The Courage to Let Go
In August 2014 I spoke at TEDx Johannesburg, a local version of the global TED conferences. In the spirit of the TED slogan – Ideas Worth Spreading – I chose to speak about an idea that I think desperately needs to spread: the notion that we must have the courage to let go of what no longer serves us if we want to give the world the best of what we’ve got.
Of course this is an idea that’s very close to my heart. When I walked away from clinical medicine in 2004 I felt deeply that I wasn’t serving my patients in the way that I wanted to – I was disillusioned, traumatised and burned out, and I didn’t recognise the irritable and miserable person I was turning into.
Walking away gave me the distance I needed to recover a sense of wholeness and to recreate myself in a way that makes the most of my skills, talents and interests. It comes as no surprise, then, that the issues I’m highlighting through my writing are igniting positive and constructive conversations in the medical fraternity. I feel that I am now impacting doctors, patients and the healthcare system in a way that I couldn’t when I was working as a doctor.
There’s another reason I feel so strongly about the importance of recognising when it’s time to walk away. Too often I encounter talented people who want to make a difference in the world but whose enthusiasm is sapped by their insistence on persisting in soul-destroying careers and professions. I know it’s tough, especially for professionals who devote years of their lives to making it through the strict hierarchies of their chosen professions. I understand that it’s a major step – a monumental leap – to leave a “sure thing” like medicine or law.
But what is the cost of disillusionment? What breakthroughs, successes and lessons do you forego when you choose to stay where you know you are, simply going through the motions? What is the price you pay in terms of your satisfaction and fulfillment, even your health and well-being?
For me it was too high a price, so I chose to walk away and start again.
Are you lit up and excited about your work, or has disillusionment killed the spark?
What would it take for you to walk away?
What new dreams could become available if you had the courage to let go?
(Photo by: Sims Phakisi, TEDx Johannesburg)