Finding Your Zen in Pharmacy

April 30, 2015

To start your introspective career journey, ask yourself these deceptively simple questions.

I recently read a very interesting article about a pharmacy-run, pre-travel health clinic that offers itinerary- and patient-specific services, including necessary immunizations and prophylactic prescription medications. The author of the article, an apparent admirer of world travel, describes her professional development as a result of her experiences in the clinic.

After reading the article, I took home the realization of how imperative yet difficult it is for health care professionals to combine their passions with their profession in order to remain satisfied with their career. This fusion of personal interests and work can help pharmacistd define their professional identity, uncover meaning in their work, create their niche, and find Zen in their career.

While this key to happiness is hardly a secret, I have found it can sometimes prove challenging for pharmacists, especially those who enter the profession for the wrong reasons. Incorporating interests into your work can make a career a life sentence or lifelong adventure. Whether you are a freshly minted graduate finding your place in the world or a seasoned pharmacist looking for change, creating your niche may help you find the role you are perfect for and a career that you love.

Some of the most happy and successful individuals we read about achieved their success by identifying their strengths and marketing themselves around them. They have not only maximized their skills to fashion valuable niches for themselves, but also built their careers around those niches.

Discovering your niche can be hard, and finding that perfect career can be even harder. Doing so when you’re in a position or career you're not passionate about can prove to be hardest. But, it can be done with some soul searching to discover who you really are. To start your introspective journey, ask yourself these deceptively simple questions:

1. What am I good at? Maximizing and utilizing your strengths is how you find your place in the world. It will also make your life more productive and fulfilled when you actively use your talents.

2. What am I not good at? Manage your weaknesses so they do not become a liability. This will free up your time and allow you to develop your strengths.

3. What am I interested in? What do I want to learn about? Do you find technology fascinating? Do you think pharmacogenomics is the greatest thing since sliced bread? Sometimes, you might not be the best judge of what makes you happy, so ask those who know you best when you seem happiest and what you do most enthusiastically.

4. What does “success” mean to me? Do you define “success” as being able to retire early? Cure a disease? Help a good cause in an impoverished nation?

5. If you didn't have to worry about debt, loans, salary, and being practical, what would you be doing with your life? Is there a way to tie this answer to your profession?

6. What are my top personal values? Pick the 5 values in this sample list that you find the most important to you. This can help highlight what matters most to you in a career.

Accountability

Accuracy

Achievement

Adventurousness

Altruism

Ambition

Assertiveness

Balance

Being the best

Belonging

Boldness

Calmness

Carefulness

Challenge

Cheerfulness

Clear-mindedness

Commitment

Community

Compassion

Competitiveness

Consistency

Contentment

Continuous Improvement

Contribution

Control

Cooperation

Correctness

Courtesy

Creativity

Curiosity

Decisiveness

Democraticness

Dependability

Determination

Devoutness

Diligence

Discipline

Discretion

Diversity

Dynamism

Economy

Effectiveness

Efficiency

Elegance

Empathy

Enjoyment

Enthusiasm

Equality

Excellence

Excitement

Expertise

Exploration

Expressiveness

Fairness

Faith

Family-orientedness

Fidelity

Fitness

Fluency

Focus

Freedom

Fun

Generosity

Goodness

Grace

Growth

Happiness

Hard Work

Health

Helping Society

Holiness

Honesty

Honor

Humility

Independence

Ingenuity

Inner Harmony

Inquisitiveness

Insightfulness

Intelligence

Intellectual Status

Intuition

Joy

Justice

Leadership

Legacy

Love

Loyalty

Making a difference

Mastery

Merit

Obedience

Openness

Order

Originality

Patriotism

Perfection

Piety

Positivity

Practicality

Preparedness

Professionalism

Prudence

Quality-orientation

Reliability

Resourcefulness

Restraint

Results-oriented

Rigor

Security

Self-actualization

Self-control

Selflessness

Self-reliance

Sensitivity

Serenity

Service

Shrewdness

Simplicity

Soundness

Speed

Spontaneity

Stability

Strategic

Strength

Structure

Success

Support

Teamwork

Temperance

Thankfulness

Thoroughness

Thoughtfulness

Timeliness

Tolerance

Traditionalism

Trustworthiness

Truth-seeking

Understanding

Uniqueness

Unity

Usefulness

Vision

Vitality

7. What am I willing to sacrifice? Equally important to what you value is what you do not value or value as much. To achieve any form of success, you must sacrifice something for what you will become! Do you want to become fit and healthy? Then sacrifice time, effort, energy, ease, and comfort in order to work hard to achieve the results. The same principle applies to career success. You sacrificed a lot in order to become a pharmacist. Throughout your career, you will be making decisions about what you are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals. Would you be willing to move across the country for a position that has potential for upward mobility? Are you willing to take a salary cut in order to spend more time with your family? Questions like these can help you better understand your own wants and needs.

Thinking about the answers to these questions is just the start. Like your pharmacy career, this process is a journey that has many ebbs and flows. As Eddie Cantor once said, "It takes 20 years to make an overnight success." I hope you find your niche a lot sooner.

On a final note, I would like to offer this piece of advice: be mindful of who you meet and what you read. Surround yourself with positive people and inspirational books. Use every opportunity to expand your horizons. Do more, learn more, and travel more. Live beyond your normal comfort level, because this is where you might find your Zen.