I likely learned constraint earlier in my career than others out of sheer necessity. My husband and I were a 2-resident-physician home with 2 children. Admittedly, I served on some committees and took on recruitment in residency that I didn’t have to, but I enjoyed the experiences, and they weren’t a strain on my time or energy. At other times, I declined small opportunities even though I enjoyed them because they strained my family time, such as working the sidelines at extra sporting events or working another team sport physical session. I limited the number of specialty journal clubs held after hours I attended. And there were things I didn’t enjoy even though I may have been good at that I didn’t sign up for, such as sitting on policy writing committees.
The biggest opportunity of taking on a new role became one of the hardest decisions of residency. Should I throw my hat in the ring for the chief resident? After completing his family medicine residency, my husband was going to be starting an orthopedic residency (that’s a whole other fascinating story for another day). He was going to be incredibly busy. I was going to be a third-year resident. I had people encouraging me to put my name in the running. It would be something I felt I could do well. I would enjoy it – scheduling, leading, liaising with faculty, resolving conflicts. I weighed the pros and cons and the unknowns. The third-year was more manageable and more predictable than the first two years at our program during that time. Becoming a surgical resident for my husband would take him away from the balance he offered in family duties. To fulfill the chief role like I wanted, I knew it would detract from extra time with my children. To make the decision, I used what has always served me – reflecting on how it would align with my priorities. For me, my priorities included an emphasis on family time. So, I decided it would be best to spend my 3rd year solidifying my clinical skills, foregoing the chief position, and giving my kids a bit more stability.
It was a great year, and I regret nothing. I was able to support my husband while he was incredibly busy. He didn’t have to feel the guilt of not being able to do as much at home. We are a team, and he had sacrificed much over the years for me. We are a fluid unit. Even reflecting back, I permit myself to be completely satisfied with that choice.
Through the years, I have seen many of my friends choose something that conflicts with their priorities or values because they knew they could do it or because someone asked them to take it on. They often ended up overwhelmed or resentful. I have other friends who chose against doing something because it didn’t align with their priorities, but over time indulge in regret and have negative self-talk around why they made a mistake, and they should have taken it on.
Here’s my tip for you. When faced with the opportunity to take on another project, role, or task, reflect on your purpose – where your values, skills, passion, and enjoyment overlap. That purpose helps inform goals that you prioritize - which become your priorities. You will make a better decision for yourself. When you use this method to decide to pursue or forego something, you don’t have to second guess yourself. In fact, you should insist on refusing any regrets. It’s not useful. You made the best decision at the time with the information you had at the time and aligned it with your priorities. Feel proud and own it! No regrets allowed.
Have a joy-filled day! Tonya
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