Making the Most of Our Lives Use the UIP as your First Experiment!

As Gretchen Rubin muses in her delightful and inspiring book, The Happiness Project, the days are long but life is short. (That is also the reason why we’re wisely encouraged to eat dessert first!) For most of us, life is full and we race from our busy medical practice to a scientific meeting and then back home in time to catch our children’s sports event or music recital. While we may enjoy ourselves, we’re often left with regrets over what we didn’t get to do. The UIP meeting offers each of us a unique opportunity — to meet with and learn from friends, colleagues and respected leaders in our field. There is a multitude of scientific sessions, fun and dazzling social events, and probably, most important, those casual discussions in the hall in which we learn what people are really doing to approach challenging situations. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that we “begin with the end in mind.” From this perspective, I would then ask:

What do you want to experience, learn, or accomplish during our days together?

As a fan of intentional living, I would encourage you to spend some time considering this before the meeting ends. What cases have been most confusing or difficult for you, and who might you seek out for advice? Are there ideas that you would like to investigate, and who would be able to contribute to your study? What relationships do you want to develop, and what collaborations would you like to initiate?

Keith Ferrazi, author of Never Eat Alone, decides before going to any gathering who he wants to talk to and what he hopes to accomplish, and he sets up a system for following up on each conversation he has during the meeting. He collects cards and writes a summary of the meeting on the back. Before the day is over, he sends an email to each person with whom he’s spoken. In this way, every long day is used most effectively, and he returns home feeling energized and already in action.

During the remainder of our lives, we can use the planning recommendations of Tony Robbins, author, coach and inspirational speaker, to continue this practice of intentionality. He suggests a weekly planning session in which we write down each of our roles: clinician, researcher, technologist, spouse, parent, child, etc. Then consider what we want to accomplish in each of those roles for the next week. We can look at our to-do list and match up the items on the list with our roles, giving priority to those activities that will help us reach our goals. The important step is to then schedule that activity into our calendar so it actually happens. The result, in terms of enhancing our satisfaction, can be astounding. The richness of our lives, intentionally lived, makes them feel fuller and more like our own. So our life feels more like our days— long and sweet.