Capacity For ChangeFeb 23, 2022
“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
–Roy T. Bennett, The Light In The Heart
Before physician coaching, I did not believe that I had the capacity for change. I would dare say that I had a relatively dismal opinion of anyone’s ability to change. Of course, we all have the potential to learn new things and develop new skills, but that doesn’t truly represent change, does it? You will always be the same person fundamentally, right?
Many of us, myself included, do not realize the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Before coaching, my story went like this: I am a kind, caring, well-mannered man that suffers from a good deal of impatience, perfectionism, and a tendency towards overwhelm. I also noticed that highly charged and emotional situations led me to turn off emotionally. I told myself that these characteristics served me in my role as a physician. Allowing myself to be more tolerant might delay vital care to my patients. Allowing myself to be anything other than perfect at all times could introduce room for error. If I allow myself to experience emotions, it might affect my ability to make critical, rational decisions. If I change, everything I have built could come crumbling down.
Physician coaching was akin to opening Pandora’s box. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, exploring one seemingly innocent issue frequently led to an unexpected and sometimes more complicated underlying matter. After participating in my first group coaching call, I became overwhelmed with embarrassment for having laid bare work-related issues to a group of relative strangers. What started as a discussion about communication in the workplace devolved into the exploration of a deep-seated problem with vulnerability. Yikes. Coaching allowed me to explore a variety of topics, including feelings, creating boundaries, and developing compassion for myself and others. Although I started to feel different inside, the same old me was staring back when I looked in the mirror. My own reflection made it difficult to believe that change was indeed possible.
Just as I told myself stories about who I am and what I am capable of, I also told myself stories about my appearance. The haircut I was accidentally given one day in the fall of 1995 became the standard cut for the next 26 years. The carpenter pants that accompanied that haircut may have fallen by the wayside, but the haircut persevered. (Truth be told, I am still waiting for the carpenter pants to come back into style.) And, despite needing to shave every morning, I told myself a story that I was incapable of growing facial hair.
During a mid-pandemic vacation in April 2021, we rented a vacation home with a pool and a swing set to distract my 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son from the madness we had come to accept as normal. As is typical for “vacation mode,” I took the week off from shaving. As I watched my beard grow, I contemplated the idea of keeping it. I had always liked the way that it looked, but the idea of changing my appearance made me incredibly uncomfortable. Typically, that discomfort was enough to make me shave. This time, however, was different. I leaned into the discomfort and decided to try something new.
Maybe you have an easier time making a change, but this was a big deal for me. If the idea of growing facial hair for the first time at 43 years old doesn’t spark discomfort for you, you can substitute an alternative internal tug of war. It could be the idea of changing jobs, moving, spending a large sum of money on something you genuinely want, or trying out a new look. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, go with it. When you begin to feel the discomfort of change, it is essential to ask yourself: Why? Is there something you are fearing? What could happen? What might other people say? What is coming up for you when you are contemplating the change?
I needed a physical transformation as a reminder of the personal growth I was experiencing on the inside. I needed to convince myself of my capacity for change. And, during those quiet moments when self-doubt crept in to sabotage my thoughts, I needed a way to gently remind myself of the work I was doing. I needed a physical manifestation of my progress that I could see, feel, and touch to serve as a reminder that I am not stuck and that I can be different if I choose to be different. Perhaps a change in physical appearance is a kitschy way of reminding myself of my personal growth. However, simple reminders can inspire you to keep going when change seems difficult or even impossible. The well-worn habits from your past will try to tell you that the old way is the right way. And in those moments, that simple reminder will encourage you to keep moving forward.
It turns out that the “fundamental person you have always been” is just the story you tell yourself about yourself, and it is chock full of lies. Your physician coach will refer to these lies as limiting beliefs. And overcoming limiting beliefs can be extremely uncomfortable. My perspective on our capacity for change has clearly shifted. I firmly believe that change is possible for anyone who truly wants it. But change does not come easily. Transformation begins with feeling the discomfort of wanting something different and finding the courage to do everything in your power to make that change possible. I’ve learned something else important about change: Change is contagious. As the people around you see the changes you are enacting in your own life, it can inspire them to take command of changes they want to see for themselves.
You can spend your whole life telling yourself a story about who you are and what you are, then one small change and everything is different. It is a slow process, but I am starting to see myself differently, which feels incredible. While striving for massive action, I’m learning to be happy with marginal gains. Each decision we make is a vote for the person we want to become. I am improving a little every day, and you can literally see it all over my face.
Have you considered making a change but decided that it might be too hard or even impossible? Where does discomfort show up for you in your life?
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
With this training, you will learn about the five most essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to discover what you truly want in life and how to get it!
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Dave Matthews - Dancing Nancies
Stay connected with news, updates and more!
If you like what you are reading and want to stay informed when there is new content, please take a moment to join the mailing list.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
SPAM is the worst. I will never sell your information. Ever.