The 5 Determinants of a Great Life

For a physician, career dissatisfaction is a tragic outcome. The choices that we make now can have a major impact on whether we will have been satisfied with our career when we retire from medicine. The difference between satisfied and dissatisfied comes down to five major determinants that are modifiable. This blog post briefly reviews the five major determinants. These are the essentials, please review, reflect, and, if needed, take action!!!

Determinant 1—Health

As physicians well know, health in all of its domains, physical, emotional, psychological, is critically important in life. Health-related quality of life specifically focuses on the impact of a perceived health state on the ability to live a fulfilling life (Bullinger, 1993). Some key determinants of health and health-related quality of life are: genetics, environment, luck, lifestyle, and health care.

Other factors permitting, moving forward on lifestyle and health care needs can create decades of additional enjoyable and meaningful life. However, physicians do not necessarily follow their own good health advice. Although an executive coach is not a health care practitioner, if you are neglecting to take care of aspects of your own health, your executive coach can support you to move forward.

Key learning point: you must move forward on your lifestyle and medical care; you don’t have time to not do it!!!

Determinant 2—Income

An executive coach also cannot be your investment advisor, accountant, lawyer, or practice consultant. However, if you are neglecting to take care of your own wealth, an executive coach can support you in getting clarity and confronting any troubling issues. Most full-time physicians in Canada meet some definition of wealthy; an annual income of $260,000 per year defines the top 1% of the Canadian population; assets of $1,300,000 CDN defines the top 1% of wealth owners in the world.

Key learning point: There may be some personal costs to overachieving in the area of wealth; while sufficient income is important for many reasons, money can’t buy the other three determinants of a great life.

Determinant 3—Relationships

Love your friends and family—positive stable relationships are a key factor for ongoing wellbeing, and the right friends and family are the only people who care about you and who ultimately will really matter.

Determinant 4—Meaning / Accomplishment and Determinant 5—Happiness

Finding happiness and meaning/accomplishment are the two other determinants of a great life that can’t be deferred to the future. Setting happiness as a goal may surprise physicians since it probably was never modeled in medical school or residency. Helping people identify and accomplish meaningful things is the core mission of coaching.

Key learning point: happiness and meaning are closely linked to each other; happiness requires meaning and accomplishment in life; meaning is created (not found) using happiness as a guide

Key learning point: joy in medicine is not only healthy but is now also recognized as a patient safety issue! (Institute for Healthcare Improvement Framework for Improving Joy At Work, 2017).

Let me know if we can help!

Best regards,



Dr. Shayne Taback is a pediatric subspecialist, research educator, and executive coach for physicians across the continuum from new graduate to C-Suite Chief Medical Officer. To learn more about him and our other coaches, please click here. Or to contact Shayne, please e-mail or click here. To regularly receive blog posts, please sign up to our newsletter below.

Credit: This blog is based on materials made freely available by one of my major coaching influences—executive coach, leadership thought leader, and authour Marshall Goldsmith. I have modified for application to Canadian physicians.