Joanne K. Baker, DO, FACOI

Be a Finisher in 2024

by Joanne K. Baker, DO, FACOI

January 5, 2024

As we begin a new year, many of us will think of new beginnings. We don’t need to wait until January of every year to start fresh.  Popular poet, Juansen Dizon, wrote “I hope you realize that every day is a fresh start for you. That every sunrise is a new chapter in your life waiting to be written.”  We can write new chapters every day, and our story can take a new course any time in the year, not just on January 1.  Many of us will consider aspects of our life, both professional and personal, where we want to make new resolutions.  We may want to give up a bad habit or do better in our personal life such as a healthy change in diet or exercise.  The Detroit News reported this past weekend about how successful we are at keeping these resolutions. Of those surveyed who made resolutions, about 16 percent kept all their resolutions and about 44 percent kept at least some but not all of them by the end of the year - meaning nearly two out of three people achieved some level of success.    

This past January, my husband Ken and I decided to train for the Chicago Sprint Triathlon. It was our resolution to be healthier and to commit to training for the three aspects of the race. The Chicago Sprint Triathlon involves a 500-meter swim, 15-mile bike ride and then a 3.1-mile run. It gave us motivation to keep getting up in the morning and exercising as well as getting on the bike at night. Some injuries kept me from doing all three aspects of the training during the summer, so I was hoping to focus on my swimming and bike riding and just do my best for the run. As the days approached, it was clear that I was going to have to walk and not run and I was worried about even completing the race with my training interrupted and my ongoing injury.  We both decided we would do our best and if I could not complete it, that would be all right.   Early that Sunday morning, as we approached the transition zone to set up, we heard that the water was too rough for the swim. It was now a run-bike-run race. My heart fell, and I thought even more that I was not going to be able to do this race. Ken was encouraging and said he would support whatever I decided. As we approached the transition zone to set up our gear, we saw one of the racers from the earlier race walking by with her medal on and it just said “Finisher.” I was inspired. All I could think was that I wanted that medal. I wanted to be a “Finisher” and not just do part of the race. I did not care how fast I went or what my place was, but I wanted to cross the finish line and complete the race. I am happy to say that I hobbled across the finish line with my husband by my side and I was so proud to get that medal and to be a “Finisher.”

There was so much satisfaction in completing what I started, even though there were many times that I thought of not going all the way to the end. The idea of being a Finisher has carried me through other areas after the race. As I took on projects at work, it has kept me motivated to keep going and not to be discouraged by how long it is taking me to get it done. There will be times in our lives that we stumble and fall, and we do not make it to the finish line. As Simone Biles said, “I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances that I didn’t take at all.” I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn’t even try the race. The same would be true for opportunities to push myself at work. When we are not successful in our attempts, we need to give ourselves grace and find a way to keep moving forward and not focus on the stumbles.

As writer Eleanor Goodman stated, “We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws but for potential.” 2024 is an opportunity to reflect on our lives and not see what is wrong, but instead what is right in our lives. Focus on the potential that we all have and how we can achieve that potential. Break down what we need and think about how to achieve that potential, slowly and steadily. Take pride in what our potential is and how to achieve it. We are all capable of being a “Finisher.” We just need to set our goals, determine the steps to achieve them and finish the race. It is 2024 now, we put our caps on, set our goggles, and wait for the gun to go off. On your mark, get set, Go! 

Stay True to Why You Pursued Medicine.