Seeking balance: A worthy quest

July 1, 2007

Dermatologists should stop struggling and embrace the concept that work-life balance is not work and life as two separate things. Rather, balance is finding joy, happiness and fulfillment in everything you do, whether you are at work or not,

Rather, balance is finding joy, happiness and fulfillment in everything you do, whether at work or not, according to Mark V. Dahl, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of dermatology, the Mayo College of Medicine, Scottsdale, Ariz. Dr. Dahl leads the work balance initiative at Mayo Clinic Arizona.

"You should strive to be engaged in whatever you are doing," Dr. Dahl tells Dermatology Times. "The best moments in our lives are not the passive, relaxing, leisure times; instead they are moments of engagement, participation and challenge."

Dr. Dahl points out that becoming aware of feelings of being in balance helps people maximize the situations that really make them feel good.

A common myth is that better time management leads to balance.

"Many people think if they manage their time better they can get in balance," Dr. Dahl says. "That is a false concept. There is never enough time. People have a victim mentality. They think if only I had more time they could do all the things I want. That is a myth. You have to get past that idea."

Instead, Dr. Dahl says that physicians should stop struggling. "We make ourselves miserable with frustration, anger and impatience. It's better to accept life and go with the flow. Resist the temptation either to fight things or run away from them."

Choosing your future

Dr. Dahl notes that physicians can bring the "fish philosophies" to their life and practice.

The concept, which is designed to increase satisfaction and productivity, comes from "Fish!" a best-selling book and film produced by ChartHouse Learning Corp. Many businesses, schools and individuals have implemented the program based on the fishmongers of Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market; the fishmongers engage customers and tourists with chatter, jokes and fish tossing.

The basics of the philosophy include:

What's balance worth?

"The desire to collect money makes us work for money rather than for patients and self satisfaction," Dr. Dahl reports.

"It's a flawed goal. We need to measure our worth not in dollars but rather in work satisfaction and compassionate care. Balance comes hard to those who see the practice of medicine only as a business. These physicians miss the wonderful rewards and sense of joy that come when you know you are really helping people."

Physicians need to figure out what schedule and patient load works best for them.

"A lot of dermatologists prefer to have a day off so they work a four-day week, but then they overload themselves on the days they are there," he says, noting that is not necessarily balance.