finances.
Holding the Key & Not Realizing It.
It seemed so simple. Why had I not pursued this earlier? Here was a key – an answer to a problem many in medicine struggle with (we call it burnout) – and it was right at the tips of my fingers! Yet I hadn’t bothered using it.
Or, quite honestly, I just didn’t have the time to explore.
Expand Your Horizon.
When we focus on a single path in life, putting our effort – all of our precious mental, and even physical, energy – into that one thing, we like on the pressure. Many of us have experienced it as we took on the doctored path (university to medixal school to internship to residency and some, to fellowship). We often find ourselves disappointed at the end, after years of practicing the same thing.
This is essentially the premise behind the burnout infecting our noble profession. That and the fact that our healthcare system is crumbling around us.
A Proposed Solution.
Here’s something quite simple to consider. Physicians should experiment with extracurricular activities. They should start to think outside the box, and spend time discovering possibilities outside of the exam room. It can literally make up the difference between personal contentment and running out of steam.
The logic is similar to what our children face today, when they feel pressured to excel in a particular sport, and consequently push away all other potential interests. A Washington Post article titled Why 70 Percent of Kids Quit Sports by Age 13 states that:
“Increasingly kids are pressured to “find their passion” and excel in that area (be it music, arts, sports, etc.). There are certainly kids for whom this is true, but it is not the norm (despite the expectations of college admissions officers). For many, there’s a strong argument against this trend, because the message is essentially to pick one thing and specialize in it (to the exclusion of pursuing other interests).”
My conclusion is that in life, we should adapt a simple concept: that branching out is a must. Keeping your horizons open and accepting all possibilities for growth will more likely lead you to stumble upon that treasure – the golden personal happy place. And it could be hidden in the least obvious of places.
Tying it All In.
Somehow, I had managed to tie together financial diversification, prevention of childhood stifling, and the successful pursuit of personal satisfaction. Does any of this actually make sense, I asked myself. Did these concepts actually connect?
So I took one of the concepts – diversification of income streams – and found relevant write ups on the topic. In each and every case, advice given was completely applicable to my theory that multiple interests foster happiness. My key solution to medical burnout.
An article written on the topic from College Investor:
“The more I diversify my income, the more I realize what a huge blessing it is to have the opportunity to do this. It not only allows me to experiment with new ideas, but I also have the comfort of knowing that if one income stream fails, I have several more to back me up.”
Exactly how we should be describing our own well-being. When our medical workday ends, our passions beckon us in. Just swap income with activities or interests, and you have a medical eureka moment – a solution to burnout.
Another article, this one in entrepreneur.com, stated:
“For anyone who values financial security and ultimately desires financial freedom, creating at least one additional stream of income is no longer a luxury. It has become a necessity.”
Another metaphorically equivalent gem. Doctors must find interests outside of work.
I came to the conclusion that my hypothesis was right and made it official (by writing this blog post).
Although it’s a fairly straightforward concept, I felt it needed spelling out.
The bottom line is this. When it comes to your life’s work – and to the experiences you afford yourself in life – don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Spread them around, and try out other baskets. You never know what you’ll find.
In the pursuit of happiness, diversify your life streams!
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