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Don’t Be a Prisoner of Your Former Self

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As the circumstances of your life change, it’s okay for your goals to change as well.  Don’t be a prisoner of your former self.

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It’s easy to feel trapped by the circumstances of your life.  If you’re reading this, it’s possible you feel trapped by your financial circumstances.  Maybe your expenses are high and you feel handcuffed to your job.  That’s why a lot of my readers seek financial freedom via real estate investing or business – to break free from these shackles.

But as a blogger for the last 4 years, I’ll admit that you can also feel trapped by the goals of your former self.  

What is holding you prisoner?

Think of your own life. I bet there was a time in your life when you made a public (or private) proclamation.  Maybe it was when your brother pissed you off and you promised never to speak to him again.  Or maybe it was a promise to your mother that you’d become a doctor, no matter what it cost. 

After your former self  invested so much emotion into promises or goals, it can be really hard to change course later on.  This can be true even when the circumstances of your life have changed so much that your original goals don’t even make sense anymore.  

How many people do you know that are still shuffling down the same road, years after they should have changed course?  It’s easy to see this from the outside, but it’s a different matter when you’re the one walking that well worn path.  

My original SMART goal

I love writing down my goals and even telling other people about them.  I feel that it adds a layer of public accountability that makes it easier to achieve the goals.  

When I wrote out my original set of goals, it was about a year and a half into my blog.  I was an employed surgeon, being crushed by the length of my daily commute and the sense that I had little control over my day to day life.  

This was my original SMART goal:  “I must have $100,000 of tax-free annual cash flow from rental properties by 2025.”

At the time, I found this goal really motivating.

And it worked!  My goal helped focus my mind and energy into creating our current real estate business.  Although we are still recycling our profit back into our portfolio, we’ve basically achieved this goal three years ahead of schedule!

Read more: $325k Annual Gross Income | Anno Darwinii 3.25

But when I look at the reason why I had this goal in 2020, that reason doesn’t make sense anymore in the context of my current life. 

At the time, my big “Why” in support of this goal was this:  “I want the ability to spend more time with my kids, see my friends when and where I want, and have the freedom to travel the world for months at a time.”

Read more: My Why: family, friends, and freedom

Life’s different now

Since I wrote my “Why” in 2020, a few key factors have changed dramatically.  Here’s a quick summary: 

  • I quit my employed surgeon job in SoCal
  • My family moved from Los Angeles to Memphis
  • My wife took the helm of a major local cultural institution

Read more: Your Mom Is a Badass | Letters to My Sons

If life changes, you can change too

My wife’s been in her role for a few weeks, but it’s been incredible watching her rise to the challenge.  But clearly, her job comes with some important caveats. It won’t be possible to travel the world for months every year if my wife is running a major institution here.

Furthermore, my old reason for financial freedom was to break free from a traditional 9-5 employed job and my crushing commute.  But by quitting my job in SoCal, I’ve already broken free of those specific shackles.

It’s tempting to stay stubbornly committed to my prior goals, but that person doesn’t exist anymore. So why would I stay prisoner to my former self? It’s time to reinvent myself, my life, and my goals.  

It’s strange being unemployed

It’s been about two months since I left employed medicine.  It’s the first time in decades that I haven’t had a set schedule.  My time (for now) is filled with managing the renovation of our home in Memphis, content creation, and medical and self-improvement conferences.  

But no part of my new routine has replaced the satisfaction that I got from being a doctor.  I find myself craving patient interaction. I miss the blank slate of a new patient consult and working with my patients to solve their issues.  And I miss the scalpel and the heady rush of the operating room.  

I’m interviewing with private practices in Memphis and I’m enjoying the opportunity to meet new physicians and future colleagues. However, it’ll likely still be months before I’m practicing again, due to licensing and insurance paperwork.

No regrets

I don’t regret my old goals for an instant.  They helped focus and motivate me through the challenges of growing a real estate business (of which there have been many).

So the goals served their purpose.  But it’s time for my goals to adapt to the new circumstances of my current life.  


In life, circumstances change.  It’s very important to have goals to keep you motivated and focused with an eye towards the future.  But don’t let the goals of your former self hold you prisoner.  Be willing to critically re-evaluate your goals in light of the new circumstances of your life.  

I look forward to redefining my new reality to better match my wife’s career aspirations and my new career in Memphis. You may also find that it’s time to update your goals for the next chapter of your beautiful and exciting life.

Good luck!

– The Darwinian Doctor

What aspects of your former self are keeping you prisoner? Let me know in the comments below and please subscribe for more!

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IM-PCP November 8, 2022 - 5:31 am

Congratulations on realizing that your old goals don’t fit any more. I hope you enjoy your transition time and find a practice that suits you better than the old one. I hope you will still want to blog once you do!

The Darwinian Doctor November 8, 2022 - 9:13 am

Thanks, I hope so too!

Malthe Hyttel November 16, 2022 - 9:03 am

Good job making the realization that not everything that once meant something has to be important in the present.

I’m slowly letting go of what I think others expect or think of me. Letting go of the past is a long and slow process, but I’m sure you already know that.

Thank you for an interesting post. For making me think

The Darwinian Doctor November 16, 2022 - 11:46 am

It certainly is a long (and sometimes painful) process! But it seems like you’re on the right track. Good luck!


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About Me

Dr. Daniel Shin

Dr. Daniel Shin

I’m Dr. Daniel Shin, a surgeon, investor, and educator on a mission to fast-track your financial freedom. From a $300,000 debt to a diverse investment portfolio, I’m now just years away from financial independence. Ready to join me on this journey? Let’s go!

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