Do you need more flexibility in your medical career?

After reading Winning by Suzy and Jack Welch I spent some time trying to answer a few questions about my own life and career. I've been there with each of you in the seasons of child rearing, climbing the professional ladder, eldercare and the "Sandwich Generation" and am now in the active pre-retirement season. Frankly, I've found myself stuck professionally at some point in each season. Sometimes I just waited it out, acquiring those emotional bumps and bruises that collectively are called wisdom. Sometimes I took responsibility for myself and got "unstuck".

Getting unstuck creates a sense of tremendous satisfaction and generally has wide reaching positive impact. You, your family and friends feel an amazing sense of relief once you've assumed your responsibility to re-create your professional life. Those of us in medicine and health care may have felt professionally stuck for as long as we can remember. We all made a commitment to this spend our lives caring for others when we were perhaps too young to make such a choice. But, after all, you don't become a physician overnight. Generally, you have to begin the journey on this road before the age of 16. It shouldn't (but it does) surprise people when we admit doubt or normal frustration with our professional choice/commitments. One of the great quotes from Winning is: "You can figure out what you want to be when you grow up. You just have to be very grown up to do it."

Suzy Welch writes in a magazine interview about the "'Everyone But Me Syndrome' where we have arranged our days to be good enough' at work and there enough' at home but found we are living in a kind of purgatory, waiting for a time when our own dreams and needs can meet." Regardless which season of life you are living, aren't all of your colleagues talking about how life will be "when"?

I don't have any data to support this theory but my guess is that medicine/health care professionals feel a higher degree of "stuck" than almost any other endeavor. We care for people at work and we continue to care for people at home. The compromises we make, including sacrificing self, are generally invisible to our patients, employees and extended families. One does not "leave" their patients casually and our similarly overwhelmed colleagues may not share or acknowledge their "stuck-ness". Traits like intense focus, determination and analytical prowess make great clinicians and executives but can also lead to overwhelming emotional "stuckness".

If the notion of being stuck rings true to you, I recommend Suzy Welch's five questions:

1) Does this job allow me to work with "my people"-individuals who share my sensibilities about life-or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?

2) Does this job challenge, stretch, change and otherwise make me smarter-or does it leave my brain in neutral?

3) Does this job open the door to future jobs?

4) Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of it consequences?

5) Does this job-stuff I actually do day-to-day-touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful way?

I've spent some time reflecting on my answers to these questions throughout each season of my professional life. I believe they are so profoundly important to living an authentic life that I've sent Winning to my adult children with an inscription about the struggles along my journey. Suzy says, "Just keep asking questions. If you listen closely enough, with time, patience, and the courage to act, the answers will lead you to the very place you were always meant to be-when you grow up." It is my hope that all of us will give ourselves the gift of this honest evaluation throughout the seasons of our lives. Change is rarely our enemy. One thing I know for sure, getting unstuck through conscious choice leaves fewer emotional bumps and bruises.

Visit the MomMD Self Development Center and Coaching Corner.

About the author: Lynn Hepner is the Owner and Principal of Flexdox.com

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