How to Get the Joy Back: Part 2 Define Success

April 1, 2021
Holly Sawyer, DVM, Human-Animal Bond Certified, Regional Veterinary Consultant

In the first installment of this series, we discovered that the foundation of all joy is gratitude. By deliberately tuning our thoughts to things we are grateful for, our sense of well-being can transcend every circumstance. Why? Because the hunt for gratitude shifts your perspective away from yourself and toward the treasures around you. 

The second step in getting your joy back requires your lens to be turned inward, toward self-evaluation. But what are we looking for?

It is a simple rule of human nature: we like to do what we’re good at. (And we detest doing what we struggle at.) In the realm of veterinary medicine, I was an awesome communicator and client-bond builder. Even at the end of a monster day, if a client needed to talk to me, I gladly donned my Empathy Hat and answered their every question. But seat me in front of a cherry eye repair with some teeny weeny 5-0 Vicryl and unsteady hands, and you get an English Bulldog staggering out the door at discharge who looks like he was on the losing end of a biker gang brawl. 

My colleague, on the other hand, relished the pocket technique and welcomed my patients when I recommended her hands for the surgery. She also excelled at impossible venopunctures and endocrine mysteries, but found client callbacks odious because they decreased her workflow efficiency. Another colleague of mine was our go-to person for information out of the latest JAVMA articles and VIN discussions. She constantly ingested new material because she had a knack for remembering and applying the right conclusions, protocols, and trends to the right patients. But tell her to educate clients on heartworm preventatives in order to increase how many boxes walked out the door and she would rebel. 

The point is, we all have different strengths. Whether you are in a multi-doctor practice or a single doctor clinic with one receptionist and one technician, you are still part of a team. And a team works best when its members know their strengths and seek ways to maximize their potential. 

I want you to do some soul searching here. Get out pen and paper; open up a blank Word doc. Whatever your druthers, I want you to make two columns. Label one “Strengths” and the other “Weaknesses.” The point is not to dwell on the negatives, but to evaluate your abilities at both extremes to better understand how you tick. 

You may be a business management prodigy, able to grasp the big picture and tweak inventory, suppliers, and profit-loss statements to help the hospital succeed. You may enjoy surgery best, because there you can escape the stress of client interactions and instead fall into the comfortable rhythm of muscle memory and creative problem-solving. Or you may cherish those client interactions so much that they alone sustain you through six hours of preg checking Holsteins in 100 degree heat. You may enjoy the precision of running a clean lab with weekly quality controls or be really good at finding adrenals on ultrasound. You may even love preparing international health certificates for fun island nations. Just kidding. 

The point is, you are good at something, so advertise it—to your colleagues, to your techs and CSRs and practice managers and clients. The more you can do what you’re good at, the more successful you will feel. By the same token, the more you define success by how well you utilize your gifts, the stronger buffer you can build against inevitable moments of dread and self-doubt. 

In other words, take the time to define your personal flavor of success, and you will find joy again. 

GuardianVets offers several services, including callbacks the evening hospitalized or post-op patients are discharged, to help you manage workflow so you can concentrate on doing the things you do best. Go to for more information. 

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