Money, status, power – these are traditional measures of success in American culture. If you don’t have or are not striving after status symbols, you are not seen as successful. This creates a challenge for women, who typically have an expanded view of what successful women should be. It’s not that money and power are unimportant; it’s just that women have some other equally important priorities.
Encourage Other Women Physicians to Apply for Leadership Positions.
An Emergency Medicine Chairperson shared that “Getting paid more is great, but controlling your schedule and doing what’s important is awesome.” In her comment, you can hear the physician’s values of freedom and meaning.
During a coaching conversation, a physician researcher is evaluating the impact a significant career change would have on her family life. She valued being present for her children. Equally compelling was the possibility of impacting gun safety legislation nationwide.
In a book by Valerie Young, ED, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, she states that a woman’s susceptibility to imposter syndrome may not be fear of success, but rather is a mismatch of what constitutes success in our society …. “having different priorities is not the same as shooting low.”
Being Successful Women is Not The Obstacle.
Lack of clarity about how to define success is what gets in the way. There is bound to be tension when you are achieving in a system that is at odds with what you value. Feeling pulled in opposing directions is sure to be an energy drain and a drag on your momentum.
Clarity on What You Value is Key to Your Success.
- Set the timer for 10 minutes, and write down what success means to you.
- Flip the question around if you get stuck, and ask instead, what am I not willing to sacrifice for success?
American novelist, Anna Quindlen, writes, “If your success is not on your terms, if it looks good to the world but it does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”
How will you define success in 2018?
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A physician reported at the end of our second coaching session that, “The most important thing I am learning is to focus on what I want, instead of what I don’t want.” My client’s words capture the mindset of most physicians when it comes to positive change. The rigorous medical training of physicians that reinforces creating a disaster scenario in the doctors’ minds heightens the natural tendency of people to focus on problems and risks.
Have you ever found yourself feeling stuck in negative thought patterns – with the worst possible outcomes – that dampen your expectations? Perhaps you have thought or said, either, “I don’t think I can make this work,” or, ”I seriously doubt that I can pull this off.” Such a common mindset often proves challenging to positive change, even after you finally decide that you’ve had enough negativity.
The good news is that learning to focus more on what you WANT can be done with skills you already have- smarts and persistence.
4 Keys to Creating Positive Change in 2018
Would you like to rearrange your current reality? Try these 4 simple strategies to shift your focus to what you want to create positive change, starting in 2018.
1) Under Every Frustration is a Personal Request.
At the end of a week, how often have you said in frustration, “I wish I’d been able to:
- make progress on a favorite project
- go for a run
- spend time with my children
- have a date with my spouse
Your complaints give you a clue about what the things to which you are committed. As you develop your self-awareness about what is most important, you build motivation to make positive change and create a personal call-to-action.
Tip: Pick one area of focus at a time. Trying to make too many changes at once does not work.
2) Perform an Attitude Check-Up Several Times a Day.
First, pay attention to how you feel. If you’re feeling irritable, pessimistic, or stressed, you’re probably focusing more on negative thoughts. However, if you’re feeling positive and productive, it’s an indicator that you’ve been thinking positive thoughts.
Tip: Our speech reveals things on which we are focused. Do you tend to talk about problems or opportunities? Do you contribute to negative conversations, or do you endeavor to shift the conversation in a more positive direction?
3) Challenge and Change Your Negative Thoughts.
Although you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control your response. If you are feeling doubtful about your ability to finish that pile of charts on time, you might engage in a bit of encouraging self-talk. “Okay, so I’m a bit worried right now, but really everything is under control. I’m strong, I’m smart, and I’m definitely capable of finishing on time. I just need to focus and do my best, and I will be fine.”
Tip: Positive self-talk can get you thinking and feeling in a more positive direction, which will open up your problem-solving abilities.
4) Keep Your Eyes on the Ball, on the Goal.
Many things in healthcare are not working ideally. Look beyond the challenges to see your desired outcome. When motorcyclists want to avoid an obstacle, instead of getting trapped in negative target fixation, they need to look past the obstacle. They need to focus on where they want to be, not where they don’t want to be.
Tip: Work daily on developing positive expectations. Each day when you wake up, affirm confidently, “Today is going to be a great day, because _________! I feel fantastic about being able to _________.” Fill in those blanks with three specific reasons for holding positive expectations about your day.
Small Changes are Additive, for Big Results.
On their own, each of these four strategies probably doesn’t seem significant enough to change the course of your life. Each strategy is designed to create a subtle shift, rather than a radical change in direction.
But don’t underestimate the results from a small shift in course. If you were flying from New York to London, and the pilot was only 1o off course during the whole flight, you probably would miss Europe.
If you improve your life with small changes today, the results will compound over time. Changing your life is often a case of making small adjustments that produce huge benefits in the long run. Wishing you an amazing 2018!
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Last week, I read a blog post written by a women physician leader. It caught my attention because she was talking about the benefits of being a physician-the ability to save a life, pay her mortgage and have respect in the community. That’s not what most physicians are thinking or talking about in their overwhelmingly busy workday. Yet many don’t realize that when you practice gratitude, it is guaranteed to increase your happiness and work fulfillment.
The Power of Gratitude
Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, and a higher sense of well-being.
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. Physicians are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.
That’s why we need to practice gratitude. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.
Gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, friends who listen and really hear, warm jackets, the ability to read, roses, our health. What’s on your list?
Some Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Keep a gratitude journal to list things you are thankful for. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Or use your creativity and draw or paste pictures. Greater frequency will be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
- Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
- Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
As you practice gratitude, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.
A few weeks ago I was flying home from a conference for women physicians where I had been a speaker. I had more than met my goals, but I was still doubting myself. Why? I was feeling self-doubt as a physician, and comparing my workshop to the polished delivery of the keynote speaker.
According to Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*, I was falling victim to the “tyranny of exceptionalism”. We are flooded with stories about the truly extraordinary all day long. The extremes get all the publicity, so we believe being extraordinary is normal. Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. No wonder we experience self-doubt!
Physicians Feel the Constant Pressure to be Something Amazing
For women physicians, there is the added social expectation to be an extraordinary mother, spouse, and friend. Who really has the bandwidth to become exceptional at everything?
You may be exceptional at one thing, but the chances are you’re average or below average at something else. If we’re not okay with being average in some areas of life, we risk experiencing self-doubt and even shame.
Comparing yourself to others is normal. We may not stop measuring ourselves against others anytime soon. The ticket to emotional health and resilience is to decide which yardstick to use. Mark Manson makes the distinction between good values and bad values to measure success.
Good values are socially constructive, achieved internally and controllable. I had set two goals as a speaker: to be present and to use my experience to help others apply the principles to their situation. I had control over these goals. There was no external comparison and they were in service to my workshop participants.
Bad values are socially destructive, not controllable, and rely on external events. If your yardstick is material success, not only will you find someone with more stuff, but one day you’ll be lonely. Comparing myself to the keynote speaker, an external event I could control, was also a superficial comparison. Our objectives were different.
Not expecting ourselves to be extraordinary at everything frees us up to be amazing where it matters. The next time you are feeling self-doubt about your results, check for a comparison. How will you measure your life?
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