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Episode 30 - Why Your Dreams Matter

Oct 31, 2023

Episode Notes

Dr. Kevin Mailo is interviewed by Physician Empowerment co-founder and co-host, Dr. Wing Lim, on the topic of dreams. Kevin once gave a talk on this subject at an accredited CME event in Mexico; about what dreams really are and why it’s so important to have them. And in this episode he shares a bit of that talk.   


Wing asks Kevin to first define dreams and differentiate them from goals, which are not the same thing. Something Kevin says in giving his definition is that “dreams are what help us keep going forward in our lives despite the struggles”. That is part of why dreaming is such an intrinsically vital part of wellness and forward motion.


In this episode, Dr. Wing Lim and Dr. Kevin Mailo explore dreams, dreaming, why we have dreams, why they matter, what dreams give to us, and what dreams offer the world at large. Dreams not only give meaning to our lives but give us the ability to enjoy the pursuit of them and to flourish in the journey towards them. This episode will shake you out of going through the motions, which is a source of burnout, and leave you inspired to dig deep to reconnect with your own dreams. 

Contact Information:

Physician Empowerment: website | facebook | linkedin





Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:00:01] Hi, I'm Dr. Kevin Mailo, one of the co-hosts of the Physician Empowerment podcast. At Physician Empowerment we're dedicated to improving the lives of Canadian physicians personally, professionally, and financially. If you're loving what you're listening to, let us know! We always want to hear your feedback. Connect with us. If you want to go further, we've got outstanding programing both in person and online. So look us up, but regardless, we hope you really enjoy this episode.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:00:34] Well, welcome everyone to our next episode of podcast in Physician Empowerment. So I'm Dr. Wing Lim, I'm one of the co-founders of Physician Empowerment, and today I'm really glad to interview my co-host and co-founder, Dr. Kevin Mailo, who is an emerging physician out of Sherwood Park. And we're going to talk about a topic that he delivered in an accredited CME event in Mexico a couple of years ago. And it's about dreams, why dreams matter in your life, and how it ties into your wellness. So welcome everyone and welcome, Kevin. So why do you pick a topic like that? Strange topic, dreamy weamy stuff.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:01:16] Yeah, so this one actually, this was actually an accredited talk that I delivered when we, when we got invited to Mexico. And at first I was actually overwhelmed with this one. And today on the episode, I'm not going to go into it in its complete depth. There's a lot, a lot there. But boy, at first it was, like I said, overwhelmed. And I'm like, where do I start? And then I started and I just kept going and it was incredible. And this topic specifically represents really, I would say, my falling in love with Physician Empowerment, because in many respects, Physician Empowerment represents a dream for me to help transform the lives of Canadian physicians. But what was so powerful is that in this journey of teaching, I was forced to learn the material myself. I was supposed to take it. I was forced to take a very hard look at my personal life, my professional life, my financial life and making a lot of incredible change, and I'm just so much happier for it. And so this topic of dreams became very powerful for me because it brought a lot of focus into my life. And so, yeah, again, I could go on and on about about this, but yes, this was an accredited talk. You could claim main Pro Plus credits for it. Really far from blood pressure management. Really far.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:02:41] Manage your own blood pressure.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:02:42] Manage your own blood pressure. Exactly. By being better.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:02:45] So tell us. Tell us, Kevin, how does, why do our dreams matter to our wellness?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:02:50] Yeah. So. So dreams matter in our lives. And I'm not talking about goals, okay? Goals I'll get to later, that's a much narrower thing. Dreams are those things that we truly want that are part of our self actualization. Okay? Dreams are. When I think about a dream, I think about our life as a landscape. So I look at my life like it's a landscape. It's got hills, it's got paths, it's got fields, it's got forests, it's got mountains. It's got whatever in front of it. And on the horizon is a destination. That is a dream to me. That's the visual imagery I use to describe dreams, and that you can have multiple dreams in your life's journey, that you can walk across the landscape of your life, and you can go to all these vistas, all these points. All these locations, and each one represents a dream, right? So it's not one thing on the horizon. It's many things on the horizon. So dreams are what help us keep going forward in our lives despite the struggles, despite the setbacks, despite the monotony, despite the burn out, dreams end up being the thing that we can focus on so that when we're walking life's path and it's muddy, it's rainy, there's quicksand, there's no clear path ahead. Somehow we make it when we follow our dreams.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:04:20] Right? So yeah. So you said the dreams and goals are not the same. And most people, they just lump them up, dreams and goals. Right?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:04:27] Exactly.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:04:27] So how do you distinguish between them two?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:04:29] So for me a dream is a representation of a better future for myself, for my loved ones, and for society as a whole. The other thing is that dreams can be very small. You might have a dream to run a half marathon. Okay? Or a dream can be huge. We actually had somebody come to the Physician Empowerment conference one year - do you remember, Wing? I think you do - He is very successful physician entrepreneur, and we talked about physician entrepreneurs before, but his goal was to build his business and create a $50 million endowment for children with autism and autism awareness. And that was his big dream, right? So dreams can be huge.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:05:15] Mhm.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:05:16] Dreams can also be private. So they can be, you know, things that are very personal that we don't share. It can be something, you know, like a special trip. You know, you want to go to a great location and just experience a certain festival let's say. But dreams can also be shared. Right? You know, that you share with your loved ones that you share with colleagues. Like let's say, you know, you talk about your dream, Wing, of Synergy Medical. That was a shared dream to bring comprehensive health care to a county of, well, probably getting close to 100,000 people now, that was underserved. So dreams are a lot more than goals, you know. A goal might be to say, I want to have X amount of dollars in the bank when I retire, but a dream is really I want to have this money to do this great thing for myself or my family, have a sense of purpose. And the truth is, and you know, I don't want to sound too romantic here, but the truth is, our world is built on dreams. Every invention, innovation or discovery was a product of dreams. And the people who make the headlines, they're not particularly intelligent, not even necessarily particularly hard working, but they're dreamers. And they kept going despite the failures and the setbacks.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:06:41] Mhm. Yeah, I once heard one definition of dreaming is an attack on status quo.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:06:48] Ooh I love that. Looking at the world and saying I'm not happy with what I see, or looking in our lives and saying, I'm not happy with what I see. How can I do better?


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:06:59] Mhm.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:06:59] For me, and I would say, you know, some of the most important people in my life are immigrants, including you, ing. But immigrants inspire me because their lives are, are an embodiment of a dream of a better existence for them and their descendants. When you think about the immense sacrifices somebody makes, you know, to travel to another country, leave everything behind that they know, and start working at a lowly job and start working up the ladder, is incredible. Right? Again, not happy with the status quo.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:07:37] Mhm.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:07:38] And somewhere along the line as we become adults, and it's funny because one of my kids had a birthday and I told him like, don't ever grow up. And it's not that I don't want my children to become highly responsible, industrious, hardworking, self-reliant young people that will have careers and families of their own. But the message behind that was, don't grow up. Don't give up on your dreams and become some stuffy adult that is focused on day to day tasks and has no meaning in the broader arc of their life, that loses track of the landscape. Because when you think about dreams, probably your best way to connect with your own dreams is to look at the ones that you had when you were a kid. You know, when you were a teenager. And it's like, what would I do in my career? Where would I live? Who would I marry? What would my kids be like? Where would I travel? What would I experience in life? What would make me happy? Somehow, as adults, we have lost that. Somehow, as adults, through career, life struggles, institutional level sort of functioning, being put into a system, whether it's an education system or the health care system or a business system or whatever, our dreams get ground down. We're told it's unrealistic to think like that. And yet, as I said before, some of the most powerful innovations in our world, inventions, new systems of government, whatever, are the result of dreams.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:09:19] I read some stats. I don't know who put it up. I can't quote your source, but somebody says that in North America by age about 25, we stopped. We just stopped dreaming. And for us, that takes us through med school and residency. You know what? It was a dream that that put us in to where we are as clinicians. It was our dream.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:09:40] Yeah, I had a dream of being a doctor.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:09:42] Exactly. And then what happened? Right. We stopped dreaming. And they also heard somewhere else that dream is like a kid, right? When we grew up, my family was really broke so we have school uniforms - I grew up in the British system and we have school uniforms - and my parents would buy me 1 to 2 sizes bigger so I can grow into it. And they say, dream is just like that. It's 1 to 2 sizes bigger than you right now so that you can grow into it. And once you fit it, now you need a new set of clothes. You need a new dream to grow bigger.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:10:12] And the thing is, is that dreams give us meaning in our lives. When I think of one of the biggest tragedies in modern human existence, I think of the loss of people's dreams, and I see so many people within our profession or patients, people you meet on the street who are unhappy because their lives lack meaning. Did they just go through the motions, check the boxes? But they're not aspiring to anything bigger in their life anymore. And so watching somebody lose their dreams by about the age of 25 and never recover them is, in my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies in modern life.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:10:54] Right. And when I look at how, reflecting upon when we went through med school, we were they say people were so broke they eat dog food and cat food. I couldn't even afford it. It was too high of a price item for me and my spouse at that time. Right? And then how do we go through 100, 120 hours of work without burning out? How do we go through work and study at the same time and doing the lowest, lowest job, menial job? How do we survive? Because we had a dream, right? So somebody also said that if there's power, if there's hope in the future, there's power in the present. So the dream helps us to become more resilient because we know that the stuff that we work through is only temporary, right? There's a brighter future. There's a brighter tomorrow.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:11:41] Well, it's walking to that destination on the horizon that you deal with what you face in the landscape of life, even when it's hard, even when you feel lost, even when you feel stuck or you're going in circles. It's that notion that it's somewhere on the horizon where you're headed to.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:12:01] Mhm.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:12:01] And there are a lot of ways, and I did research on this in preparation for, you know teaching it, and I'm not going to go into all the reasons why dreams are destroyed, but there are a lot of external factors. People are, some of us are scared of being successful, we're overwhelmed with consumer spending. To the point that we don't have any margin to pursue dreams, which is very true.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:12:24] Oh, what a sore spot.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:12:26] You can count how many hours you have to work clinically to pay your mortgage every month, and those are hours that you are not able to pursue a dream, potentially. There are lots of societal factors. Some people are, you know, will be jealous of you or want to hold you back. You told me this one, Wing, is a lot of well-meaning people think that they're watching out for you by telling you not to dream.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:12:51] Exactly. Yeah.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:12:52] And I actually, I can recall many conversations from friends and family who would caution me on my dreaming.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:12:58] We just don't want you to be hurt, honey.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:13:00] Exactly. We don't want to see you fail. We don't want to see you struggle. And, Wing, I really want it, that's my first big thank you on this topic. That's my first big thank you to you on this topic because you told me about that.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:13:15] Oh you're welcome.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:13:16] But the second and more profound part to that is you said it wasn't about the external voices that were hard to ignore when it came to your dreams. It was that inner voice saying, I can't do it. It's too hard. Why try? And I remember that conversation. It's that inner voice saying, I don't deserve it or I can't do it, why bother? That's the hard voice we have to learn to shut down and ignore from within that holds us back from pursuing our dreams.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:13:53] So some people astutely put it as the imposter syndrome.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:13:57] Yes.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:13:57] Who do you think you are?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:13:59] Who do you think you are to dream? To think you can change the world or change your life? Dreams are important because that better vision of the future of ourselves, of our world, of our family, it creates optimism and optimism drives positive action. When you are optimistic, you feel like you can take chances. You feel like you can step out of your comfort zone. You feel like you can do things. Pessimism and a lack of dreaming is the opposite. It leads to fear and inaction. Would I ever attempt that airway if I thought I wasn't going to make it? Would you do surgery if you thought your patient was going to die? Right. Would you do counseling, Wing, and clinic and say, Oh, why am I bothering my patient's not going to follow through on it anyhow? No. No. We take, we have an optimistic view of our interventions in the world, in our practices, and it leads to action. Right? So dreams provide enormous meaning in our lives. And they help unify our lives as well. So at Physician Empowerment we teach that there are three different types of people within.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:15:16] There's our physician self, the MD, the professional self. There is the personal self which includes our inner child, the one who used to dream. And there's the financial self. When you're a dreamer and you know your dreams, you've written them down, you have a clear sense of who you are and where you want to go in life, it allows you to unify the three selves. And in doing that, you make life and career and financial decisions that reflect your dreams. Right? Because your three selves can't be walking in opposite directions across the landscape. You can't say, I've got a dream of setting, of traveling around the world, but you've got a consumer spending problem that keeps you working endlessly. And you're not able to train and get fit to do it. Right? And, you know, I wish I had more time to explore the example that I used in Mexico because it was really beautiful. But it is on the website and I encourage you to to watch the talk. The other part to dreams, and I don't know if you want to share on this, Wing, because I know you've taken some big leaps over the years, is dreams give us courage.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:16:26] Mhm. Yeah, actually, let me relate to this. The first time I got exposed to this dreaming stuff was at my CCFP confo. This is at Banff, right, for us in Western Canada I went to bang for my CCFP confo. And so 8:00 in the morning this big conference started at Banff Spring Hotel. And then this lady, she was a Mount Everest climber, she was one of the first female Mount Everest climbers. And she talked about her journey, and I thought, why are we woken up at 8:00 in the morning to listen to somebody climbing the mountain? And she almost died, some of her teammates died. And then at the end of that talk, she had a five minute standing ovation and she ended her talk, she said, That was my Mount Everest, what's yours? Right? And it was, wow. It just woke me up from the depth of my soul. Right? And what's your Mount Everest? What is that impossible dream? What is that thing you want to achieve that is bigger than you, bigger than all you can muster together, right? And when that things, when thoughts like this got turned on, I think it unleashes a lot of power. And they also say that when the student is ready, the mentors will show up, right, the magical mentors, the resources, people that you need to make connections with show up. And that's how things got turned around in the world. How big things got changed in the world.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:17:55] Absolutely. Absolutely. Dreams also, and you alluded to this earlier on today's episode, Wing, is that dreams make sacrifice meaningful in our lives, right? Like we, don't focus, when we talk about dreams don't focus on the destination. Focus on what it does to you over the journey. But as you're walking life's landscape, inevitably you are going to encounter struggle, setback, and failure. But when we actively pursue our dreams, they make those sacrifices and those hardships meaningful. You know, I always think about my dream of being a father. I'd wanted to have kids since I was a teenager, and it was such a joy to have them. And we had the twins first, and I remember countless sleepy nights that I'd be up feeding babies, thousands of diapers changed, countless days spent chasing around toddlers that didn't want to get dressed while we were going through medical school and residency, you know, exhausted. And yet when you look at it in the frame of I'm living my dream, those things aren't relevant. Those things aren't struggles. Those things are a joy. Right? You know the long hours that we spend on the wards of hospitals as med students and residents represents us living a dream. And it makes the sacrifice bearable. It makes the sleep deprivation and the hardship bearable. Right? Because we're living a dream. And so being explicit about it can be very powerful in our lives. When we say, no, this isn't a chor, this isn't, I'm not working towards a goal, I'm working towards a dream.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:19:34] Mhm. Yes. Now so we're almost out of time. So Kevin, maybe give us some takeaway, a couple takeaway points.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:19:46] Yeah, okay. There was a lot here, and I wish I had time. And maybe I should come back to it later, because, I write down my dreams.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:19:54] Yeah, another episode.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:19:54] Big, big dreamer. Okay, so let me let me wrap this up here with this wisdom that I came to when I was reflecting on my own life's journey. The destination is less important than we think. Whether we get to our dream or not is far less important than the fact that we actively pursued it, that we gave ourselves meaning along the way, that we grew as people, that we challenged ourselves and in the process, we connected with those in our lives more meaningfully. So here I'll leave you with with one example. And imagine a young woman that's training in a marathon, and she spends five years training to become a top tier marathoner, and she wants to win that race, she wants to come in first. Which means that she sacrificed every day. She trained, she ate right. And let's say a month before the marathon, she suffers an injury. Is she a failure, Wing? Absolutely not. Let's say that she's running the marathon and she's in first place after five years of training and 100m from the finish line, she trips, falls, wipes out, and doesn't even place. Is she a failure?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:21:25] Absolutely not. Let's say that after five years of training and working towards her dream, she runs that race and somebody just happens to be faster than her and beats her. Is she a failure? Absolutely not. It's the personal growth along the way that makes us, that makes it so meaningful when we pursue dreams. That is what helps us grow as individuals. That's what takes us from being static, going through the motions of life, checking the boxes, to being this dynamic individual who's growing, who's changing, who's optimistic about their future. And so for me, I constantly try to reconnect with my dreams and I constantly remind myself that success or failure is irrelevant. It's the fact that I get up every day and I feel like in some capacity, I'm living one of my dreams. Whether it's as a doctor, as a father, as an entrepreneur in Physician Empowerment, whatever it is, I feel like I'm living my dreams and that's what gives me an enormous sense of meaning. Not whether, not whether a certain thing happens. That's a goal. It's are you living your reality? Are you living your best version of you? Dreams are intrinsic to that. Dreams are intrinsic to that. So I'll leave you with, you know, sort of, practically speaking, is to take some time, like real time, like many, many hours, to just think back to your childhood. To that younger version of yourself. Be vulnerable with who you are and ask yourself what you really wanted when you were much younger, when you were a teenager or a child. And then look back on the times when you sort of slowly let those dreams fall to the wayside. And you so-called, grew up.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:23:36] Mm hmm.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:23:36] And then begin to write them down. You don't have to share them with anybody. But just write them down and be bold. That's the, that's the third big thank you I have for you, Wing, is I remember in one of our earliest meetings at that little breakfast restaurant - I think it's called Tutti Frutti, remember, it was super loud and super crowded - and I remember you telling me I'm not dreaming big enough, and I still hold on to that. So again, that's what I'd encourage listeners to do, is, is to just connect with yourself and begin to dream unapologetically and stop worrying about what anyone will think, and stop worrying about whether you actually reach your destination or not. The real gift of a dream is in living it now and pursuing it now. Not whether you get there or not.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:24:31] Exactly. So I got lots of patients, who are hunters, right, at the end of the day they said the hunt or they said the kill isn't the hunt, right? It's a journey, right? It's a journey that counts. So that, those those are lots of really good points, Kevin. So thanks for sharing with us. And we hope, at Physician Empowerment, we hope we'll rock your boat a little bit. I know you're busy. We're busy. We're going 100mph. But we hope we stop you down, smack you a little bit on the side and disrupt you a little bit so you can dig deep and go deep down, deep down.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:25:04] Just get out of the everyday. Get out of the everyday. Because so many physicians are just going through the motions. And it's an enormous source of burnout. Because you feel like that hamster wheel never stops turning over. But when you get out of that comfort zone and you just, you just ask yourself some hard questions and begin to take steps along that road, it can be so profound. And, that's you know, that's one of the things that we try to achieve on Physician Empowerment is like helping you connect with with your inner self and to transform your life, like, really transform your life.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:25:46] So I'll just end this episode with a comment. So this, from my mentor that unlocked my potential, Dr. George is his name. Most of you don't know him, he's 88 years old already, and he asked me way back 30 years ago, or not quite, 20 some years ago, What if time and money were no object? What if success is assured? What would you do? What would you see? What would you become? What would you not do? Right? So he was the guy that changed my whole entire life by that little question. So we pass you along with this question, and for those of you are already in the journey that you're chasing your dream, you're living your dream, maybe you can be the dream giver, right? That's the next step, right? And ask people around you, empower them so that they can embark on the journey of reliving their dreams. So we hope this episode is meaningful for you, and we look forward to seeing a lot of you.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:26:37] All right. Thank you so much.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:26:38] Okay. Thank you.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:26:41] Thank you so much for listening to the Physician Empowerment podcast. If you're ready to take those next steps in transforming your practice, finances, or personal well-being, then come and join us at - P H Y S Empowerment dot ca - to learn more about how we can help. If today's episode resonated with you, I'd really appreciate it if you would share our podcast with a colleague or friend and head over to Apple Podcasts to give us a five star rating and review. If you've got feedback, questions or suggestions for future episode topics, we'd love to hear from you. If you want to join us and be interviewed and share some of your story, we'd absolutely love that as well. Please send me an email at [email protected]. Thank you again for listening. Bye.