12 Changes to Be Happier in 2023
Even though I believe that being a vet is the greatest profession on earth, it’s hard to deny that there is a lot of anxiety and stress in our field.
If you would like to be part of the solution, here are 12 suggestions to make 2023 your best year ever.
1. Start being selfish
No, I don’t mean that selfishness is a quality.
What I mean is, it’s about time you put yourself first.
Put your health first – physical, emotional and mental. Self-care is not a buzzword, it’s a necessity.
Don’t work 7 days a week.
Do take breaks.
Do eat and drink (water).
Do get enough sleep.
If you become cynical, compassion-fatigued or burned out, how helpful to your clients, patients and team members are you going to be? Don’t be a victim. Don’t be a martyr. Put your oxygen mask on first.
2. Start saying “no”
Along the same lines, there comes a point where you need to learn to say no.
No, I will not take on this new project.
No, I will not fall for this shiny object.
No, I will not sit on your board.
No, I will not volunteer for this cause.
No, I will not see this emergency at 8 pm since we close at 6 pm.
As difficult as it is, saying no will help you free up precious time to focus on people and tasks that truly matter to you.
3. Start complimenting
Your team does countless things worthy of complimenting. It won’t cost you a penny, and if it’s sincere, it will make you all warm and fuzzy inside.
It doesn’t have to be complicated:
“Well done talking Ms. Smith off the ledge!”
“Good job on getting that jugular stick on that wiggly puppy!”
“Thank you for keeping this super sick cat alive throughout anesthesia.”
When you compliment someone, both you and the recipient get a boost of dopamine, the “feel-good hormone.”
4. Start traveling
Forget about a staycation. Embrace traveling.
Near or far, travel can open your mind to new customs and cultures. It will make you realize that most people have it much worse than we do. It will help you relax. It will force you to stop working “in” your practice and start working “on” your practice. Yes, even if you’re an associate.
You can sit on a beach, go on a humanitarian mission, hike the Grand Canyon, tour Scotland or visit Buddhist temples.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune!
5. Start making connections
In order to grow, to learn, to receive (and give) advice, you need to find a tribe of like-minded individuals.
Being a rugged individualist may work for a while, but when times are tough, it’s much wiser to surround yourself with trusted colleagues who can serve as a resource or a sounding board.
Leverage knowledge from specialists and advisors in other fields: financial, legal, insurance, taxes, legacy etc.
6. Start learning about finances
You can’t achieve financial freedom without some degree of knowledge of personal and/or practice finance. Don’t abdicate your financial future to an “expert” with no track record.
Call us biased, but we think the Vet Financial Summit is a pretty good start. Also read financial books. Mingle with (true) financial experts. Understand the difference between good debt and bad debt. Consider joining a veterinary management group. Understand what to do with your practice KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
There is a direct relationship between someone’s financial education and financial success.
7. Stop the fixed mindset
Being content with “we’ve always done it that way” is a clear sign of a fixed mindset. Things change, so get used to it.
Protocols improve. Dosages change. Science advances.
Instead, develop a growth mindset. It will help you obtain new knowledge, learn new skills and become a more well-rounded human.
8. Stop perfectionism
Perfectionism is a common trait in our profession. It’s obviously a good thing when you’re doing brain surgery, building a skyscraper or landing a plane.
Yet in many cases, you can delegate a task and be content when it’s done 90% as you would have done it.
Most things don’t need to be perfect. The sooner you accept it, the happier you will be.
9. Stop following
OK, OK, some rules should be followed.
Others should not be.
Who said you can’t close on Wednesday?
Who said you have to be open on Saturdays?
Who said your practice can’t close at 5 pm?
Who said you can’t mix business with pleasure?
Who said you can’t have it all?
Just because the majority does something a certain way, doesn’t mean that you have to. Be a contrarian.
10. Stop toxicity
And negativity. And gossiping. And cynicism. And criticism. And comparing yourself to others.
We are healers. We save lives. That is something to be proud of and to brag about.
Sure, our clients are not perfect. Our patients are not perfect. Your team members are not perfect. And guess what, we’re not perfect either.
So be a force for good. A force for change. Work on yourself as hard as you hope others would. Be the person your older self wishes you would become.
Let’s be honest, we all have a lot to do…
11. Stop controlling
No matter how hard you try, there are many things you simply can’t control. Equipment will break. Team members will call out. Clients will misbehave. It will rain, or snow, or sleet. And patients will die.
If somebody around you starts complaining about somebody or something, simply ask: “So what are you going to do about it?”
12. Stop dwelling
Many of us keep replaying a conversation, a painful encounter or a negative review over and over well in our heads, well after the fact.
It reminds me of a classic quote by St. Augustine, Nelson Mandela, Oprah and others: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Again, it’s not easy. But it’s critical to your sanity. Dwelling won’t help the situation. It will only make it worse. It’s probably healthier to discuss it with a colleague or a friend, than to rehash it in your head.
This list of 12 changes to be happier in 2023 is necessarily subjective.
There are other things you could or should do:
- Learn to set boundaries.
- Stop doing $10-an-hour tasks, and start delegating more.
- Improve your soft skills (negotiation, communication, critical thinking…).
- Find a mentor.
- Mentor someone.
If you focus on just one of these 12 proposed changes each month, you could end the year radically happier, well-balanced, and fall back in love with the greatest profession on earth.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified