Got March Madness? Stop Bracketing Your Life

 (An image ubiquitous on the internet right now)

March Madness month is almost over, and some lucky (and skilled) players are about to reach their ultimate goals. It's also a time when people spend lots of energy predicting brackets and outcomes, expecting certain teams to win. The appearance of the bracket sheets remind me of my pre-medicine days as an engineer when I used to plan construction and water treatment projects. And it makes me think about how we often try to plan out the events of our lives as if they are on a linear time line... only life doesn't always comply with our plans. It certainly hasn't aligned with my expectations in recent months.

This article from the Huffington Post, although with a slightly mystical or religious bent, delivers the message clearly: life rarely follows a perfect plan. It's best to "show up" and work towards your goals as if they will happen exactly as you want, but don't expect the dominoes to fall perfectly into place. The result may be a richer experience than you ever imagined! The sentence from the article that really struck me is as follows:

"Release your natural need to control your direction, giving yourself permission to move fluidly into this unplanned space."

When I had brain surgery almost 3 years ago, I came out of a tough recovery period with a sense of gratitude and a singular focus on self-care. But as months passed, residency came to a close, and scars healed. At one point (with the nudging of my husband), I decided it was time to get serious about personal goal-setting. Ever since that time, I've been on a string of self-improvement projects. It started with gaining strength through a weight training program, then it was ramping up my clinical skills as a new attending anesthesiologist, then achieving a previous level of rock climbing prowess, then passing the oral boards... now getting pregnant. There were some 30-day challenges thrown in here and there, too - no complaining, no eating candy, 10,000 bodyweight squats, do a pull-up again, etc. While I have experienced frequent success in these endeavors, some "projects" haven't followed the expected timecourse. 

So what now? In the midst of my "one long pregnancy", I've decided to resist the tendency to control my direction and get back to the basics of self-care. I'm not worrying about my (lack of) strength. I'm not climbing much except a little bit for fun, and it's ok if I struggle on an easy boulder problem. Instead, I'm doing a mini-reset: focusing on balance and flexibility with a yoga session and/or a walk as many days as possible per week. Enjoying the clinical aspects of my work, celebrating my gifts of connecting with patients and working well with the surgical team. Journaling and blogging and connecting with friends and family. Doing craft projects with my hands. Looking into buying a piano, something I've wanted to do since I stopped playing in college. Not ignoring my ultimate goals per se but keeping away from expectations.


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