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What do you believe?

What do you believe?

Why do you believe that?

One of my favorite definitions of beliefs is just a thought that you have thought so many times you think it is true. 

Many beliefs we have serve us.

We believed we could become doctors.

We believed we could help people.

Some of our beliefs are really holding us back, and we call those limiting beliefs.  We can address those specifically in a later blog.  For now, we are just trying to raise your awareness that much of what you believe to be true, is just the way that you see or interpret things.

It’s so funny that once you learn to start separating the subjective experience of the world from the objective facts, you may begin to really see that much of how you see the world is “just a thought” or that your thought is a “belief” about the world. 

What is interesting is that we have the power to see these thoughts as beliefs, not necessarily the only way to see the world.  There may be other people who see this same thing differently.  You may even see this same thing differently on one day versus another depending on your mood, if you are tired, overwhelmed, behind, versus if you just had a great day.

That’s so much of what we do in coaching is I ask you what is going on in your life.  You tell me all about it.  I listen.   Then we take a step back together and separate out the facts versus the thoughts.  We look at what you think and what you believe.  We ask if those thoughts are serving you.  If so, you keep them.  If not, we help you look at another way to see it, a way that might be less painful or even more helpful.

Even just distancing yourself from the thought and see the thought as separate from you and that one day it might be optional, or you could replace that thought with some other way of looking at the world can be freeing.

Remember that your thoughts are a reflection of biology, they come from your brain.  Your brain is designed to be incredibly efficient.  Therefore, once you think a thought enough times, it becomes a default pathway, like a superhighway in your brain.  You don’t have to concentrate to think it.  The new beliefs, those they are more like bumpy dirt roads.  It’s not fast or easy or quick to get down the new road or to repeatedly connect new neural pathways.  But it’s so worth it. 

Beliefs are some of my favorite things.  They give me hope.  I believe that medicine doesn’t have to be the way it is now.  I believe that doctors are people too and deserve to be treated with compassion. 

I believe we are not cogs in a wheel or revenue generating machines.  I believe we are healers.  I believe healing is about connection.  I believe the care of the patient is in caring for the patient. 

I believe we were not trained to save lives so that we could spend most of our time staring at computer screens typing in clinic, in hospitals, and at home on nights and weekends. 

I believe somethings got to give.  I believe change is a foot. 

I believe we are uniquely positioned to demand change and create change.  I believe now is the time.  I believe I am part of the solution, that all of us are part of the solution. 

I believe we will leave medicine better than we found it.  I believe this is all just a phase. 

Just as people wore neon in the 1980s and hair bands were all the rage in the 1990s, this is just a phase that one day people will say, remember back in 2010 to 2020 when doctors sat and faced computer screens all day every day and got terribly burned out until things finally had to change? 

I think nearly everyone agrees.  All the major medical associations and all the lead medical journals are paying increasing attention to physician distress in the current health care system.  I don’t know what the answer will be, I don’t think anyone does.

It doesn’t matter exactly how it will happen, because we have to be committed to the result no matter what. 

Everything is just an experiment to find out the best way to make it happen. 

I believe this with all my heart.  I believe.  What do you believe?

Are you a problem solver?

You may be familiar with Carol Dweck and her book on Growth Mindset.

It is really helpful for parenting and even for us as adults.  Rather than thinking that we have a fixed mindset or fixed capacity to excel in certain areas, it focuses us to put our attention on when we can and are growing. 

Instead of telling my 6 year old that he is “a good reader”, I am telling him, “I love to see you trying so hard and sounding out such big words.”

I tell him all the time that I love to see that he is “solving problems”.

I do then actually say that we are problem solvers in this family.  As I don’t mind if his mindset is fixed on us all being problem solvers. 

I do this for myself most often when I feel overwhelmed.  I remind myself, I am learning to be a problem solver.  If I am a problem solver what would I do? How would a problem solver handle this?  What do I need to solve this problem?   Focusing on solutions. 

(I’m not gonna lie, very often the thought that occurs to me is that a babysitter is the solution).

You can do nearly anything you set your mind to, so try and think next time you are stuck about how you could be a problem solver and what possible solutions are available to you.

Because remember, we are here to teach you how to find solutions for yourself.  You can do this.  You can do hard things.

Subjective versus objective

There is a reason that medical notes start with a subjective section about what the patient says in their own words.  Then we purposefully separate out that story from what we label as objective facts. 

The objective facts are usually pretty standard.

Vitals

General appearance

Head and neck

Cardio

Pulmonary

Abdomen

Extremities

Sometimes additional exams if you are gyn or neuro.

Then labs.

Then special studies.

It’s all very objective.  Numbers.  Things we can measure.

If we repeat the measurement there may be slight variation, but for the most part these things are relatively objective, repeatable, and everyone agrees on them.

We can separate this out from the story that someone is telling about the facts, which we call the subjective part of the medical note.

This could include whatever the patient states, whether we have any way of knowing if it is indeed true or not true.

We can use this skill in our own lives.

Let’s say for instance a patient had a fasting glucose of 200.

Now, if this was my fasting glucose, I’d be pretty unhappy.  I’m guessing if it was your fasting glucose, you too would be pretty unhappy. 

However, there are many patients who would be either completely indifferent or actually thrilled that their fasting glucose was “only” 200.  I have many patients who would be happy with this number. 

So the objective data is what everyone can agree on.

If everyone in the whole world agrees on it, that’s a fact.

If not, then it likely has some subjective component to it and it’s just a thought, a narrative, a belief.

When  you can start to see SO much of the world around you as just a narrative, just a story someone is telling themselves, it really starts to shift the way you see things.  It’s like having magical secret X ray classes. 

I want you to take a look at your own life and write down all of your thoughts.  Just do a thought download, or journaling, about everything you can think of that is bothering you right now.

Then go through with a pen and circle the things that are indisuputable facts.  There are typically very few things.   Then only the circled items go in the objective section of the note.  Everything else is a story we are telling ourselves over and over again. 

Let’s look at your story.

Our enemies are our biggest teachers

The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama is one of my favorite books. There is so much wisdom in there and it is easy to read for a non-Buddhist. One of the concepts I appreciated was that our enemies are our biggest teachers. We enjoy spending time with people we get along with easily, who we find fun, entertaining, and who bring us spontaneous joy. However, we don’t learn as much by spending time with people who agree with us and are easy to get along with. We don’t grow as much. It is those who we find challenge us, those we challenge us to dig deep to find compassion, patience, or tolerance help us to become better people. Think about your child throwing a tantrum, a “difficult” patient, a demanding boss, an MA who isn’t doing what you think she should, or even an inefficient Electronic Health Record. These situations challenge us, yet they challenge us to grown.So the next time you feel irritated, annoyed, frustrated, you can just tell yourself that there is a lot of learning and growing happening.Every time I am at work and I start to feel really annoyed, I just try to ask myself, “What is this here to teach me?” or “What can I learn from this?”. Even if the answer is just I can learn that I don’t like working in a hectic environment or I don’t like being in a situation where I am interrupted often, I find I learn more about myself, who I am right now, and what I want to create more or less of in my life every time I am irritated. See if you can find what you can learn from the situation or person next time you are irritated.

The journey of 1000 miles

You are likely familiar with the old Chinese proverb that says the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

It’s true.

No matter the journey.

Often the very hardest step to take is the first step. 

It can feel like a leap.

Once you get moving though, you also know that a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  A body at rest tends to stay at rest.

So whatever your goal, your dream, your aspirations…

Only you know what those things are.

My advice to you, is to start to think about your goal as possible.

Even if you don’t fully believe it yet.

One of my favorite phrases to use is, “It’s possible that _____”

It’s possible that I could not chart at home on weekends. 

It’s possible that I could l could take more time to myself.

What is possible for you?  It’s possible that you _____________.

Then take a step.  The first step of the journey of 1,000 miles.  Then you have started the momentum.  Then just don’t stop.  One foot in front of the other.  Sure, sometimes you’ll end up on a curvy non-linear path, but you are moving, sometimes two steps forward and one step back, but always with a net positive in the direction of your dreams.

Get practical and tangible, come up with a real step that you can take toward your dream life today.  Even if it’s just going home at 6pm, no matter how many charts are left in your inbox.  Just take a step.  You decide which one.  Then keep on taking steps.  You’ll be surprised just how far you’ll get by the end of a few days, weeks, months, years.

But what if I fail?

Again, we’ll refer back to Henry Ford, who said, “Failure is just an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligibly.”

Now, I’m betting you’ve likely never used the word intelligibly in your life.

But you get the point.

It’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up.

What if there was no failure?

One of my mentors says when you get out and do something in the world, when you run a little experiment in your life, you either get the results you wanted or the lessons you needed.

It’s okay to fail.

If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying to do big enough things.

In coaching practice, we say to reach one of your big goals that it can be useful to make a list of 100 failures that you are willing to have.  That way when you fail once or twice or three times, you know you are learning and making progress.  By the time you reach the 100th failure, chances are that you will have made some pretty significant strides, learned an awful lot, been vulnerable, courageous, brave, and put yourself out there over and over again. 

It’s about who you become on the way.  You’re a different person by the end of the journey. 

Imagine who you might become if you were willing to put yourself out there, fail, not make it mean anything about you or your chances for success in the future, learn, dust yourself off, and start over again, more “intelligibly” this time.

I think I can, I think I can

One of my favorite quotes showing the power of your thoughts is by Henry Ford who said,

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re right

It’s quite profound really.

If you are 100% certain that there is no way you can get your charts done by the end of the day, or you are sure that you can’t be happy in medicine, be careful, because you might just be right.

If you have even the slightest glimmer of hope, then this blog, podcast, and retreats may really serve you.  

Because we are going to focus on what you can do. 

Not what you can’t.

We are going to focus on where you have power.

Not where you don’t.

See, it’s all about where we choose to focus our attention. 

It’s so simple that it shows up in children’s books, like The Little Engine that could.  The little train just keeps telling himself, “I think I can, I think I can.”  He purposefully focuses his attention over and over and over on things how he thinks he can do it.

Your thoughts can defeat you or empower you before you ever even get started.

Note even the slightest difference between

“I hope I can, and I might”

And

“I know I can, and I will”

So, I’ll ask, can you make your life a little bit better?  Is there hope?  Can you do this?

Let’s hope you will get to a place you can answer, “I know I can and I will.”

Because then you are determined to find a way, no matter what.

You know you can and you will.

I know you can too.

What do you think?

What are you thinking right now?

About your life?

Your work?

The first step is honestly just to bring awareness to what is going on in that brain of yours.

Our brains offer up tens of thousands of thoughts a day.

That’s their job.

Brains were designed to think.

Just like hearts beat, lungs breathe, kidneys filter urine, etc, etc.

Your brain’s job is to offer up thoughts.

Because we are human, we can actually recognize those things that occur to us as just thoughts. 

Those thoughts come and go.

The thoughts that come back over and over, the recurrent thoughts, we can take a look at those and see if they are serving us.

The thoughts you think over and over again, your recurrent thoughts, are they thoughts that serve you?

Chances are, if you are like most of us, many of our thoughts are not serving us at all.

“Medicine sucks”

“I am so tired of all this”

“I am so burned out”

“I am so unhappy”

Those thoughts can make us feel defeated or overwhelmed.

Especially if we continue to think them over and over and over again.

So what do we do?

Well…the first step, is just to have awareness.

Then we work on non-judgmental awareness.

Just accept those thoughts as something that occurred to you.

But you are not your thoughts.

You are the thinker of your thoughts.

You can actually choose to try to think new thoughts.   You can try to find some thoughts that might serve you better.  Even just a little better.  Something believable.

If you want some ideas about how you might be able to do that, download my free guide for women physicians that goes over the exactly process I use with my clients to start changing their thought patterns to find something a little more empowering to believe so that they can start creating a more sustainable life for themselves.

When you argue with reality you lose 100% of the time

Some say all stress = resisting / not accepting what is. Wishing it was different. In our minds.

What has happened has happened.

There is no changing what happened.

There is only changing how we perceive what has happened.

We can change the narrative.

We can change the story we choose to tell ourselves about the same circumstance.

Perhaps a slightly more useful story.

And that story, that can make all the difference.

It starts with you

The system is broken

But you don’t have to be

If you wait for the system to change, you may be waiting an awful long time.

You, you can change right now.

In an instant.

This can be the instant that you choose, you are in control of your life.

What do you want to change?

Can you think of one thing?

Or maybe brainstorm a few?

What are a few things that could make things a little bit better right now?

We want to teach you that YOU are creator of your life. 

You have the locus of control.

You have self-efficacy.

You have agency.

Let’s pick one thing.

You can pick one big thing and one little thing even.

Pick one short term thing you can do today to make you just a little bit happier today, at work and at home. 

Pick one longer term thing you may be able to do that could make a significant impact in your happiness.

I don’t know what your thing will be. 

For me, short term can be taking a bath.  Closing the door.  So no one yells at me or throws things at me while I try to relax.  (Okay, you know my little guy will likely come in and throw some toys in the water, but I may have gotten a few minutes to relax before the toy throwing starts).

For the long term, I’m planning to go part time.  It just makes sense.  I’ve been resisting it as I know I’ll likely still work way more hours than I am compensated for.  Yet, as I learn more and more this is the only life I get (in my belief system) and only I get to choose how I spend them, I am starting to see that I could choose to spend less time working.  I don’t want to leave medicine at all.  Nor do I want to leave medical education.  It’s just that since I recently earned an “accelerated promotion” for doing the equivalent of 6 years of work in 3 years time, I’m starting to think there is no need to work that hard.  It’s okay to slow down a little.

What are your short term things you’d like to change?

And long term?

If you can name it and make it clear in your mind, it is all the more likely to start to influence your thoughts and behaviors. 

Pick one.

And when you are feeling really bold, then if you believe you can, go ahead and take a step towards making it happen.  You may just surprise yourself.