Happiness, Elusive, but Somewhere Out There

Physician's Money Digest, February29 2004, Volume 11, Issue 4

I don't use public opinion polls tomake up my mind, but I will employthem to address an issue. We don'thave enough substantive debate onthe major issues impacting our times.

Some might say that the topic of happinessis too personal an issue to be discussed.However, I agree with Gallup Pollofficials who point out that the framers ofthe US Constitution made "life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness" the fundamentalrights of our democracy.

An annual poll on national happinesssteers me toward some musings about theissue in general. Besides, spurred by somerecent Editor's Notes on the subject, I'vebeen getting a lot of feedback from physician-readers on the matter of career happinessfor medical doctors.

Happy Days?

Basically, the poll of 1000+ Americansfound that more citizens said theywere currently "very happy" than at anyother time in the past 50 years. The vastmajority of people (95%) said they wereeither "very happy" or "fairly happy."No one polled admitted to being totallyunhappy. You wouldn't know it, though,if you turned on the TV.

But as I'm so often told, happiness is achoice—regardless of circumstances. In recentdays, I've received several thoughtfule-mails from our readers. One letter, froman Oklahoma physician of 40-years' practicewhose daughter just graduated frommed school was particularly reflective.

Filled with pride over a daughter'scareer choice, the reader called it "tragic"that so many "unhappy doctors"are discouraging their children from acareer in medicine. "How many trulygifted people will be diverted from medicineby a physician-parent who is bitter?It's their world; let them adapt to it.I'm more than happy to invite them tothe wonderful world of medicine."

Showing the Way

One physician-parent I know—whilehardly an authority on the matter—worked to sustain a happy life. My dadrespected my mom and loved being withher. In turn, they served as role models—respecting and helping others, supportingthe community, and enjoying life.

And though touched by some tragicevents, like all families, I can honestly saythat I grew up in a happy household. Myparents built a fine legacy. My sisters andbrothers were, and remain, caring people.

We got through some tough times togetherand now share warm memories.We certainly love each other. But justas important sometimes, we learned tolike each other. Under those conditions,I have found out, happiness has a truechance of taking hold.