Skills to meet the changing, challenging world of medicine today
“Give a particular shape or form to”
“Determine the nature of; have a great influence on”
Take a moment to pause.
To just sit.
To simply breathe.
A cool inbreath,
A warm outbreath.
A moment to just be.
Embrace for a moment the possibility and power of “shaping” your future. Imagine a life and career that you can mold to resonate with your deepest held values and aspirations. Savor the thrill of connecting once more to your dreams and living and working with inspiration and joy.
Feel the excitement.
Be aware of the fear.
Connect to the joy.
Experience the relief
To just be you.
Mary Catherine Bateson, author, scholar and cultural anthropologist, coined the phrase” Composing a Life”, writing a book with that title. This is what many of us try to do as women and as physicians. We seek to weave together many threads, attempting to shape a coherent, joyful whole. This is not a once off exercise. We may have to reorder and tweak our lives time and time again. We are often striving to do this in an environment that is not understanding or supportive. Maintaining clarity and wellbeing in such a situation can be extraordinarily difficult.
Something essential can be lost as we endlessly strategize and plot the next iteration of our personal and professional lives. “Ourselves!” By trying to manage the needs of everyone in our lives, as well as respond to the demands of our workplace, the essence of who we are and a sense of our own groundedness can begin to fade and disappear. Trying to shape a future, where we ourselves are not present, is a recipe for dissatisfaction and likely failure.
I experienced my own epiphany one Christmas many years ago. I was raising three children with a busy surgeon husband and was running a Women’s Wellness Center at a multi-specialty clinic. My children were decorating our Christmas tree and one of them began to fool around and get very silly. I found myself on the verge of completely losing my temper and saying something angry and hurtful. I caught myself in time, but was shocked to see how completely I had lost sight of the joy of the moment and had made it into one more box to be checked off on my list of tasks to be completed that day. I sensed how disconnected I had become from the mother and human being that I aspired to be, and, at heart knew myself to be. I had felt tension and stress building inside me for a period of time and my health had even begun to suffer. In addition, I felt that many of my patients were looking to me for advice on how to stay truly well in a hectic, stressful world.
I knew that this wasn’t about finding new ways to organize or delegate. Something deep inside of me was way off track and I needed to find a way to completely de-stress, and reconnect to myself in a profound and meaningful way. Only then would I be able to design a thriving, fulfilling life and career would resonate me. By finding the tools to help myself, I hoped in turn to be able to help my patients to flourish in the chaos of everyday life.
I discovered Mindfulness Meditation when I attended Dr. Jon Kabat- Zinn’s MBSR (Mindfulness based Stress Reduction) training for health professionals. This was a week long retreat and opened my eyes to the practice of meditation and yoga, none of which I had ever tried before. I have sustained this practice for decades now. Mindfulness and yoga provided me with the tools that I needed ground myself, so that I could find an authentic, transformative way forward. Fundamentally, the practice returned me to the present moment, where I restore calm and regain focus and clarity. I believe that taking the time and space to reconnect to oneself is an essential first step for beginning the journey of creating the future that you truly desire.
Secondly, sometimes the hardest aspect of initiating change, is to even believe that change is a possibility. This is particularly difficult if we have found ourselves stuck in a stressful, unfulfilling situation for a significant period of time. A book that has inspired me many times along my own journey is “The “Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. They challenge us to believe in possibility, but to remember that sometimes shifting gears and moving in another direction is a radical act:
“…..the practices presented in this book are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement. They are geared instead toward causing a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs, and thought processes. They are about transforming your entire world.”
By believing in possibility, we create an opening for us to take that first bold and courageous step into the future that we want.
As Johann von Goethe said:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.
Thirdly, we need to ask ourselves critical and penetrating questions:
- Where is the balance and clarity in my life?
- What is my vision for the big picture of how I want to live and work?
- What are the values and truths that I know I have to live by?
- What are my unique strengths and qualities?
- What is holding me back and keeping me stuck?
- How can I generate fresh and creative perspectives?
- What actions will move me in the direction that I want to go?
- Where will I find the support that I need to thrive in my life and career?
When we answer these questions, we may be confronted by the reality of how misaligned our current lives are with our values, strengths and dreams. This realization can be profoundly disconcerting and even scary. It can be challenging for us, as physicians, to consider stepping off the linear, traditional and often rigid path that defines medical careers. However, if we look beyond the fear and embrace the truth of our observations, we can begin to design a powerful and authentic blueprint for the future. It may look similar or very different from our current path.
The American Medical Women’s Association 102nd Anniversary Meeting In San Francisco is offering a Career Development Pre-course (March 30, 2017) titled, like this blog, Women Physicians Shaping their Future. I will be collaborating with three other professional coaches for physicians, to teach this course. We all do this work, because we are committed and passionate about helping women physicians flourish. The program is designed to be both didactic and experiential. The core learning objectives for participants are:
- Develop mindfulness practices to cultivate awareness, equanimity and emotional intelligence in personal and professional interactions.
- Understand the importance of intentionality and knowing your values in creating a more fulfilling life.
- Powerfully use simple communication strategies and skills to inspire, create engagement, and effectively influence others.
- Recognize the impact of emotions on self and others, and manage them effectively to create desired outcomes.
- Create a personal leadership brand in order to enhance results and influence.
In addition to the program itself we will be offering complimentary, introductory coaching sessions to participants. The link to register for the program is:
I truly believe that we each have something unique and wonderful to contribute and sometimes it just needs for us to rediscover what it is.
In the words of Mary Oliver from her poem The Summer Day:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”