What is your first reaction when you hear the word maintenance?  Is it spending time cleaning up your yard on a beautiful fall afternoon?  Or taking your car into the shop for an oil change? What about eating well and moving your body?

All of these actions would qualify as maintenance.

Here’s the thing: we often forget the actual cost of almost everything in our lives.  Whether it’s a new car or a new house.  Or the truly essential areas like our marriage, relationships, and our health.

Fundamentally, as human beings, we are wired to look out for the novel and new.  If something in our environment is different, we are prime to notice.  And modern marketing has convinced us that we will finally achieve lasting happiness when we buy the newest iPhone.

But how many of these new items are improvements to what we have?  I’d argue in almost every case, new does not equal better.

And, to get back to the original idea, we often overlook the costs – in time and money – of purchasing more stuff.

Lately, I have been trying to buy less but buy higher quality.  To drill down even further, I try to buy things that can last and be repaired. It could be a waxed jacket for the fall or a pair of Merino base layers for ski season.

On the front end, these items often cost more, but over years and decades, I’m finding I can maintain them (see, I told you I’d get back to the theme) making the total cost is much less.

One of my favorite pieces of travel gear is a Filson Duffle Bag.  My wife gave it to me as a birthday gift over ten years ago.  It’s got some scuffs and stains on it, yet I think it looks better with age.

How about something even simpler that you use every day as a physician?  Your pen?.  How many pens have you lost or misplaced over the years?  And how many are a joy to use and bring a smile to your face?

I bought a copper pen to journal with a few years ago.  I love the weight in my hand and the feel of the ink on paper.  And I get constant patient comments as they sign a pre-op consent form!

I don’t bring this up to show you all the fun things I buy but rather to highlight being mindful of how we spend our money.  Are you spending money on something that brings value into your life?

Are you spending money on things that last?  You don’t have to be the one to repair or maintain your gear.  But you do want to be aware of that cost in your life.

Ready to get a bit deeper?

Are you proactively maintaining the most critical areas of your life? Your relationships and health?

Today’s culture rewards us for working more and being outrageously busy.  Your health won’t scream at you for missing a workout or a run.

Your spouse or partner won’t complain the first or second time you work late in the hospital, miss dinner, or miss the kid’s bedtime.

That makes these areas harder to prioritize when you are inundated with patient phone calls, a never-ending email list, and constant interruptions regarding “urgent issues.”

I’ve learned over the years that taking care of my relationships and health doesn’t just happen.  I won’t magically have time for them at the end of the day or week.

You must schedule time on your calendar if it’s important to you.  Which seems wrong at first.  Like scheduling time for a date or to work out means it’s less important.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Much like our bank account, our calendar is an unvarnished insight into what we value.  How we spend our time and attention is our life.

As we near the holiday season filled with travel, celebrations, and lots of shopping and gifts, I encourage you to take time to reflect on your values.  Think about how you want to spend your time, what kind of gifts are most meaningful to you – both to give and receive and how you want to support your most cherished relationships at this time of year.

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