What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode.

In the moment you can claim your role in creating the experience you are having right now – as reflected to you by the external circumstances you find yourself in – you begin to take a creative stance. You begin to see yourself differently within the grand puzzle of your world. No longer can you point your finger and your attention outward at “them”, but now you must see the source within you that holds your power to create, choose, and act.

Every artist and every entrepreneur has had to touch this inner place in order to bring a never-before-seen vision into material reality. Whether you name it “imagination” or “vision” or “desire”, every human being has an inner source of creativity. Some of us have placed this in a box in the basement of our consciousness. Maybe we have given up on ever being able to use it in this lifetime. But as long as you are alive, you have this source within you, waiting for you to open the space for it to breathe.

Here are four creative mindsets you have within you, waiting to be awakened and remembered.

IMG_0073_2 Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode. How do you know if you’re living in reactive mode? If you define and measure yourself based on external circumstances, and you believe you really are limited by what’s happening outside yourself, you are in reactive mode. Most of our institutions, including the education system, government, mass media, and the medical training system, are based on the reactive mode. These systems teach you to believe that your success is measured by your ability to manipulate external circumstances, so your attention and efforts should be focused on external metrics. You compare your performance to others on a so-called objective scale, and you rely on statistics to know how you are doing. There is nothing “wrong” with reactive mode. It is the way most of the systems in our society operate. Creative mode requires a 180-degree shift in this perspective. Continue reading "What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs"

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

MatrixBluePillRedPill There is a scene in the movie, The Matrix, in which the main character Neo is offered a choice between the “red pill” and the “blue pill”.
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.
Does it excite you to imagine discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes? Or do you notice a resistance toward leaving the comfort of your current reality? In the movie, “truth” at first appears as a chilling image of the planet taken over by machines, living off the energy of human beings who are lying unconscious inside jars of gelatinous solvent. Towards the end of the film, it is love received from his beloved which finally wakes Neo up to the reality of his own illusion. That he has believed in everything within the Matrix, and through that belief he has created his own truth. With new eyes touched by love, he sees everything as it actually is: a construct of his own consciousness, where elements take on only the meaning he assigns to them. Awakening to choice - realizing in any moment that you have a choice - is a moment of connecting to your creative power. Notice that your power to choose always resides inside you. You choose whether to activate your own power by choosing to choose. No one, no thing, no place, no circumstance outside you can, without your consent, take your power away. You may have been taught to give your power away in the past. Forgive yourself and choose now to be your own power. The most powerful choice you have is to awaken to the love that you are. Survival and “getting through life” may have hardened you to this truth. You may have learned to protect your core from fully receiving what you feel. By protecting yourself from what you feel, you have denied yourself love. You have refused to shine the light of love on certain aspects of your experience, while insisting on exposing only the so-called acceptable parts. When you encounter a situation that brings you close to touching what you feel, do you stay or do you run? Continue reading "Red Pill or Blue Pill?"

When did you last choose numbness?

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"Listening to the womb of the eye" - Lisa Chu, 12"x16" mixed media on paper
  We live in a world of outrageous pain. In order to get through most days, we have learned to choose numbness. Even though we have great capacity to feel, we have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to "not feel", in an attempt to survive. And we have survived. If you are reading this line right now, you have survived. But does your heart know that there is more to your life than what you have previously accepted as survival? Have you been searching, asking, running, sitting, and "trying" to move beyond getting by, making do, and struggling? One of my favorites of the many amazing speakers at the Success 3.0 Summit last October was John Gray. He was hilarious, truthful, profound, and practical. And he said this: "The more conscious you are, the more pain you will feel. When you can actually feel pain, you should receive its gift of telling you that your heart is open to feeling." We are now able to directly witness, through instantaneous video images, so much pain in our world. We are able to invite it into our homes, our living rooms, our workstations, in living color. What do we do with it all? Where do we put it, between our ten o'clock meeting, our eleven thirty lunch appointment, and picking up the groceries after work? When, in our daily lives, do we permit ourselves to feel? What I'm learning in my own experience is there is no such thing as thriving above the line of suppressed feelings. I've tried. I've got my masters' degree at least - and perhaps another doctorate - in trying to live above it all, only feeling so-called positive emotions. And the result of this, in the past, was I only offered a tiny fraction of my true shining self to my world. I only allowed myself to experience a tiny sliver of my brilliance. Just this week I had an experience of profound awakening to this. I was walking out my front door in order to film a video for an upcoming new offering. I was taking a big step into "feeling my fear and doing it anyway". I was committed and resolved to do it finally. Continue reading "When did you last choose numbness?"

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244 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 "The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors"

Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/
Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/
I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he's held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing. He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did. I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey. So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process. I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible. What I didn't expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client's deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end. And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty. Continue reading "Exercise Your Write To Be Free"

Advice Versus Coaching

Have you ever sought someone's advice, and then realized halfway into the conversation that you really didn't want them to tell you what to do? Or have you ever followed someone's advice, which never quite felt right to you, but they were in a position of authority or had done it themselves before, and you didn't know how to get out of it? Have you ever wished you had more trust in yourself, and didn't need to rely so much on advice from other people? It's been ten years now since I've set foot in a traditional academic institution. Yesterday I stood inside the walls of a venerable one right here in my own backyard. And it struck me that there is A LOT of "advising" going on at the formative stages of a lot of smart people's lives. A lot of people who are very curious, very bright, very capable, and very imaginative. But who just don't know. So they ask. They seek advice. And what do they get? Continue reading "Advice Versus Coaching"

News news news

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began" - Mary Oliver, "The Journey"
Today is that day for me. Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject). Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets. Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People). Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it). Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing. And I can't wait to share the news with you!

So what IS new? Continue reading "News news news"

Physician Burnout and Wellness Resources

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:

Mid-Career Burnout in Generalist and Specialist Physicians

Medical Student Burnout and Unprofessional Conduct

Mindfulness Intervention For Primary Care Physician Burnout

Depression and Suicidal Ideation Among Medical Students

Interview with Dr. Laura Roberts on Medical Student Depression and Distress

The blogosphere contains lively discussions on the subject of medical student and physician burnout. For example:

Physician burnout in residency

How physician burnout impacts patient care

Primary care physicians burnout and health care reform

New York Times article on medical student burnout and challenge to patient care

FREE recordings from my "Get the 411 Before It's a 911" coaching calls for medical students, residents, & fellows (also valuable for practicing, mid-career physicians):

Coaching Call #1 - I work with a practicing physician on the stressful thoughts of being on call.

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Coaching Call #2 - 5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals

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Coaching Call #3 - Creative Leadership for physicians

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Coaching Call #4 - Boundaries, Self-Care Principle #1 for Physicians

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Coaching Call #5 - Reactive to Creative Mode, Self-Care Principle #2 for Physicians

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FREE episodes of "Revolutionizing Medicine...One Belief At A Time" podcast - examining the commonly held stressful thoughts among physicians:

Episode 1 - "I need to take care of my patients."

Episode 2 - "I am surrounded by illness and suffering."

Episode 3 - "Patients demand my time."

Episode 4 - "People need me to respond."

Blog posts I've written:

Why I Created "Self-Care For The Caring Professional" Online Course

5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals

Doctors On The Brink Of Burnout: The Way I See It

Who Is Responsible For Physician Burnout?

Creativity: A Prescription For Doctors

Diagnosis: Human

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>>