When you work a job for an extended amount of time, it’s easy to fall into a routine. Get up, drive to work, do what’s required, drive home, unwind, and gear up for the next day of work. If you aren’t careful, the hum-drum of it all goes into overdrive and you wind up in auto-pilot mode. And if you’re anything like me, you start to get bored with monotony yet don’t know how to pull out of the ingrained routine.
So how do you change how you ‘do life,’ and how do you shift your perspective?
How do you stay interested in what you are doing, intentional about encouraging coworkers, and engaged in the everyday tasks that have (or might soon) become bland to-do’s?
I can’t say that I have the golden answer, but I feel like there are sources of inspiration that can give you a perspective shift.
For me, hearing the words of someone else – a loved one or eloquent speaker – can realign my thoughts and make my actions purposeful once again.
I’d like to share a few sources of inspiration for you right now, in case you find yourself in need of some life-juice. In the age of COVID-19, it’s unbelievably easy to get sucked into the monotony of wake-work-eat-sleep-repeat, and this might be just the thing to break that for you.
BJ Miller gives a TedTalk entitled, “What Really Matters at the End of Life,” and as you can imagine, it gives a perspective shift to someone who has narrowed his or her focus to simplify the daily tasks of work life.
It certainly did for me.
BJ Miller is a palliative care doctor who was brought to the edge of death after being electrocuted as a young man. He lost both of his legs and his left hand in the accident. Miller speaks on the importance of living well before death, and he highlights the importance of playfulness and being present in the moment. His personal story of pain and his experience with suffering patients has taught him that we as humans must focus on making life more wonderful rather than less horrible.
I love that.
He also emphasizes the importance of recognizing the uniqueness of each person’s journey and bringing creativity to how we engage with every individual.
I think BJ Miller’s message has a power to it that can translate directly to the life of a nurse who is bored or fatigued by the day-to-day work demands. He reminds caregivers like us that the patients we serve are distinct and struggling with individual pains, yet there we have a calling to meet those needs with intention, creativity, and even playfulness.
Life should not be just survived: It should be enjoyed.
There is wonder to be shared even within the hospital or doctor’s office setting. There is a purpose in the acts of care that we do as nurses. In BJ Miller’s eyes, it is to help our patients live well with the ailments they have. It is to elevate them as persons with souls, not just broken bodies.
A second speech that I recommend is Steve Jobs’, “How to Live Before You Die.”
It’s another perspective shifter for the tunnel-visioned person.
In his commencement address, Jobs says that he looks in the mirror every day and asks himself, “If today was my last day, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”
You might think this is an extreme question to ask yourself, but Jobs said that he used this question to quiet the noise of little distractions and to push him to pursue meaningful life goals.
You might also think, “Well that’s fine for the man who started Apple and Pixar to say this because he is successful in life.”
However, if you listen to the entire speech, you’ll realize that Jobs dropped out of college and lived on people’s couches for a time; he was fired from Apple when his vision for the company differed from his partner’s; he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even with his many low points in his life, Jobs encourages his audience to be courageous and do what will mean the most in the end. He says that while there will be hard times and failures, every day is a chance to respond and grow from the past.
Every day is a chance to incorporate that which will make the most impact on the future.
For me, this is another speech to inspire you if you are stuck in the day-to-day, boring routine of work. It’s a call to let the small anxieties and worries go and to be a headstrong pursuer of what matters most in the long run. Taken in tandem with BJ Miller’s speech, there’s an intertwined message for nurses to recognize his or her daily work as meaningful, important, and significant in the life of the patient.
Every interaction is a chance to touch the person in a unique way.
I work with Type 1 diabetics, and it is a difficult disease no matter which way you look at it.
A lot of patients are diagnosed as kids, and without a cure in sight, recently-diagnosed patients are facing a life-long condition.
After listening to and reflecting on the words of BJ Miller and Steve Jobs, I see how my work might be the perfect platform to encourage a child who must learn how to count carbs, manage insulin dosing, and overcome needle phobia.
Working in research, I can give hope for future children who will inevitably also have to tread the walk of Type 1 diabetes.
As I continue in this job, I want to be the person who makes life more wonderful and not just less horrible, as Miller says. I want to be able to answer myself with a resounding “Yes” if I emulate Steve Jobs’ daily question of “If today was my last day, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”
What about you?
Morgan is a Registered Nurse living in Boulder, Colorado. She shares her experiences and advice on the nursing profession. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking the mountains of Colorado and creating unique artwork.