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5 Ways "Need for Less" is Felt as "Want for More": Breaking the Consumption Cycle


A post for those who have made it as attending doctors, having experienced and habituated to the great pay raise going from the last day of PGY to first day of attending-hood.

This post calls out to those who have made it to attending-hood, having experienced and habituated to the great pay raise going from the last day of PGY to first day of attending-hood.

Look back at your life. When were you happiest? Based on what I’ve experienced (up to PGY3) and observed first hand, attending radiologists I look up to in academic hospitals, private practice, and VA hospitals, are not that happy or healthy, unfortunately. Since I’m also pretty sure that radiologists are some of the happiest doctors, right after pathologists, I think most attending doctors are not that happy.

Why is that? We have spent 26+ years training and learning and invested more than ½ million dollars in borrowed money to practice medicine. Why are we not happy at the pinnacles of our career, height of material wealth?

As we pine after the next upgrade: larger homes, faster cars, more fashionable clothes, have we wondered our want for more is stifling the little voice asking “I need less. Less is more. I was happier when I had so little.”

1. We buy clothes to look better.

It’s not the clothes, it’s the hanger. Go on a hike, do YouTube Yoga, 30 sit-ups twice a day. Not only will you look better each day with these practices. Ever wonder how Hollywood celebrity looks sexy in rags with disheveled hair? Find beauty from inside out.

2. We buy expensive toys to entertain ourselves.

Stop consuming to be entertained. How about entertain others for once. How much more satisfying it is to bring a smile to another person’s face than to indulging indefinitely in our abysmal desire for materials for that short-living high associated buying/possessing a new toy?

3. We buy cosmetics to adorn ourselves from the outside.

Eat healthy and exercise. Not only does your skin radiate when you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, your wallet gets buffer too. Beauty is not meant be plastered on from the outside in creams loaded with carcinogenic toxic chemicals.

4. Retail therapy.

I was shocked when my acquaintance in med school shared that she was going to mall to make herself feel better after performing poorly on the final. Of all actions to take when academically struggling, how in the world does shopping/ consuming material objects help with anything?

Retail therapy hurts:

  • Financially (simply empties your bank account)
  • Psychologically by hollowing one’s soul out to find solace in soul-less objects
  • Mentally (passive consumers get dumber as active creators get smarter/richer each day)
  • Physically (we rely on quick easy fixes of how we look rather than taking good care of ourselves and letting out beauty shine from inside out.

5. Nothing is ever good enough. Everything needs an upgrade.

It’s self-perpetuating. Only you can break the cycle. The more money you make, the more monstrous this want for more will get. You are the one who can realize and replace your want for more with your need for less.

If you like this article, you might enjoy other DWM articles on Personal Finance, Investing, Retirement, Practice Management, & Lifestyle.

All articles by DWM are for informational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a professional accountant, financial adviser or lawyer, before making financial decisions.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice