We had a housewarming party last night - lots of our friends came over and we had lots of chats and snacks, and played around 3 hours of Avalon.

Paul, one of my closest friends from university and one of the smartest people I know, came up to Cambridge for the party. He’s started as a junior doctor as well, working and living in London now. I asked him how work was going (a pretty standard topic of conversation these days) and he replied with “it’s busy, but it’s really fun”.

He explained that because it’s so busy, the time flies - the hospital has pretty bad signal and so when he checks his phone at the end of the day, his messages come flooding in and he’s always surprised that it’s 6pm already.

But he said that the reason he describes it as “really fun” is because that’s the story he wants to tell himself about it. In a way, the more he talks about how much he loves his job, the better he’ll feel about it internally.

This is profound, and applies to so many things in life.

Objectively, the experience is what it is. But the way we feel about it depends to a large extent on the story we tell ourselves. When people ask us, we could say “it’s busy and stressful” (negative) or we could say “it’s busy but fun” (positive).

Especially given that we’re right at the start of our medical careers, choosing to have a positive outlook is so much… nicer… than choosing the negative one. It lifts the tone and energy of the conversation, it makes both parties feel good, and it makes us focus on the good parts rather than ruminate about the bad ones.

A cynic might say that we’re lying to ourselves if we say that our jobs are fun. But I prefer to think of it as cognitive reappraisal. We’re taking the objective reality of the situation, and we’re choosing to tell ourselves (and others) the story that makes us feel good. And feeling good about the job makes us more likely to be nicer to patients, to be friendly with our colleagues and ultimately, to be happier about this journey that we’ve worked towards for many years.

The same applies to most things in life - if we’re doing something we’ve chosen to do, we might as well choose to be positive about it.

PS: If this concept of cognitive reappraising stuff was vaguely interesting, you should read The Magic of Thinking Big. I absolutely love that book, and it’s always on the recommended reading lists of successful entrepreneurs.

PPS: The job is actually quite fun. But even if it wasn’t, we would still benefit a lot from actively focusing on the positives rather than complaining about the negatives.

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