We have all heard the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Thinking about these quotes, I find them applicable to the concept of success in medicine. My adaptation would be that “success in medicine is in the mind of the participant” and that “most physicians are about as successful as they make their minds up to be.”

How Do You Define Success in Medicine?

Would these statements hold up to the rigorous scrutiny of the medical community? Or, would they just be dismissed as excuses for not being able to achieve the goals or accolades set and valued in medicine. Is it just a copout because you couldn’t hack it or make it by the definition of success in your medical career? Well, that would really be decided by you at the end of the day. How do you define success in medicine?

At the end of the day, success in medicine is defined by the individual and should bestow some satisfaction upon the bearer of the success. In the world of customer service, satisfaction is defined by expectations and perceptions. If the perception of the service provided does not meet the expectations for that service, the customer won’t feel satisfied. However, if the customer perceives that the service surpasses their expectations, then they will be more than satisfied with the service. The trick to customer service is to manage the customer’s expectations and be sure to meet or exceed them. You are the customer and the service provider of your life. You are responsible for setting your own expectations and are responsible for your own perceptions. How can you be satisfied, or happy for that matter, if you are trying to exceed the expectations that are set by others and their perception of you meeting them or falling short?


Live By What YOU Define as Success

Your expectation for what is successful in medicine can be defined by academic achievements, such as reaching a specific professional title or publishing research manuscripts, treating your patients well and connecting with them on a personal level, realizing certain financial or business goals, advocating for specific health issues, engaging in educational projects and teaching others, accomplishing a work-life balance, and many other opportunities that a medical career has to offer. Your definition of success in medicine should resonate with you in a way that makes you feel good, feel happy, and feel gratified. But, you can’t live by what others define as success. You have to live by what you define as success. In the end, you have to be satisfied with what you did in medicine, and that can’t be foisted on you by anyone else but yourself.


Become the Best Version of Yourself

It all boils down to what you feel is important in your life and what you value. What you feel is important now may not have been what you felt was important 10 years ago. We all have priority shifts in our lives. We all weigh the benefits and costs of our actions, dreams, and goals.  Everything in life has a cost. Is achieving a defined level of success worth the cost? Even inaction has a cost. You just have to decide what you are willing to “pay” for the level of success that you are striving for. Are you willing to “pay” in time, energy, relationships, family, health, financial investment, or something else? Only you can make that decision.

In a field that is packed with intelligent, driven, goal-oriented, hard-working, and passionate individuals, how do you rise above everyone else and become successful? You have to realize that success is relative, success is personal, and success is circumstantial and contextual.  It all starts with a one-step program: outline what you feel is your description of success by what you feel is important and what you want to accomplish with your life. Nobody can define that for you. You have to define that for yourself. Your job is not to rise above everyone else, but to rise to the level of what you envision is your highest potential and become the best version of yourself.