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Optimizing Your Mindset in Medicine, Step 1 - Awareness

mindset thoughts Jul 09, 2022

It's the beginning of the new academic year in medicine. So, I thought this was the perfect time to write a blog series about a fundamental strategy of coaching – optimizing the mindset. Over the next few weeks, I will walk you through one method I use with those I coach.


Mindset is a mental inclination, a way of thinking. It's essentially the lens through which you view things, a frame of mind. It's also one of the best places to focus effort as it can improve how you experience the world, make decisions, and take action to become the person you want to be. You can leverage your frame of mind to improve your journey even when circumstances are outside of your control. 


Mindsets can be lumped into various categories: fixed vs. growth, scarcity vs. abundance, performative vs. mastery, and perfectionistic vs. iterative, as examples.


There are plenty of studies about the importance of your way of thinking and shifting your mindset. 

In an interesting small study, Dr. Alia Crum and Dr. Ellen Langer, Harvard psychologists, studied female room attendants in hotels. Some were informed that their housekeeping duties meet and exceed the criteria for an active, healthy lifestyle. They were also given the number of calories burned by each task. The control group was not provided this information. Both were given information about healthy lifestyles and happiness. Four weeks later, the informed group perceived they were getting more exercise. They also significantly decreased weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and BMI.


There is a growing body of evidence of the power of the way we think. It's been shown that individuals who perceived that stress negatively affects their health and experienced much stress had an increased risk of premature death compared to those who did not perceive it as harmful.


Let's think about our thoughts, as odd as they may sound. Some writings suggest that we have anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 thoughts daily. Most of them fly under the radar. And the interesting thing is that we assume our thoughts are true by default. We rarely question their veracity.


To shift a mindset to one that will serve you better, you must be aware of what you are thinking, including what you say to yourself throughout the day. 


Step 1 of optimizing your mindset then is to become more fully aware by utilizing the following process:

  1. 3-minute brain dump. At the end of the day (or anytime that works best for you), write down what is in your mind. Think of it as a brain dump. What's swirling around in there? Write it all down. It doesn't need to be organized. 
    • Sentences or free form. Just get it all out. You can write paragraphs or one sentence per line. Or it can just be a free-form stream of consciousness. This doesn't have to feel like a formal journaling exercise.
    • All-inclusive or focused. You can include anything in your mind or narrow it down to the things that seem to be causing you the most brain energy or distress.
    • Written or typed. Written is usually preferred but typed will work as well. Just don't try to do it mentally. Some beneficial distance occurs when you put it down on paper.
  2. Reflect for a minute or two. We also know that by jotting it down, you have shifted from the emotional centers to the verbal cortex of your brain, which helps disarm some of the hijackings of the amygdala.
    • Getting it in written form and out of the insidious circulating thoughts can lighten the mental load. How do you feel simply by writing it down?
    • Become the objective, compassionate observer of all that was in your brain. Does getting it out now shine a light on how you may have had some illogical ideas swimming around? Do you gain some perspective or clarity?  
    • It often right-sizes the tasks that we keep mentally rehearsing. When it was in your head, did it seem more catastrophic or overwhelming?
    • Getting it out makes it more tangible, accessible, and actionable. Now that you look at it, what do you want to do with what you've written, if anything?


Take advantage of Step 1 this upcoming week. Just 3-5 minutes a day. I can't wait to hear what you learn about yourself. Tune in next week for Step 2 on learning to leverage your mindset.

Have a joy-filled week! Tonya

Download the first three key steps I recommend to increase your joy now in your life and career. Click here 








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