Category Archives: Blog

Three Words That Can Change Everything

three words

Okay. I get it. You looked at the title and started thinking “I’m pretty sure I know what three words she means.”

Am I right?

And let me take a wild guess at your top choices . . .

       “I love you.”

       “I am sorry.”

       “I am here.”

Maybe, if you’ve seen my TED talk, you would say:

       “I see you.”

My friends, those are all great, awesome guesses. And, of course, all those phrases are wise. Wonderful. And . . . wrong.

Here’s the three words I’d like you to consider. They are words that even the Dalai Lama uttered, through an interpreter, many times when a bunch of thought leaders got together to ask him the ways of the world.

The phrase that pays?

       “I don’t know.”

Wow. Yeah. Even the Dalai Lama can admit it. Why can’t we?

When our family member asks us a tough question. When a patient receives a crappy diagnosis. When the world seems like it’s going to hell in a hand basket and someone asks us to make sense of it.

It’s okay to say it. Maybe, right now, as you’re reading this, you could just mouth the words and whisper them . . .

“I don’t know.”


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When you let the air out of your ego and expectations, you realize we are all together in this world.


Why is that admission so powerful?

Because it makes you human. Vulnerable. Honest.

Whether you’re telling your young child that you don’t know why they can only have three strikes instead of four in their little league game. Or you’re tackling the harder stuff, like being asked by your patient’s mother why their daughter couldn’t be saved after a tragic accident.

When you let the air out of your ego and out of your expectations, you realize that we are all  truly together in this world. And that, quite simply, brings us closer.

Why?

I don’t know.

If you’ve ever had to utter this phrase and realize it’s power, please share below. Connection matters.

How Connection Builds Success

success

You’ve heard that people buy from those they know, like and trust. They also look to those they know, like and trust to be their doctors, their attorneys, their contractors – and certainly, their hairdressers!

This happens through connection.

You ask your neighbor who painted their house. You notice the cute haircut your child’s teacher has, and find out where she went. You overhear a friend talking about their awesome doctor, and you jot down the name.

The connections you make with others can improve your odds of getting quality people and services in your everyday life.

Well, it turns out that when we build connections within an organization, a team, even a family — that builds success.

The folks at Google set out to analyze what teams were the best and why. Their Project Aristotle was described in The New York Times. One of the key findings: when each team member has input, magic happens.

You may be part of a medical group, a professional team, or a family member and wonder how this can help you and your particular “team.”


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The key to success is to have each person feel heard.


Success happens when each person feels connected to the other. Without putting them on the spot.

One way to accomplish this is to have the leader ask for opinions around the table. It may mean having family discussions at dinner that include comments from everyone, including those glued to their cellphones.

If you’re a leader, it means seeking out the quiet people at the table in a non-threatening way to let them be seen.

Why should you care?

We know connection matters. It’s good for us: it lowers our blood pressure; lets us live longer; reduces our stress.

Now we know it can also make us more successful — it can make our teams more successful. Whether that “team” is our tennis group, our corporation, or the five people that sleep under one roof in our home every night.

What one thing can you do today to add success to your team? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

How My Cancer Scare Changed My Life in Seven Seconds

Cancer scare

So there I was. In deep denial. Maybe you’ve been there. Ignoring the symptoms. Hoping and praying that it would just “go away.”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And as a doctor, I like to think I can google with the best of them.

So when I had a persistent scary symptom (full disclosure: it was bloody discharge from my left breast. Not subtle. Not intermittent. Not okay, even a little), I finally bit the bullet.

I called my friend and world renowned breast cancer surgeon, Joe. I’d known Joe for years. Interviewed him for my book on burnout. Scrubbed alongside him in the O.R.

Of course, like all good doctor offices, his secretary was a wall. She insisted I make an appointment like a regular person. I understood. But when she suggested I see Joe after his upcoming vacation, I panicked. I pulled my doctor card. And she relented.

Two days later, I was driving over in crazy lunch time traffic, from my office to his. I hadn’t told my husband, my sister, or my mom. So that should tell you how freaked I was. Very.

As I drove along the interstate, I could feel my heart racing. I told myself, “I’m not ready to be done with my life. I have so much more to do.” I started going a bit cray cray. Can you blame me?

I knew I was out of control. And beyond the fear of breast cancer, there emerged the next biggest fear: what if I did have breast cancer, but I was so over-the-top wacky that Joe decided he didn’t want to be my doctor? He could easily say we were too close, and refer me elsewhere. Now, that would really be awful.

So, picture me, zooming down the highway, exceeding the speed limit just a little, dodging cars and planning my surgery, the chemo, the whole nine yards. I knew if I didn’t get it together, Joe would fire me as a patient.

Then, it hit me.

I decided that every time I saw a red car on the interstate, going in either direction, I would take a deep breath. I had three red cars in my vision at that moment and I slowly and deliberately took a deep breath in . . . and out. And again . . . And a third time.

I realized, in those seven seconds, that I had barely been breathing during my race to see Joe.

I felt a little better. Calmer? I couldn’t be sure, but it wasn’t worse.

So I kept looking for red cars. And, sure enough, over the next ten miles, red cars popped up everywhere. As I pulled into the parking garage to Joe’s office, there were – no kidding – FOUR red cars in a row. I tried to breathe in and out four times, and I had to laugh so I wouldn’t hyperventilate. Okay, Universe. I got it. And I went into Joe’s office a bit more calm.

A World of Difference

Since that day, I’ve used the Red Car Trick often. It keeps me centered when I’m heading for the office or the operating room, when I’m late for a meeting, or when I just have a lot on my mind. Those seven seconds can make the world of difference, and even substitute for my morning meditation when time is short.


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Who knew that a cancer scare could change my life in seven seconds?


I hope that you’ll never have that kind of scare. I’m happy to report that I didn’t have cancer. Joe didn’t fire me. And I learned a lot about how to give myself what I need — even in seven seconds.

What can you do in seven seconds to change your life? I’d love to hear your comments!

The #1 Secret About Meditation

Meditation

A few years ago, I was able to be up close and personal with Deepak Chopra. He was in my home town giving a talk on his book, Super Genes.

What I love about Deepak could fill up a book rather than a blog, but the thing that really struck me was how down-to-earth he was. He made jokes, he had trouble with his slides, he was just plain human. And although he had me at “hello,” when he led the crowd of a thousand people in a guided meditation, you could have heard a pin drop. Sigh.

I’ve long been a fan of meditation. It helps me stays centered through holiday craziness, surgical stresses and hectic schedules. Meditation can cure a lot that ails you. In fact, 61 year old supermodel, Christie Brinkley, says that she has been meditating since she was a teenager and credits that for her youthful looks.

Deepak put some big science behind the importance of meditation. He stated that our telomeres, which are the ends of human chromosomes, get longer by forty percent when we meditate. Typically, telomeres shorten with age, cancer and bad lifestyle choices. So, when we meditate we can change our biological clock.

observe-yourself-without-judgment

Meditation is one of the Five Pillars of Physical Wellbeing that Deepak reviewed, along with sleep, movement, emotions and nutrition.

When I work with clients in and out of the medical world, I hear complaints about the whole process of meditation.

  • “Who has time to meditate?”
  • “I’m not good at it.”
  • “My house/office/life is too busy/noisy/stressful to slow down for that kind of thing.”

How can we keep meditation — and our telomeres — on our priority list?

1) Put “meditation” on your daily to-do list and set aside a few minutes first thing in the morning before things get hectic.

2) Find different meditations that work for you. You can sign up for free 21-day meditations often at chopracentermeditation.com. Or just google “10 minute meditation” and find something that suits you.

3) Look at other modalities for meditating. When time is short, I find just thinking of calm thoughts as I drive to the hospital or while I’m in the shower can substitute for the full-on meditation experience.

If I had to give you the Number One Secret for how to sneak in meditation to your daily life, it would be the tip that Deepak passed on to us:


Twitter-Icon_LoveMedicineAgain.com  Tweet: “Observe yourself without judgment.” -Deepak Chopra


Deepak talked about being a witness to your self. Just noticing what you are thinking can be a mini-meditation in itself.

Sometimes just being still can help you find the answers you need.

There’s never going to be the perfect time to start incorporating meditation in your life. Why not now?

Please share in the comments below how you find time to meditate. We all need the wisdom of our community to make great changes!

 

 

 

How to Change Your Life in 5 Easy Steps

change your life

What is it that makes some of us happier than others? Why do some doctors live in the land of burnout and others live in happy land?

During my time working with doctors, nurses, and health care providers around the world, I’ve noticed there are certain traits that stand out in those who choose happiness. And if there’s a way for us to choose happiness rather than physician burnout, wouldn’t we all go there?

So, here are the traits that I’ve discovered that happy doctors might share:

1. They learn from past mistakes.

They don’t dwell on the bad. They don’t ruminate on the negative as they drive home. But they analyze. Just a little. They say to themselves, “What can I learn from how that went down?” “How can I make a better outcome of that situation next time?”

Whether it’s a surgical outcome that wasn’t their best, an encounter with a patient or staff member that was the opposite of smooth, they review it like a video game and figure out how things could be altered, for the better, going forward. They learn that sometimes it’s not about them.

2. They break goals down into bite-sized pieces.

Of the doctors who get it right, the majority have mastered the technique of “chunking.” They break each goal into smaller pieces which gives them the immediate reward of completion.

Instead of a goal being “study for board exams this weekend,” they will say: “I’m going to spend two hours on Saturday and three hours on Sunday reviewing the next four chapters in my board review book.”

Instead of saying “I’m going to revamp my schedule to make more time for myself,” they say, “What’s the one thing I can do this week that will give me a bit of extra time?”

3. They set specific goals that are measurable.

The doctors I work with learn to, not only break down goals, but make their smaller projects measurable. Just like when people are on a weight loss diet and set a goal to exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week, doctors who are aiming for happier lives also make those milestones specific.

For example, instead of “clean up my office and get organized,” they will say, “I’m going to sort thirty files on my desk and get them into the file cabinet or computer by Thursday.”

4. They know what fills them up.

The doctors who get it right give themselves rewards woven into their busy weeks. But the rewards are ones they specifically choose, not ones I assign to them. Maybe it’s a dinner out with their spouse or partner. Maybe it’s going to a sporting event with a friend. Maybe it’s doing a whole bunch of nothing, with popcorn, in their PJs.

When it’s time to hit “refresh,” these happy doctors know what works best for them.

5. They give themselves permission to act imperfectly.

We all have the best of intentions. Me, too. The beauty of the doctors who are getting it right is that they give themselves permission to fail.


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The beauty of the doctors who are getting it right is that they give themselves permission to fail.


They may do something that is not the exact right thing but is better than doing nothing.

They let themselves off the hook when it comes to Perfection Paralysis.

We all need to learn how to just go forward in our own unique way.

And that’s the beauty of life. Don’t you think?

 

 

3 Practices to Beat Doctor Burnout

Beat Doctor Burnout

It makes me crazy when I hear things like, “Doctors are to blame for burnout. They need to just be tougher.”

Are people really serious?

This is like comparing us to people who are eating super-sized fast food meals daily, while complaining about their jeans being too tight. Uhm, not the same.

Some will say that burnout is a given and just goes with the territory.

Many debate whether this is something that needs to be addressed on a personal level or from an organizational perspective.

My colleague Diane Shannon in her recent KevinMD.com blog has a good point, when she says we have to find the root cause.

Here are the top 3 reasons why motivation fails when it comes to beating doctor burnout:

1) Instant gratification isn’t enough. When our patients do well after surgery or the medication we prescribed clears their infection — yes, it’s rewarding. And we’re super happy when we have that feeling of satisfaction – if we have time to come up for air. Just like our hearts are warmed when we make great doctor-patient connections, despite our crazy-busy schedules.

But it’s tough to ditch the day-to-day grind of EMR, ICD-10s and the rest of the alphabet soup, none of which fits into that “instant gratification” box.

2) We lose steam when we encounter enough speed bumps. It starts with being told that we need to see twice as many patients in half the time to cover overhead. Then insurance denies our claims for serious surgeries and we spend part of our clinic time fighting with someone who has no idea what we’re talking about.

Keep yanking our chain and we want to throw in the towel, despite our dedication. Our mojo starts slipping away.

3) Shouldn’t we feel motivated to meet any challenge? Hell to the no. Let’s say we have a patient or a diagnosis that is well beyond our scope. They are either too demanding (don’t you love it when a non-medical person starts drawing the way they want you to do their surgery?), the problem is too complicated, or a myriad of other reasons.

We decide to reach out for help and send the patient elsewhere for the best possible patient outcome. And then we hear from our CEO that we are not being “team players.” We’re wimps. We’re “quitters.” Do they really expect us to feel motivated and challenged — in a good way? Our reaction can be to beat ourselves up. To tell ourselves, we’re not good enough.


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Here are the top 3 reasons why motivation fails when it comes to beating doctor burnout.


How to jump out of this negativity vortex?

Here are 3 ways to beat doctor burnout the right way:

beating doctor burnout

✓ Remember your mission. Why did you go into medicine? Aim to capture a piece of that every day.

✓ Raise your hand. You may need to reach out to colleagues for assistance or hire a coach.  Having someone in your corner who can be your mirror and remind you of your best self can mean everything.

✓ Bring in gratitude. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated, or just plain blue, I remind myself of how truly lucky I am. I am able to help people in a meaningful way, and impact others by my positive actions. And that, just that, is worth everything.

 

What’s your take on this? Do you think doctor burnout is:

a. Just part of what we signed up for when we got our medical degrees
b. An issue to be dealt with on an organizational level
c. Something we can fix on a personal level by learning how to shift our mindsets to create our own work-life balance and sense of fulfillment?

 

 

Immune to Burnout? 5 Ways to Increase Happiness

burnout

Why is it that some people seem immune to burnout? Are they just oblivious to the stressors? Do they take different vitamins than we do? Are they secretly going home and kicking their cat?

I asked myself this question the other day. It was one of those brutally long clinic days. The kind where we had to take a break for a minute and look at the calendar while I asked, “Is there a full moon tonight?!”

You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

You know those days when every single patient has an issue.

  • They are angry because the parking deck was full.
  • They are upset about the old magazines in the waiting room.
  • They are arguing with my front desk staff about having to update their insurance information.

And in the midst of all that is my office assistant, Kim. Kim has gone through some tough times over the past year. Her husband died after a lengthy illness. Her granddaughter was born with some serious health problems that have, thankfully, improved. Her trusty car broke down on the highway last week — during a torrential rainstorm.

How is Kim handling this wacky day? Like it’s “business as usual.” I look over at her desk and I see she has another one of her sticky notes, in bright pink, on the counter. It says, “Might as well smile now, while you still have your teeth.” I ponder that for a minute.

And then I see her going to get a current magazine for the person who was pitching a fit about the outdated magazines. She hands it to them with a smile, “Here you go, Mrs. Johnson. This just came in today!”


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We all need ways to find our happy place and prevent burnout.


 5 ways to be happy:

1) Happy people know that they need to stay objective and focus on why they love their jobs. They also focus on the culture around them and try to stay positive.

2) In our office, we have a Gratitude Jar at the checkout desk. Patients can anonymously write down anything they are grateful for on brightly colored note cards. Some days, me and my team raid the Gratitude Jar to feed our own need for positivity, a practice I learned from one of my patients.

3) Other days, I have a grab bag of positive words on laminated paper. We get that out and each person reaches in that bag for the word they will focus on that day. It could be Patience; Fearlessness; Joy. I must confess that sometimes I’ll reach in that grab bag more than once, when I find my energy and positivity waning.

4) People who help themselves by hiring a coach find improved joy in their work and report less burnout than others.

5) Setting your priorities and making sure you keep your boundaries is also a key part of staying happy.  Otherwise, you’re spending your energy reacting to people’s demands and never get to focus on what you want and need.

 

Please share in the comments below your favorite tip for keeping burnout on the back burner. I’d love to hear your wisdom!

 

 

 

How to Live Your Best Day Possible

Your Best Day

One of the ways I take care of myself is by being around people who are in my corner. Some days, that looks like me and my hubby in our PJs, watching old movies or football games, while eating day-old chili or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Other days, that means I’m off to attend a women physician book club meeting where we discuss books, medicine, and all things in between over a pot-luck dinner. The group is aptly named “Wine, Women and Zen.” How could you not love that?

I’m honored to report that we’ve reviewed my book, Remedy for Burnout and several other great offerings over the years.

This month’s book was New York Time’s best-seller Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande discusses how medicine approaches the dying and shares many personal stories, including that of his father’s illness.

One of the take-home messages he shares is the approach that hospice specialists use when someone has a serious, life threatening illness. They ask the following questions:

1) What is your understanding of the current situation and the potential outcome?
2) What are your hopes?
3) What are your fears?
4) What are the trade offs you are willing and not willing to make?

Dr. Gawande explains that the goal in hospice is to have the “best day possible” with each remaining day.

I was struck by how those questions and that goal could be applied to all of us, in non-life threatening situations, right now.


Twitter-Icon_LoveMedicineAgain.com Tweet: We’re only promised this moment. Is this your best day possible?


They’re actually perfect questions to ask the medical and non-medical folks I coach or those I speak to around the country.

Because sometimes our understanding of our current situation, whether that involves our job, a friendship or our marriage needs to be clarified, doesn’t it? And if there’s ever a time for asking “What are your hopes and fears?” it’s gotta be in the middle of a crisis of the heart.

When we draw that line in the sand and talk about staying or leaving our job, our relationship, our friendship — isn’t it all about the trade-offs we are willing and not willing to make?

We need to make sure that we are able to identify and seek out our happiness.

 

How to Live Your Best Day Possible

 

When we plop our head down on the pillow each night, aren’t we hoping that we have had the “best day possible”?

Are you asking yourself the right questions, right now?

Are you living your best day possible, right now?

It’s time to remember that we are, in fact, all mortal. That we have just this one life. Make sure you make it count.

 

 

 

The Truth Behind the Cold Shoulder

cold shoulder

How many times have you passed someone in the hall– a person you have seen many times at work, but don’t really know– and said hello?

At 6:45 a.m. on Monday mornings, in a semi-deserted hospital hallway, this happens to me all the time.

The response I get is, shall we say, interesting?

Sometimes, people smile big and share something great, even though I do not know them. They will say, “Hi! Today’s my birthday!”

Or “Hey there! I leave for vacation in Florida tomorrow! Can’t wait!”

I always am cheerful right back.

Other times, the person is maybe two feet away and looks me right in the eye as I say “Hello” or “Good morning.” I KNOW I’ve have seen that guy at least 15 times in the past month, yet, he doesn’t say a word.

No nod.

Nothing.

That happens all the dang time, too, I’m sad to say.

It used to bother me.

Until one day, when I asked my operating room staff about this weird phenomenon.

One of the nurses told me she gets super happy whenever this happens to her…

What really happens when you get the “cold-shoulder reaction” in the hallway?

The nurse explained that when you get ignored like that, the Universe responds with abundance and spreads all the good Karma it can find, like butter on warm toast, all around you.

Several other folks in the operating room nodded their heads. They had heard that story, too.

Fascinating, huh?


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When you get ignored, the Universe responds with abundance by spreading good Karma all around you.


One nurse shared that she had even won the lottery on the same day someone ignored her cheerful greeting.

“Wait a minute. You won the lottery, and you’re still working here?” I said.

“Well, it wasn’t that much–just $20,000,” she said.

I cannot make this up, people.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve adopted a new way of interpreting people’s cold-shoulder reactions to my greeting. And you what? Things have changed.

When I say “Hello,” or “Good morning,” and I get na-da, nothing, not even a blink, I think, “Woo-hoo! What great thing is going to happen today because of that person? Yippee!”

I am on the lookout for it, all day.

And guess what?

It always happens that the Universe throws me a blessing.

Case in point: Yesterday, I got perhaps one of the biggest cold-shoulder reactions possible. I had just parked in the doctors’ parking deck and was running to catch the elevator. Another doctor was about 3 feet ahead of me and had entered the elevator.

The elevator doors shut when I was about 10 inches from them.

Huh?

I know he saw me; he was in a hurry, too, I’m sure.

But, seriously?

My first thoughts were not printable. For about 20 seconds.

Then, I thought, “Whoa! This is gonna be a really great Karma day.”

Here’s how it played out: I took the next elevator and ended up passing that same doctor in the hallway. I came close to thanking him for my great Karma day, but decided against it.

I entered the operating room. My first case was running a few minutes late. Thinking my Karma thing was not happening after all, I asked why we were delayed.

It turned out that the nurse had noticed the patient’s bed was malfunctioning, so she took the time and energy to change it out before I arrived. Yes!

And all four cases went so smoothly that I was running an hour (unbelievable!) ahead of schedule.

The rest of the day was one good thing after another: Parking spot at the office? Score! Light traffic on the way home? You bet! Happy husband at the dinner table? Yes, ma’am!

So, before you get your boxers in a bunch at a dismissive response to your friendly greeting, stop and say, “Thank you.”

Then smile. Good Karma is on the way.

 

 

On the Brink of Burnout: 6 Quick Ways to Practice Self Care

practice self care

No matter how many times I encourage my VIP clients to put their needs and wants at the top of the list, it’s a struggle for them. They’re doctors, surgeons, busy parents, wives, and they’re used to taking care of everyone else. They rarely put themselves first, and usually push themselves to the brink of burnout. Self care falls to the bottom of the list.

Can you relate?

Here’s the deal: if you’re not at the top of your game, guess what? You won’t do anyone else any good. So yes, it’s true: you really DO need to put your oxygen mask on first.

What I hear most from my clients when I ask about this trigger is, “I don’t want to be selfish.” It turns out that true selfishness is way different than making sure your needs are met before taking care of others.

Selfishness rears its ugly head when you jump ahead in the grocery line, with your full cart in tow, ignoring the little old lady who has three items right behind you.

Or when you tell your partner that it’s your turn to have a night out without the children, even though he asked about that basketball game with the guys months ago.

Or when you tell your Aunt Ruth you don’t have time to talk about her knitting project, when you could give her a call on your way home from the office to lend support.

Putting our own needs front and center is like having the best foundation ever holding up a skyscraper. When we consider our needs first, then our work, our health and our relationships all improve and build from there, in a sturdy balanced way.

This concept can start with some really basic self-care.

6 Quick Ways to Practice Self Care Today:

1) Eat a good breakfast before you leave the house.

2) Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day.

3) Allow time for some movement, whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga class, or a run.

4) Take those 10 minutes to meditate in the morning instead of logging on to check social media.

5) Tell your office when you need to start late or leave early, to allow for medical or dental check-ups (You don’t want your dog to get their teeth cleaned more often than you do, am I right?!).

6) Ask for what you need from your family. Kids can help pick up their toys; partners can unload the dishwasher or bring home healthy take-out for dinner; families can agree that “me-time” is sacred when the groundwork is carefully in place.

Learning how to set boundaries was a true game-changer for me. It can start with little things and expand into such clarity that you’ll never look back.

When you say “I don’t” rather than “I can’t” to a request, you honor yourself. (1)

One of the phrases I teach my VIP clients is: “I don’t” . . .  rather than “I can’t.”

As in, “I don’t stay late on Thursdays because my son has baseball practice.” Or “I don’t bring in treats for the class more than once a quarter because I want to share the load.”


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When you say “I don’t” rather than “I can’t” to a request, you honor yourself.


I’d love you to share your best tips on putting yourself first. Or tell us your struggles with why you can’t seem to make it happen. The give-and-take of moving forward to a happier life is what we’re all about.