Jim Carrey, the actor famously known for his weird, lanky body and over-the-top comedy, once said:
"I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer. (1)"
Carrey was once among the upper echelon of Hollywood. He owned the comedy spotlight in the 90's and made millions off hit movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, and a whole host of others. Few people have reached the heights Jim Carrey reached in his career, so if anyone can speak to the empty, hollow nature of fame and fortune, it's him.
Carrey's quote generates a couple of questions. The first one is: Why?
Why is it that becoming rich and famous and having everything I ever dreamed of is not the answer? Everything in our culture says he's wrong. We're told subtly and not-so-subtly that the good life consists of being rich, famous, physically attractive, and powerful. We're told that if we stay focused and follow our dreams, we'll get everything we ever wanted, and only then will we be content with life.
Why would a person who has achieved all those things warn us against them?
Perhaps it's because Jim Carrey learned that our exterior life - career, wealth, houses, cars, gadgets, relationships - no matter how successful, cannot act as a substitute for our interior life. The interior life is where contentment resides. We try to become content through the accumulation of things or through the pursuit of our dreams, but those will always disappoint us because nothing on the outside can make us content on the inside.
Which leads to the second question: "If wealth and success aren't the answer, then what is?"
Maybe the answer is joy.
Today, Jim Carrey is seen less on the big screen and more in his art studio where he paints, because painting brings him joy that acting no longer can. He is also a regular at places like Homeboy Industries in east L.A. Homeboy is a ministry run by Father Gregory Boyle that helps gang members turn their lives around by providing jobs, community, and hope. This is the sort of work to which Jim Carrey has now directed his life. Why would he pursue painting and restoring the lives of gang members over the bright lights of Hollywood unless he discovered a fundamental Truth about what brings us joy?
JOY IS THE ENGINE OF THE UNIVERSE
A famous theologian has said that joy is the engine of the universe. And if joy drives all of life, it makes sense to do the things that bring us the most joy.
It's important here to distinguish between joy and happiness. The two run together so often that we assume they're the same thing.
Happiness is a mood. It's fleeting. It changes based on a whole host of variables. People who build their lives around what makes them happy are perpetually disappointed. We are constantly growing, evolving, changing as people, and the thing that makes us happy today won't make us as happy tomorrow. So be careful not to confuse happiness with joy.
Joy is not a mood; it's a state of being that exists regardless of what's happening around you. A joyful person is satisfied whether they are rich and famous or poor and forgotten, whether they are a physician or a shoe salesman, whether they live in the nicest subdivision or an unimpressive rental. Joy is simply another word for contentment.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote:
This verse also leads to a few questions: are you content with your life? If not, why? Could it be because you're pursuing things that will never, no matter how hard you try, bring you joy?
Another question: what brings you joy? How much of your time, energy, or focus do you spend on that?
STRESS AND BURNOUT IN THE MEDICAL FIELD
These questions have practical implications on the overall well-being of physicians and dentists because when we experience a decreased sense of worth in the work we do it can quickly lead to burnout.
We've written previously about burnout (here) and ways to avoid it (here). A recent survey by Medscape revealed that physician burnout increased from 40% of physicians in 2013 to 51% in 2017 (3). That's an alarming trend, especially when coupled with the fact that suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death among residents, and the number one cause of death among male medical residents (4).
Physicians and dentists are increasingly overworked and have less control over their own lives. When financial issues like debt or fear of the future are added to the mix, it produces unhealthy individuals trying to help others stay healthy. Eventually, burnout takes a toll on every aspect of life.
We want more for our clients.
MORE THAN FINANCIAL CONSULTING
White & McGowan helps physicians and dentists live a more meaningful life. We focus on more than our clients' bank statement or investment returns. We want to know who they are and what brings them joy. We're not in the business of making people rich, because being rich in and of itself, as Jim Carrey said, is not the answer. Instead, we are in the business of helping physicians and dentists reduce financial stress so that they are free to pursue the things that bring them joy.
Joy is the ultimate goal.
Are you pursuing wealth, fame, and everything society says is important, or are you pursuing the things that give you joy? Pursue joy, and you may be surprised at how little you actually need.
1 - https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1151805-i-think-everybody-should-get-rich-and-famous-and-do
2 - Philippians 4:11-12, New Living Translation
3 - https://www.medscape.com/sites/public/lifestyle/2017
4 - https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Citation/2017/07000/Causes_of_Death_of_Residents_in_ACGME_Accredited.41.aspx