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A year-in-review process for busy physicians

More than a decade ago I hired my first coach, and life was never the same. During my time with the life coach, I experienced first-hand the value of an end-of-year process that goes deeper than setting a New Year’s resolution.

Years have passed. As a busy physician, I’ve told myself that I don’t have the time for a deep dive reflection of my life and career. I have patients to take care of. I have responsibilities to my family. I’ve got to get ready for the next 24-hour shift. I’m just too busy.

As my journey in medicine progresses, I realize it is crucial to set aside time to reflect and celebrate my life and career. So, I’ve revisited the process and customized it, so it fits nicely into my schedule.

I do have time for it.

In fact, it is a vital part of my well-being. I make the time to sit with my thoughts and reflections of the day, week, and months and allow Spirit to do the rest.

The first customization is to wait until the holidays are over. Holiday time can be stressful enough with preparing for family celebrations and covering shifts at the hospital … you know what I mean.

And so, I wait. I give myself space and time for the previous year to end and the new year to roll in.

Then I schedule an appointment with myself. Yes, I put it in my calendar entitled, “For Me Because I Am Worth It.”

This appointment is for me to:

  • Celebrate the successes of the year, big and small, personal, and professional.
  • Reflect on the strength, fortitude, and skills I use to achieve what I achieved that year.
  • Set the intention for the new year. This is a shift. For years I focused on New Year’s resolutions only to be disappointed when I was too busy to focus on them beyond the first few weeks of the year. Setting the intention for the year is about the way I want to show up for myself, the energy I want to hold, and the way I want to feel. Setting the intention empowers me. It puts the ball back in my court. It says, “Life can be hectic; I choose how I want to experience it.”

Here are three approaches to a year-in-review process for busy physicians:

As a busy physician, you may be saying you don’t have a 30 to 60-minute block of time to sit, reflect, and journal. Try this instead. Use smaller increments of time, for example, when you are riding the elevator or walking to your clinical setting. While it might seem you can’t accomplish much in that timeframe, imagine reflecting on one successful doctor-patient encounter. Ask yourself what made it particularly rewarding? What in the conversation made both you and the patient feel connected? How did your compassion for the patient shine through? In addition to identifying key pointers you can now use with other patients and in other communication, celebrating that success raises your energy and vibration. Simply put, you feel good about the work you’re doing.

Focus on your core values. Over the course of the previous year, in what ways did you live into your core values personally and professionally? When you aligned with your core values, how did that make you feel? Here’s an example. Honoring myself is a core value for me. Like many physicians, there are times in our career when the needs of everyone else, including staffing the hospital, take precedence over our own needs. I would overcommit telling myself I was helping the team when I really needed time for myself. And that just did not feel good to me anymore. As I progress in my career and life, I’m making different decisions. Before committing to something, including picking up per diem shifts at the hospital, I check in with how it resonates with me. Does it align with my core values? There are times when saying yes, sign me up for a moonlighting shift feels in alignment. And there are times when it is not in alignment with my core values, and I decline. In both cases, I do what feels good to me and fosters my well-being. Living into your core values creates boundaries professionally and personally.

Review the movie clips of your life and career focusing on the highlights. If you’re like most physicians I meet, we focus on what’s not working in our clinical setting. The long hours, the patient volume, the patient acuity, staffing challenges, and workplace dynamics. What about the good stuff that keeps us coming back day after day and shift after shift? Recently speaking with a colleague, I asked that exact question. And now I ask you. Why are you still here in this setting doing the work you do? When you answer this question, you’ll realize the tremendous value you bring to the patients you care for and the teams you lead. You’ll also realize the ROI (return on investment) for the time, knowledge, and energy you bring to your clinical setting. While we are all replaceable, there is something special about you. What is it? Have you ever taken the time to identify it? It is your strength. It is your superpower.

So doc, my invitation to you before forging ahead into this new year and settling for more of the same is to make the appointment with yourself. Call it “For Me Because I Am Worth It” and see what you learn about yourself in the process.

Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.

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