Take a moment to listen to the voice of success: a physician coach listens and learns

As someone who loves to learn, I have gotten myself into many periods of overwhelm as I take on more things than I have time to deal with. Most recently, I signed up for a training I was really excited about. Originally scheduled for October, it was delayed to January and again to April, when many other commitments were already waiting for my attention. In mid-March, I received several emails requesting preliminary work that had to be completed by early April. Not wanting to disappoint the people who selected me for the program and reluctant to turn down a great opportunity, I stared again and again at my calendar, hoping that my intention alone would make it shift. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I stared, none of my other obligations disappeared. As I lay awake at night, wondering how I would find the time to complete the work, I was aware of a voice that simply said, “You can’t do this.”

NO! I exclaimed in my mind. I HAVE to do this. I could feel the little voice shrug, as if to say, “Believe what you will, but you cannot do it all.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.23.37 PMFortunately, a few days later I heard Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of the Huffington Post, introduce her new book, Thrive. She spoke about the mainstream definition of success as money and power. And she shared her life changing experience in 2007 when, after working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for 2 years to start her business, she collapsed on the floor of her office. On the way down, she cut her eye and broke her cheekbone. As Arianna wisely remarked, “when you’re lying in a pool of blood in your office, you’re not a success.”

So, as one who likes to learn, I realized I had some learning to do. I sat quietly, listened only to my breathing, and again heard the little voice saying ever so gently, “You already know you cannot do this.” It was a loving voice, a comforting voice, and a wise voice to be sure. This time, I listened. I contacted the training organization and explained that I could not participate. They were appreciative that I cancelled with such notice, before they spent more time and effort on my behalf. I felt immediate relief. Now I would have the time to do the kind of job I wanted to do with the things still occupying my calendar. I felt very successful.

Are there issues in your life that you are wrestling with? Decisions that seem mired in mud? Take some time to be quiet, so you can hear your own inner voice. It has something important to say. Something that may make you happier and more satisfied with your life. And that…is success.

About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
This entry was posted in mindfulness, physician coach, physician coaching, physician communication, physician fulfillment, physician work life balance, work life balance and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Take a moment to listen to the voice of success: a physician coach listens and learns

  1. Bob Bullock says:

    As a leader, I frequently wrestle with the issue of improving performance among my physician colleagues and constantly run into the frustrating inability to effect positive change. Consequently, I feel like I have failed to some extent. Coaching, to the extent attempted, has not worked at all. Any suggestions?

    • Do you know the light bulb joke? It goes like this:
      Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
      A: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change
      We can only change ourselves. We can offer advice, counseling, coaching, structures that can be helpful to others who want to change. Coaching, while a powerful interaction, will only work if the person wants to look at their life and make some changes to achieve a desired effect or result. As leaders, we can attempt to engage people in a dialogue or discussion in order to learn what it is they want, what motivates them, what frustration/pain/unhappiness they are suffering with. This can often give us helpful information that will allow us to connect with them in a meaningful way, so they see the need for change as well. In a working situation, we frequently have significant leverage – remuneration/monetary penalties, job security, promotion, recognition. In a volunteer organization, we often have less leverage and must rely solely on the person’s inherent system of motivation. If we feel we have “failed,” we can then find a more helpful perspective that will allow us to retain our own sense of purpose and enthusiasm without having this “failure” dampen those important aspects of our own life.

      Can you give me more information about the specific situation you’re struggling with? I would also be happy to chat by phone to see if we can find some ideas for you to move forward in a more effective way. Let me know when you might be available and how to reach you and I’d be happy to call.

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