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Optimizing Your Mindset in Medicine, Step 5 - Helpful Tips

Over the past month, we went through some foundational steps to optimize your experience even when you couldn’t control the situation by up-leveling our mindset. We then looked at a couple of advanced options to grow our perspective in a way that serves us better.  This week, I want to give you a couple of helpful hints. 


Improving your mindset is a skill set. And, like any skill, it takes practice, patience, and continued learning.


It’s common to get to the fact versus story portion of the work and think, “but NO, this IS a fact,” when it contains judgments, assumptions, adjectives, or loaded words.  It is entirely normal to be very attached to our thoughts and way of seeing things.  However, we know that creating a little distance here can be beneficial!  Especially to move into the thought model, you want to have your story and facts separated from each other to fill in the C and T lines accurately.


Here are three helpful hints to help you with this process.


  1. What are 5-10 other ways to view the situation? They don’t have to be positive – neutral or less negative is also good. If your brain comes up with nothing, try jump-starting the juices flowing by making up something wild.


  1. If that isn’t helpful, think about how someone else you know might view the situation. For instance, I can look at a patient’s med list and problem list and think, “They are so complicated!” However, Dr. Gitomer (whom I refer to as the most brilliant physician in Alaska) would see them as patients with the usual amount of medical problems and medicine. These first two techniques help gain mental flexibility.


  1. The third tip is, instead of debating with yourself (or anyone else for that matter) if a thought is true or not, ask yourself if it’s serving you well? Instead of the validity, challenge its’ usefulness. 


The other category of helpful hints is what to expect as you work through the process. Remember I said it’s a skill that comes in stages.


At first, in most situations, you will fly through the day and get home with thoughts swimming in your head, causing lots of emotions. That is so completely normal for us as physicians. On some nights, you will choose to walk through the thought download and fact versus story strategies. You will likely identify one or two ways you could have thought of something differently but didn’t in the moment.  This is normal.


In the second stage, there will be a couple of things during your day where you wonder if you should pause and tease out the facts, but you don’t.  This is also normal and progress! The awareness is beginning to show up in the moment.


The third stage is when you have times you catch yourself, pause, become the observer of your thoughts, and shift your perspective on the fly.  It feels amazing!


The last stage is similar to the story I told last week about the laundry being on the floor, and my automatic thought about it was positive.  However, this is an exception and not the rule. 


We will live most of our experiences as we grow in the first 3 stages. Those automatic thought patterns run deep. Nothing has gone wrong. Over time we will have more and more step 3 episodes. And occasionally, we will go back to stage 1 (especially when we are tired, hungry, etc.).


I hope you find these tips helpful.  Next week, I will share some important caveats when optimizing your mindset. Stay tuned!


Have a joy-filled week! Tonya

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