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Aspirations for an Ideal Future in Medicine: Mindset Challenges

This week we continue the series on fostering an ideal future in medicine. In the first week, we looked at the larger state of medicine and its future. Last week we worked on expanding your dreams and goals and clarifying your vision for your practice. This week, we will tackle the other mindset portions that commonly hold us back from enjoying the most fulfilling careers we can create within the existing system – fear, our inner critic, and limiting beliefs.


Fear. It’s natural. It’s an adaptive emotion. It keeps us safe in so many arenas. Unfortunately, it can unnecessarily hold us back if we don’t tune into what’s actually underlying the fears.


Think back to the future dreams and visions that you wrote down last week (and even the ones you were too afraid to admit to fully). If you waved the magic wand that I lent you again and removed all possibility of failure and fear, what, if anything, would you modify about your vision?


Now that you have that on your mind – what scares you the most? Is it change, discomfort, potential failure, being judged, being rejected, or something else? Take a minute and write them all down. 


Now let’s unpack a better way to look at fear and failure. If you avoid the fear, especially of failing, you are essentially failing ahead of time. What if you had avoided the fear by not gloving up for that first exhilarating procedure, delivery, or patient encounter? You would never have become the physician you are!


Here’s the secret: you can decide to be willing to feel fear. It’s not comfortable (except to those adrenaline junkies). It’s an emotion we feel in our bodies. Sometimes we even watch movies, read books, and get on roller coasters to experience it on purpose. It’s within your ability to muster courage and move forward.


Second, you can learn to step into the discomfort and embrace it as part of normal growth. FAIL = First Attempt in Learning. It is failing forward. Failure is just data collection to move toward further iterations—all helpful ways of reframing. Brooke Castillo often uses the example of a unicycle rider. It takes 15 hours of riding it to be able to stay on. If you tried and fell off one time per minute – that’s 900 fails - before you even ride!


Let’s use a fear-setting exercise that I learned from Dr. Jennifer Hunt to right-size our fears and see them accurately to make a more informed decision. Make three columns on your paper. In the first column, list the 5-10 worst outcomes if you take risks to move toward that ideal vision of you in medicine. In the second column, for each potential outcome in the first, write one or more prevention strategies. In the 3rd column, for each potential outcome in the first column, write one or more bad outcome “fixes” you could take if it happens. Now - with a bit more objectivity, you can make a better-informed decision about what you want to risk. 



Inner Critic. I wrote a whole blog series on the inner critic. and made a little video.


But the short version is – we all have negative self-talk. Tuning in and realizing how you think of and talk to yourself is critical. Once you are aware, you can realize you wouldn’t talk to anyone else like that. Exercise self-compassion. Even your inner critic is likely trying to keep you “safe” somehow. So maybe they have good intentions, but the methods are very misguided. Get curious about what you believe and say to yourself, and begin to create distance. Whether in the first or third person, shift it to the inner critic and label it as a thought. (“Oh, I see the inner critic is saying, ‘I’ll mess it up like always,’ and it’s just a thought I’ve rehearsed over and over.”) Challenge the story. What is evidence in the opposite direction? When have you done things well?


So, when you’re moving toward your ideal future, tune in whenever the negative inner dialogue rears its head, and shift it to your inner fan. Talk to yourself like you would a friend.


I’d love to hear what you learned about yourself this week. Next week we will tackle those limiting beliefs.

Until then, have a joy-filled week! Tonya

My private coaching course for individual physicians walks you through detailed steps of ditching unnecessary suffering, protecting, and increasing your energy, and fostering your ideal future with me coaching you along the way.


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