Your Physician Career as a “Soul Journey”
Listen to Your Heart, Not Your Head When Deciding Your Path
Carlos Castaneda’s classic teachings through his mentor Don Juan lend insight to anyone questioning whether their current path is the “right” one. An excerpt from his writings urges us to ask one question: does this path have heart? Does it strengthen me or weaken me? From Castaneda’s “Apprentice to a Yaqui Sorcerer,” is this remarkable passage:
Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is not affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition.
I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old person asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart?
All paths are the same; they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. “Does this path have a heart?” One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
The trouble is nobody asks the question: and when a person finally realizes that they have taken a path without heart, the path is ready to kill them. At that point very few people stop to deliberate and leave the path.
A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.
For my part there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length.
And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.
View Your Physician Career Journey as a “Soul Journey”
Like the wonderful saying, “life is a journey, not a destination,” your career journey can be thought of in the same light. You can feel overwhelmed with fear, uncertainty and remorse if you think the “next” move from where you are right now must be the “perfect situation.” Instead, believe that the next place along your life-work journey will be one of many consecutive opportunities to learn and to contribute. You have learned so much already from where you are and where you’ve been—and not just about medicine. Each stop is an opportunity to put that learning into service for others in a new or different way. Your next place may be as a parent, leader, coach, volunteer, author, artist, inventor, seeker, spouse, student, or teacher. Be open to continuous learning and to continuous movement forward—sometimes incremental, sometimes monumental.