Looking to the Future

by Jared Smith, MD

Often in life we are looking forward to the future. We believe that when we reach some point or milestone, then we will truly be happy and life will be so much better. The problem is that there are always challenges in life and that elusive future that we envision may never materialize how we expect. If we are always looking to the future, we can miss many remarkable stops along the journey. This tendency to be forward looking starts early in life. For example, when we are kids, we can’t wait to be an adult to have more freedom and have everything that comes with being grown up. Later in life, having kids of your own they seem to make endless messes and have frequent tantrums, we look forward to our kids being more independent and more able to take care of themselves. However, we often look forward to these points in the future only to realize we wish we could go back to the points leading up to them. We wish we would have soaked in more of those moments and long to have that time back.

In medical training, this is all too true. It starts with getting accepted into medical school. This is a big hurdle and accomplishment. After all the volunteering, research, leadership roles, difficult courses and successfully navigating all these responsibilities, I remember thinking I had arrived. Now life could really begin. However, I found out that getting into medical school was just the start. Long days studying for endless exams and processing large amounts of information became the typical day. Once in medical school, all focus seems to shift toward making yourself competitive for residency and getting into a quality residency program.

I remember thinking at times that once I got into residency, I would be a real doctor and certainly some of my idealistic vision for a perfect future would start to come together. And yes, it did to some extent, but the challenges of having many patient’s I was responsible for and being pushed outside my comfort zone regularly was taxing, albeit rewarding. Then, during residency my focus moved to finishing the rotation successfully and finding the dream job.

As I am finishing residency and now that I have a job lined up, I have realized this is an accomplishment and I am happy with the skills and knowledge I have obtained to assist my patients.  I will have a larger living space and be able to enjoy some luxuries I haven’t yet to this point, but it’s maybe not the absolutely perfect future I pictured many years ago.

All of this is to say that we need to find meaning in the journey and try to be present in the here and now. Because there will always be something to work toward or look forward to and getting to these points is not as worthwhile if we don’t enjoy the process and moments that led us to get there. This is certainly easier said than done. However, I do know that when I have been more present in the moment and not been so focused on the future, I have not regretted it. This will be a focus of mine moving forward and one that I wish I had been better at in the past.

Dr. Smith is from Centerville, Utah. He completed his undergraduate degree at Weber State University and his medical degree at Creighton University. His medical interests include sports medicine, health promotion, social determinants of health, behavioral health, pediatrics, and integrative medicine. He enjoys golfing, hiking, trail running, doing anything outdoors, walks with his German shepherd, spending time with his wife and daughter, and watching sports. He chose the University of Utah because of the supportive residents and faculty, great combination of academic and community medicine, sports medicine opportunities, commitment to innovation in patient care, emphasis on creating leaders in family medicine, and the close proximity to outdoor activities and family.

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