Many pharmacists are unhappy, because they passively decide to stay in situations they dislike.
Decision-making is something with which many people struggle, and pharmacists are no exception. Many pharmacists seem unhappy, even though most are in the top 10% of income earners in the country. The famous author Stephen Covey once wrote that “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Our daily life is full of small decisions, such as what to order in a restaurant, and larger decisions, such as when to trade in a car. Then there are decisions that can change our lives for better or worse, including those related to how to prioritize, so that we put the things that make us happy at the top of the list.
I once lived in Hilo, Hawaii, and that was the fulfillment of a dream. But moving there was not easy. I left my job in South Carolina and started my job in Hilo less than 3 weeks later. I remember being on the plane crossing the Pacific Ocean and having a little voice asking, “What have you just done?” Hawaii is so far away from the East Coast where I grew up. I received a sign-on bonus from the company in Hawaii to stay 2 years, which looking back on it, was better from an emotional than a financial standpoint. I was able to think to myself that, no matter what, I can stay 2 years, and if I decide I do not like it, I can always move back. Of course, soon after arriving, I was diving, exploring the island, and incredibly happy with my decision. Less than 2 years later, I was engaged.
What would have happened if I had been too afraid to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a lifelong dream? What if I had felt that it was better to stay comfortable and not rock the boat? Looking back, I do not even want to imagine how different my life would have been. However, I would have definitely chosen that life if I had. The difference between the 2 are what I think of as active versus passive decision-making. When we actively decide to stay in our current situation, whether that is a job, location, or something else, we are doing so because it is truly what we want at this stage in our life and we are happy in that situation. When we passively decide to, we are doing so because it is uncomfortable to change the situation, so we are thinking to ourselves, “I’ll stay where I’m at right now and decide later what I want to do.” The problem is, when we decide that we will change our lives later, what we really are doing is deciding that we will keep our life the way it is now. In the business world, this is called the "status quo trap" of decision making.
I really respect Alex Barker for putting so much effort into helping pharmacists become happier in terms of their careers, whether that is adopting a different outlook on their current role, transitioning into a new pharmacy role, or leaving the industry entirely. Those who have not read any of his articles, especially those who do not feel fulfilled in their careers, should take a look. I also recommend that pharmacists spend quality time reflecting on what it is want society and not what society, family, or anyone else wants. Pharmacists should consider using a notebook to write down the things they want to help organize their thoughts. Then, pursue them persistently to reach the goals. These could be simple things, such as spending time with family or friends or on a hobby. It could even be something crazy, such as moving to Hawaii. Pharmacists should live simply, so that they can manage their money and the money does not manage them. Securing a happier career and life takes regular maintenance, so regroup every so often to make sure it is the result of active decision-making and have not slipped back into the status quo.