“Heart Shines On”, acrylic on canvas, 16″x20″ by Lisa Chu
Why is “love” such a hot button word for so many of us? It seems we remain as divided with respect to this word as we are on so many other issues. There are “hopeless romantics” and there are “anti-Valentine’s” party hosts. There are those who sprinkle the word “love” over every communication with strangers or friends, and there are those who use it sparingly, like precious strands of saffron reserved only for the finest occasion.
We never said the word “love” in our house, so during my childhood, I formed the belief that something was missing from my experience compared to the outer world of suburban midwestern America I lived in. We didn’t talk like the characters on The Brady Bunch. The emotions expressed in my family were much more raw, more volatile, so close to the surface and not easily contained. The love I experienced was unrelenting, filled with the need to protect me from constant imminent danger, and would never let me off the hook.
Over a lifetime of accumulating ideas of what love is – from what I was told, from what I experienced, and from what I imagined – I decided, other-than-consciously, that it was not safe to love fully. Continue reading →
It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system – now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors – is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution.
It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, “You’re on your own. We can’t help you with that.” This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital.
I volunteered at a private equity investment firm – yes, I worked for no pay – and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else’s opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training.
One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing – as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed.
Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, “Yup. That’s just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it.” And my question is, “If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?”. Continue reading →
I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, “You could be like her! Why don’t you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!”
I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and “How I Work With You” page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a “toolkit” for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself.
In her “About” page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about “having been there”. Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading →
As the holidays approach, are you feeling more and more peace, joy, and love? Or are you feeling more and more frazzled, with a longer and longer list of things to do?
If you want to experience twelve daily doses of inspiration and clarity to help you find your own source of sanity this holiday season, and learn some tools to bring into the next year, sign up here>>
Below, I’m sharing the first lesson from this course with you as a gift to remember this holiday season, and throughout the year as you encounter the feeling of so many things “to do”. If you enroll in the course, you’ll also see a video and be able to download the worksheet for today’s lesson. Each day for the next 12 days, you’ll receive a new lesson. All lessons will appear on a password-protected website, which you’ll have access to after the course is finished.
Have you ever tried actually doing one thing at a time?
I’ve found that it takes a tremendous amount of trust – an amount I often don’t have – to truly do one thing at a time.
Somehow my brain prefers that high-anxiety mode of doing many things at once, having many irons in the fire, keeping many options open, so to speak. But the reality of that mode is nothing ever gets done, and I never feel totally complete. In other words, I set myself up to prove the belief that underlies this kind of behavior: “I am not enough.”
To turn this behavior around, I first choose a new thought to believe: “I am complete, as I am, in this moment.”
At first, I repeat it as a mantra that sounds ridiculous because my brain has never practiced focusing attention on all the ways that I am, in fact, complete, as I am, in this moment. I have trained my brain, for many years and quite intensively, to find all the ways that “I am not enough” – all the ways that I “should be” doing more than what I am doing right now.
But since I have made the choice to be and do in a different way, to connect with a different energy as the source of my actions, I keep repeating that mantra. I allow myself some stillness and some time to find one example of how I am really complete, as I am, in this moment. I find some gentleness toward myself as I learn a new way. I remember that I am like a toddler, about to take my first steps, and joyfully falling and getting up more times than I will be able to count.
I choose something to do, in this moment, which gives me the feeling in my body of being complete as I am. These days, it is a hike. I get to move my body, deepen my breath, and bring my senses in contact with nature – the sky, the cool air, the silence.
Yesterday I happened to shoot two videos – one before my hike, and one after. I think you’ll see a visible difference in my face, or at least sense a different energy from me, in the two videos. Plus, in the second video I leave you with two questions to ask yourself about your own restorative practices.
My take on physician burnout focuses on self-empowerment and witnessed self-inquiry to create a personal definition of physician wellness. There are many academic journal papers outlining the symptoms, prevalence, and possible explanations for physician burnout at every stage of medical training and continuing through practicing physicians mid-career. Here are a few of my favorites:
BUY the book, Physicians In Transition, including 25 interviews with physicians who have made the transition away from clinical careers and created the life of their dreams! I am included on page 27!
Want to learn more and get “virtual coaching” on this subject?
ENROLL in my online course, “The Art of Self-Care Primer“. 21-day online interactive course takes you through each of the Principles of Self-Care (outlined in Coaching Call #2 above) in greater depth, including daily exercises that you can incorporate into your life. You complete the activities at your own pace, and have access to all materials after the course is completed! More info here>>
The other night I read on the back of a friend’s T-shirt the following list of guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA)’s latest heart-healthy lifestyle campaign, called “Life’s Simple 7“:
manage blood pressure
reduce blood sugar
From my medical training, I recognized each of these 7 items as addressing the major risk factors for coronary artery disease and therefore heart attacks and strokes.
However, from my journey of learning about the connection between mind and body, and especially the ways in which our mind dictates the feelings, behaviors, and results we see in our lives, I noticed that these “Simple 7” are not so simple at all.
Four of the seven guidelines involve behavioral changes. Three of the seven can be addressed with pharmaceutical drugs but are also dependent on these behavioral changes in order to have maximum impact. These areas of behavior change – exercise, diet, weight loss, and smoking cessation – are typically the most challenging and frustrating for both patients and doctors in a preventive setting. Continue reading →
With all the talk of clarity, power, intention, success, and purpose, it can be a little intimidating to acknowledge when you have a moment of confusion.
But there is a time for confusion.
And until we can acknowledge and admit this to ourselves, we cannot move through it. We gloss over the surface of it, trying to fix the outer appearance of our lives, staying busy and enrolled in things, buying more, doing more, hoping that all that activity will make the confusion go away.
It’s true that action and forward motion is such a powerful antidote to feeling stuck and ruminating for too long. But I’ve also found that acknowledging the truth, and being able to rest in the feeling of truth, is an essential starting point.
The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity for me surrounding my new band, Randy Bales’ Chinese Melodrama. In case you haven’t seen it, we have a new blog and a Twitter account, where you can keep up with our latest activities. We’ve played in the Bay Area at least two nights every week for the past two months, and spreading our joyful energy has yielded plenty of early interest in our fledgling local band.
I’ve been so amazed with what I’ve experienced that I put together 10 brief lessons from launching my first ever band. Let me say right away that it’s been a total team effort with my friends and fellow musicians, Randy Bales (guitar/vocals) and Cathy Luo (percussion/bass/vocals).
1. Practice in public
In other words, be sure to play outside your comfort zone in public every once in awhile. Most of us can learn something from this statement: “Don’t be so humble. You’re not that good!” I can’t tell you how many times Randy has encouraged us to play songs that I didn’t feel were “ready”. I can also tell you that at our first gig, I was deliriously frightened of what might happen! I had so many ideas about what a “performance” needed to be. Yet if I had waited until I thought we were ready, we might still have never performed in public to this day! My point? Be willing to start small. Just be sure to start!
Even if you consider it “practice”, show up at your own personal best every time. This doesn’t mean you play perfectly. It means you set an intention for HOW you are showing up each time, and you let go of the results. And you do this every single time.
Notice that there will always be ways to improve upon your performance, but never be disappointed in yourself. If you’re tempted to “get down” on yourself or be harsh with your criticism, notice it and ask, “How will this help me show up at my best next time?”
Keep playing and be kind to yourself no matter what. Always know that you will have another opportunity to grow. It helps if you…
Create a regular consistent schedule of opportunities to play in a supportive environment. You will always get more comfortable by doing what seems uncomfortable at first.
All that said, also develop some “comfort food” – material that can always make you feel good, for those moments when you need to boost your own confidence.
2. Do the thing you think you cannot do.
This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is framed on the wall of my office. Practicing in public (item #1) was exactly the thing I thought or believed I could not do, until about a year ago. My peak discomfort point was reached – in a public, but safe, setting – and it forever changed what I believed was possible for me musically.
Give yourself the gift of being open to this kind of transformative experience. Instead of avoiding the thing you fear, embrace it as the very chance you’ve been wanting to break through to your next level in life.
3. Strike while the iron is hot.
If you have an intention or an idea, start NOW while your energy is behind the project, and take defined steps right away to make your idea feel real to you.
Learn to trust yourself. Go with your first instincts.
Take small, defined, and consistent actions over a period of time rather than waiting for everything to be “perfect” before you begin. Hint: There is no perfection, so get over yourself and act now.
4. Support other people’s efforts with generous encouragement and humility.
Judgment comes more quickly than understanding. Seek to understand first.
Capture and share not only your own work but others’ as well. Facebook is a great example of how this works. Don’t you love being tagged in photos or videos? And reading others’ comments or “Like”s? There is a real-world analog to this, and it’s called being present, supportive and expressive. Try it!
Collaborate openly. Playing with other artists helps build bridges of trust and understanding, and helps you understand yourself better too. Continue reading →
Here’s a first installment on what I feel will become a BIG topic of focus on this blog and in my work.
Did you learn to celebrate failure as a child?
Ever notice that when toddlers are just learning to walk, the adults in their lives are THRILLED to see them bobble around, lose their balance, and fall down? The adults clap their hands, and shriek with delight when these little ones take even one fraction of what looks like might be a first step.
When you were learning to walk, the adults in your life kept doing this, and you kept falling down, over and over again, until one day you took that first step, and then a second step, and then another… Once you became an “expert” walker, it was no longer cause for celebration to see you take a step. After awhile, adults started warning you about the “dangers” of falling down, when only several months earlier, the very same action had been enough to cause your parents to reach for their cameras or call the grandparents. Continue reading →