How to Discover Your Passions in Your F3 Year
Foundation Training can make any doctor - even locum doctors - question whether a career in medicine is truly right for them, particularly if they had hobbies or interests before going to medical school that were discarded as increasing demands were put on on their time. It’s hard enough being a full-time doctor and getting your laundry done, let alone also finding time for jujitsu and pottery making.
An F3 Year may be your first chance to seriously explore whether there is something else you could be doing with your time - something which could fulfill you more than medicine. However, ‘finding your passion’ is easier said than done - how exactly do you find these things, and how do you know whether a passion is just a hobby, or something more?
Using the tips and exercises in this article, we will show you how to use your F3 Year to find a passion and identify possible routes for your future career.
✅ Tip #1: Embrace Self-Reflection
Having the chance to explore another side of yourself can be exciting, but it can also stressful and discouraging when passions and jobs don’t simply ‘appear’ during the 12 months you have allocated to discovering yourself.
An F3 Year can allow you to cut down your hours without affecting your take-home pay so you have more time and energy to invest in your life outside of work.
But simply having time is not enough on its own. If you are hoping to stumble upon your purpose in life, the truth is you probably won’t. You have to search for it. And that starts internally, by understanding yourself deeply.
Exercise #1: What makes you unique and special?
What do other people come to you for advice on? What do they gain from being around you? Perhaps it is your unique way of thinking or solving problems, your adventurous and energetic nature, your calm and reassuring demeanour, your ability to empathise and listen without judgement, your ability to laugh and have a good time no matter what, or your knowledge on a specialist subject like tech, finance, art, music, sport, nature, travel, or relationships.
Exercise #2: Who were you before medicine?
What activities or hobbies sparked your interest in the past. Why did you like these things? How did they make you feel?
How did you define yourself pre-medicine? Were you sporty, adventurous, curious, musical, or academic? Were you political? Considerate of others? Self-centered? Ignorant? Would you define yourself in the same way now as you did pre-medicine? Which traits are you glad to have moved on from, and which are you sad to have lost?
Exercise #3: What has your medical career given you?
Which elements of foundation training excited you, drained you, bored you, and made a emotional impact on you? Which moments were fun, cool, life-changing, devastating, or hard?
If you were leaving medicine but could have one last shift in any department, what would you want to do one final time.
Identify a senior doctor who made an impact on you. Maybe they made you laugh, made you feel strong and capable, made you feel humble, made you feel shame or sadness, or made you feel good. What did they say to you and why do you think that affected you so strongly? What qualities did they have that you liked or disliked?
Choose any minor problem that particularly annoyed you while you were working, and imagine you could solve that one problem. What was that issue? Why did it bother you so much? How would you fix it - what recommendations would you make to the Trust about why it should be sorted out and how it should be done.
✅ Tip #2: Taste the Ice Cream
Sometimes the thought of incorporating something new into your schedule can seem daunting, and the idea of a long-term commitment can put you off starting.
Instead, imagine your F3 Year as an ice-cream shop offering unlimited samples. Spend this time tasting as many flavours as you want before you commit to buying anything.
👉 If you loved Bubblegum flavour as a kid then give it a taste. Maybe you still do love it.
👉 If you’ve always been curious about Pistachio - give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose.
👉 If you are pretty sure you’d never like Strawberry Cheesecake, then now is the moment to find out for sure.
👉 And if you always choose the safe option of Vanilla, compare it to all the other flavours available. Is it your go-to for a reason, or is there something unexpected you like more?
Exercise #4: What do you already like?
How do you decompress? Classic examples are exercise, vacations, journaling, reading, watching TV, socialising, playing games, and cooking. When doing these activities, what feeling are you chasing? Do you want to feel relaxed? Energised? Exhilarated? Awake?
When was the last time that time flew by without you noticing? What were you doing?
Exercise #5: What sparks your curiosity?
List 20 activities you have you have always been curious about but have never tried? What has been stopping you - Time? Money? Geography? Apathy? Fear? Peer pressure?
If you had tomorrow to spend learning about any subject, what would it be? How would you most enjoy the process of learning - going to a class, reading a book, watching a documentary, having a friend teach you, experimenting by yourself, or maybe something else?
Exercise #6: What’s missing?
If you could solve any problem in the World, what would it be? What skills would you need to fix that problem? Why did you choose that particular issue - what is it about that issue that you care about? How does that issue affect your day-to-day life? What would your life look like if this issue didnt exist anymore?
If money were not a factor, what would you spend your time doing? Pursue this idea as far as you can by continuously asking ‘and then?’ until you arrive 30 years in the future.
Write your eulogy as if you have lived a perfect, incredible, happy, satisfying life. What did you accomplish? What did you spend your time doing? What are you proud of? What mattered the most to you? Which experiences defined your life?
✅ Tip #3: Passions aren’t discovered, they’re cultivated.
The phase ‘discover your passion’ can be problematic because:
⓵ It implies that there is one passion out there for you.
⓶ It creates a false idea that people inadvertently stumble across passions.
⓷ It suggests a life-changing epiphany or moment of realisation when you discover a passion.
The truth is: you’ll likely have many passions in your life, you have to actively seek out things that may interest you, and (most importantly), there is generally no sudden ignition of flames when you ‘find your passion’.
What really happens is that an initial exposure to a potential passion may trigger a spark of curiosity, intrigue, or excitement which has the potential to grow into a raging inferno if attended to, or fizzle out in a puff of smoke if ignored.
If you try to expedite a process that can take years, you may feel disappointed when you don’t experience the paradigm shift you’re expecting. The good news is that you aren’t starting from zero. Early life passions can be rekindled, skills can be translated, and coping mechanisms can become hobbies and then careers.
And if you want to find something completely new or are struggling to generate the sparks by yourself, seeing someone else’s fiery passion raging may be exactly what you need. Getting inspiration and mentorship from others can change your perspective on an activity or skill, and can ultimately take your life in a whole new direction.
Exercise #7: What can I build on?
Thinking back to the things you already enjoy (exercise #4) and the skills you already have (exercise #1), consider how you would use these actions or skills to raise £100K for charity over the next 12 months.
If you had to stay in medicine, but could design a job that paid whatever you wanted and allowed you to do whatever you wanted, what would you ask for. How many hours would your shifts be? How many days per week would you work? Where are you based? What tasks do you do throughout the day? Who is on your team? What non-clinical aspects to your role are there?
Exercise #8: Finding a team and a mentor.
How can you put yourself out there to encounter people with different experiences and backgrounds to you? Is there an organisation or project that aligns with your values? Or a class, workshop, or event near you that you are curious about?
What fears or uncertainties do you have about exploring new passions, and how can you work around them? Is there a way you can try the new activity alone or in a group first (whichever is less intimidating)? Is there someone already doing what you want to do who may be able to offer support or advice?
✅ Tip #4: Make a list
If you are struggling for inspiration or ideas, check out our article ‘hobbies to explore in your free time as a locum doctor’ for a curated list of activities to try this year.
✅ The F3 Year provides a valuable opportunity for UK doctors to discover or reignite their passions outside of medicine.
✅ Engaging in self-reflection, exploring different activities, seeking mentorship, and acquiring new skills can help uncover potential new career paths.
✅ Remember to embrace the journey, be patient with yourself, and stay open to the possibilities that lie ahead.
✅ Using the reflective exercises in this article, and the exercises in our F3 Workbook, may be able to help you discover which paths to pursue for a balanced and fulfilling career.
We would love to know your thoughts on this, so please feel free to get in touch with us at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments about this article.