©️ Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
“Follow your heart and it will lead you to the right place!”
This is the advice that I have been doling out to my colleagues and juniors for as long as I can remember. This has been my own mantra in life too. I love what I do and I receive every new day as a blessing.
However, I recently started reading a book by the celebrated author- Cal Newport and that made me reflect a little more on this. I guess it’s high time for me to start reflecting… as almost fifty percent or more of my life has already passed by! 🙃
I am a very passionate doctor and a more passionate surgeon. There is not an iota of doubt that I love what I do and revel in the satisfaction and gratification that I derive from my chosen profession. And I can say with confidence that finally, it has all worked out well.
However, 25 years ago, when I first walked through the gates of my medical school, was it because of “passion” for medicine? Was I following my heart? I am not so sure. Well, for starters, back then, medicine and engineering were probably the two most coveted career options. That didn’t leave us with much of a choice unless you wish to include the “civil services” too. To add to that were my parents’ aspirations and especially my father’s, who was very hopeful that I will be a doctor some day. I also loved biology and thought that medicine would be the logical career progression, without realizing that studying the anatomy of frogs was a whole different world than dealing with patients. Ofcourse I cannot ignore the overarching influence of Bollywood where doctors were treated like God and their superpowers included diagnosing pregnancy by palpating the pulse of their patients 🙂 . I guess I also had the bare minimum IQ level to get through the entrance examination back in the days when there was no Kota and no Byju’s. Well, Kota did exist geographically but hadn’t achieved the fame levels of today! Then there was peer pressure, a competitive streak, an aspiration to be amongst the best students, some lofty ideals and the works…. So these were some of the reasons that kind of pushed me into the world of medicine and I am guessing many people would have had reasons similar to mine.
©️ Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
Was “passion” a part of this pot pourri of my reasons to become a doctor? Was I following my heart? Well I did think so, until recently. After reading this new book I thought about this a little more…..
25 years ago as elated as I was to get into medical school, I had less than zero idea about what I was getting into. Like many other medical students I have no doctors in the family. I had no exposure to a hospital. I had no idea whatsoever about what it takes to get through the decade-long arduous journey of under-graduation and post-graduation. Back then no one shadowed anyone. There was no way to find out what to expect. No one to warn how hard it was going to be. Ofcourse, once we enter the med school, reality does check in quite soon and we realize within months what we have signed up for. But as far as “passion” is concerned, I don’t think I had enough information to able to feel justifiably “passionate” about my chosen field.
It was hard in the beginning (med school can be quite daunting to start with) but gradually it also became fascinating. The deeper we delved into the mysteries of human mind and body, the more I started enjoying it. It still beats me how we could retain thousands of pages of medical literature in our minds and get through neverending torturous exams (I still get nightmares about those exams). Interacting with patients and being able to reach to a diagnosis would bring in another level of high. The excitement about the first delivery, first murmur, first suture, first surgery and the list of other marvelous firsts was endless. I guess I didn’t even realize when I fell in love with medicine and when passion slowly started creeping in and making its way. If wide- eyed is an expression to be taken seriously then I guess I was wide- eyed for pretty much most of the time and I guess I still am! Its almost magical to experience healing manifest so beautifully. I finally ended up being a bariatric surgeon and I guess a decent one at that. But was it a result of my passion for bariatric surgery? Absolutely not… because when I got into the thick of things, bariatric surgery was not even a thing in India.
So did I follow my heart or did my heart follow everything else that I did? I guess the point that I am getting to is that we probably need to learn to enjoy and put in our best efforts in whatever we do. Life is a series of surprises and many a times failing at something or not being able to get our own way, could be that hidden opportunity that may be leading us to our destiny. I discussed this briefly with some of my close girl friends and one of them rightly said that whatever we do must bring in fulfillment, it must contribute in a meaningful way and at the same time must lead to growth for us and those around us. It would be nice to be able to take educated decisions but not all of us are that lucky or pragmatic. Life can be unpredictable and has the potential to throw some pretty dark stuff at us. People who get to follow their passion as their life’s work are blessed. But people who turn their life’s work into their passion are equally blessed. At the end of the day it’s all about a “job well done”.
So, in conclusion, going forward, I am going to tweak my advice a little bit. “Don’t just follow your heart”, sometimes allow the heart to follow and add “passion” as a special ingredient in every chapter of your life! While cultivating a job for your passion is desirable, sometimes cultivating passion for your job may be equally fulfilling. The mantra to success was never simple but take each day as it comes. Love whatever you do and it will bring you a lot of happiness in return.
©️ Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
PS- The book I am reading is called- “Be so good they can’t ignore you” by Cal Newport