You are a physician. You have put in years of hard work and sacrifice getting here. Now what?
Does your life look and feel exactly how you imagined it would?
If not, what does your ideal life look like?
Certainly, answers to this question are deeply personal, and will vary depending on the individual. As physicians, we need to engage in a process of self-discovery to create the lives we want and deserve. This requires each of us to examine our lives as they currently are, envision what they could be, and take inspired action to make the changes that are necessary to achieve our goals.
To start, you might ask yourself the following questions:
What aspects of my career and personal life do I find the most rewarding and fulfilling?
What aspects am I simply tolerating?
And what aspects actually make me feel unhappy, or unsettled?
The above questions are just the beginning. They will provide a rough sketch of what “ideal” means to you; thereafter, it is up to you to fill in the details and complete your picture. Each of us has the power to take control of our lives today to create a better tomorrow.
So, why are so many physicians unable to take the necessary steps to create their ideal lives? It comes down to four key factors:
Lack of control. One of the major sources of dissatisfaction for physicians is the lack of autonomy over one’s practice. An increasing number of factors are seemingly outside of our control, which can make us feel disempowered, and unable to effect change. We view ourselves as “just a cog in the wheel,” which can leave us feeling unfulfilled and more susceptible to burnout.
The good news here is that you have far more control than you might think. When you become fully engaged with your goals, opportunities emerge that you may not have considered before.
When I first begin working with my physician clients, I often hear them say they are discouraged by all that is beyond their control. But, it does not take long for them to experience a critical mindset shift; within the first few weeks of coaching, they are making changes that yield meaningful results. They feel empowered, exhilarated even – and why shouldn’t they? We are talented, resourceful professionals. We have options.
Lack of clarity on one’s goals. Physicians. Are. Busy. We schedule every moment of our days, and leave little time for personal reflection. But, let’s say you have given some thought to the direction of your career, and, for example, set a goal of promotion. The promotion itself is just the surface-level acknowledgment of your goal. There are many other questions to consider:
Why that position in particular? What excites you about it?
If you get the promotion, how will your life be different, both personally and professionally? And how will those changes feel?
Which of your current responsibilities may need to shift in order to make time for your new role?
Are you playing it small with your goal, or can you dream bigger?
The clearer you are when setting your goals, the more you will connect to the outcome. And that connection becomes your anchor, pulling your forward. When your goal becomes an anchor, all actions will eventually lead you to it. A clarified goal is your inspiration.
Lack of strategy. Now that you know you have the power to effect change in your life, and you are really clear on where you want to go, how will you get there? Developing a step-by-step strategy to get from A to B is easier said than done. For most physicians, time is among their most precious resources. The trial and error approach might eventually get you to your goal, but it will take significantly more time, and most people will give up after becoming frustrated, exhausted, and/or disconnected from the outcome. A customized strategy will consider and reflect your strengths, experience, available resources, supports, and balancing measures to help you to achieve your goals exponentially faster – saving you time, money, and frustration.
Lack of support. We have all heard the saying, “it takes a village.” Who and what makes up your support system? Are your goals in line with your institutional mission? Are they in line with your family’s goals and values? Can you garner support from your peers and/or supervisors at work? Who is there to think about your best interest?
When I first hired my own professional coach, I had no idea how powerful the experience would be. I was already quite happy in my career – I loved clinical medicine, and had loosely set goals for myself and developed some strategic plans to achieve them. I was far from feeling “burned out,” and I had a wonderful partner at home who was fully supportive of all of my professional endeavors. Indeed, I only pursued coaching because I was building a professional fulfillment program at my institution and felt I needed more support in order to move past the barriers I was facing. I wanted to offer more to my colleagues who were feeling stuck in their careers, and I wanted to see what coaching could do to accelerate my own path toward professional fulfillment.
The results were beyond my expectations. I had a coach who enveloped me with support. She helped me think about my goals in new and different ways and connect to them at a much deeper level. Through this discovery, we developed a strategy that was specific to me, and the timeline to get there was significantly faster. I was inspired to take action, not only in pursuing my goals for program development but to offer coaching services to my fellow physicians who would undoubtedly benefit from this comprehensive approach to physician well-being and professional fulfillment.
You are responsible for your success, which is a freeing and empowering truth.
Are you inspired to take action and live your ideal life?
Gina Geis is a neonatologist and vice-chair, professional fulfillment, Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center. She is also an associate professor of pediatrics and bioethics and co-chair, hospital ethics review committee, Albany Medical Center. She is also a professional physician coach and can be reached at her self-titled site, Gina Geis, MD.
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