1. Set priorities. Too few veterinarians establish life priorities. I suggest taking some time to seriously reflect on what matters most to you: spending time with loved ones, physical activities, community involvement, or professional duties. Once you establish what matters most, decisions where you have to refuse one thing for another become clearer. While this is always easier said than done, understanding what’s most important to you helps you keep life balanced and reduces regrets.
2. Chart a life plan. The most successful people I know didn’t achieve greatness by accident. It was by design. Sit down and determine where you what to be and what you want to be doing over the next 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. Once you have an idea of what you want to be doing at different stages in your life, you can begin planning on how to get there. Too many people mistakenly believe good things will just happen to them; that’s called luck. Sadly, luck is extremely difficult to schedule and plan your retirement around. The plans you make in your 20s and 30s greatly impact your 50s and 60s. If you’re in your 40s or 50s and haven’t started planning, don’t worry—it’s not too late. Assemble a team of accountants, financial planners, and family members to chart a course to future lasting happiness. Keep in mind, money alone can’t buy you happiness.
3. Life balance isn’t 50:50. Think of life as a series of chapters. Some chapters will be more devoted to work while others will be focused on family. Problems arise when the book of your life becomes a single story line. Have a plan and understand that during certain times your priorities may be required to flex a bit to accomplish long—term happiness and security.
4. Stay healthy. Life balance is meaningless if you don’t have your health. I’ve seen too many veterinarians who’ve worked too hard for too long find that when they’re finally able to focus on their family, their health betrays them. Regardless of how busy and chaotic your life may seem, take time to care for yourself. Otherwise, your future may be not be nearly as fun as you’d hoped.
5. Live in the present. Each day is a gift; and you should enjoy it. Do at least one activity that brings you joy every day. Many veterinarians live their life dwelling on past mistakes and desperately preparing for the future. In doing so, they forget to appreciate the present. Don’t let this happen to you. Set aside a few minutes each day to reflect and be grateful for what you’re doing now.