The dumb things I used to believe in: Answers and Purposes

This burning question is courtesy of the incredible Danielle LaPorte, muse and firestarter. It’s the third question of her series, but she has promised us many more, so you may see my answers crop up here from time to time. I hope you enjoy this break from the usual health-focused programming!

What is the one dumb thing you used to believe in?

I used to believe that if I did X, then I would have the answer to the world’s problems. If I became a neuroscientist, I would unlock the secrets of the human mind. If I became a doctor, I would understand how to fix healthcare. If I did X, then Y, my purpose in life, the answer would just arise, somehow, from my experience. (Along with fame and fortune, of course, but that was naturally less important).

What I’ve realized lately is that there is no real, one answer or even a defined set of answers to the world’s problems. That even as I gain more knowledge and experience, it only serves to deepen my sense of insecurity and ambiguity. That sometimes that feeling of not knowing and not being certain is the right place to be. That instead I should be thinking of ways to set my mind free, rather than to let it take a set path to a presumed answer, when there are so many perspectives and possibilities to embrace.

I’ve also realized that trying to live a life with a purpose, even in trying to write about living a life with a purpose as I have attempted with this blog, that purposes do not arise so much from directed action. Even if we do try and force a certain “purpose” to an experience, we cannot know whether that experience will really turn out to fulfill that purpose. Instead, we might gain something very different from that experience. This is a common frustration of program directors trying to organize meaningful clinical experiences and for students trying to seek the right experiences to make a compelling residency application. No matter what our best-laid plains might be, our purposes will always make more sense in retrospect, when we go back and look at the story of our lives. So rather than thinking that if X, then Y, I have come to realize, it’s far more important to try X — without any expectation of what will happen — and see where that experience takes me.