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Navigating changes and transitions as busy physicians.

(Original Post 6/21, updated 12/23)

Over the next few of weeks, we will review changes and transitions. Throughout a career in medicine, we face many of those. Today we are going to focus on changes related to you. 


Change can be defined as doing things differently, taking new approaches, seeking something new and/or different in yourself.


Reflect just a minute on your life and career. Make a couple of lists.


What changes do you desire?

What changes are you directing?

What things are you contemplating changing?

What changes did you not ask for?

Are there changes you feel "should" be made, but you really still have a foot stuck in the pre-contemplative stage?

Today we zero in on the changes you want to make


We use the Transitheoretical Model/Stages of Change with our patients (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance). Today, I'm asking you to assess yourself one by one in the list you made.


Of the items you listed, which one seems to be an excellent combination of being ready for preparation/action combined with a sense of priority? Let's reflect on that one for this series. For those of you facing a change you didn't ask for, stay tuned for next week.


Some of the preparation is to just remind yourself of common principles of change. Ken Blanchard, a leadership development consultant, lists several, but I will highlight a couple here.

     1. Change feels awkward. (Awkward is normal – nothing is going wrong.)

  1. It's expected that we often first focus on what we will lose with the change rather than what we will gain. (Our brain has a negativity bias built-in – again – you are human.)
  2. Given the chance, most people will go back to old ways even if the new way is better. (We like familiarity.)


So, what strategies can you use for yourself to make the change and the momentum?


There are many excellent books with different perspectives out there. I want to emphasize a few essential parts of making a change that sticks.


I've talked a bit in the past about how our thoughts of a circumstance lead to feelings that drive our actions or inactions, which ultimately give us our results. This is Key in effecting and maintaining change.


As physicians, we are great at action step design. However, we need to dig a bit deeper. Actions are best supported with self-reflection and mindset change. Let's compare where you are currently to where you want to be.

  1. If you haven't made the desired change, then back up to the emotion that's keeping you from it? Is it overwhelm, confusion, inadequacy, uncertainty, etc.?
  2. Why are you feeling that way? Dig for the overriding thought about your circumstance that is causing that emotion. Maybe it's something like, "This is too big." "I’ll fail again." "There are too many options." "I don't know how." Why are you choosing that thought? What other way could you look at your circumstance?


Let's work it backward:

  1. What result do you want from the change? Spend some time digging here and asking yourself why. Your "why" is a big motivator.
  2. What actions do you need to take (including overcoming the obstacles your brain offers) to get that result?
  3. What emotion(s) will drive those actions? Determined, curious, ease, accepting, courageous, etc.?
  4. What can you choose to think that is believable to you that can give you those emotions even in your current circumstance? (This is a brain-stretching exercise – stick with it. If you can't come up with a believable thought – imagine what someone else may think.)


This is the mindset work. This is why most people don't change, or if they do, they revert right back. Change takes effort. We like the familiar. Change is awkward and can seem hard. To overcome those things, we need 1. our big why and 2. to choose to believe and focus on thoughts that will deliver us the emotions to sustain the change.


In the next couple of weeks, we will tackle more action steps and transitions, even when they weren't planned.


Have a joy-filled day!



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