Don’t be afraid to evolve

Through med school and my clinical career, some situations were easy. I just dropped into the joy of serving my patients. As a senior on one of the oncology teams, I remember holding the hand of one of my young patients, a father who was dying from complications of cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the liver bile ducts. It was a heartbreaking experience, but one of the deepest connections I have felt to what gives life. I wished for him, and his wife and kids, to be loved as they processed through the news of his prognosis. I also remember my very first patient as a primary care attending – a man with Parkinson’s and a dry sense of humor. Over time, he and his wife expressed an acceptance and fondness for me that I cherished. It simultaneously communicated trust and gave me permission to learn and grow as a young clinician. It was a journey they were willing to take with me.

Other times, I remember asking the question, “How am I going to get through this?”

There was a day that I stayed awake for 36 hours during a 24-hour shift – only because I hadn’t learned how to work efficiently, delegate family meetings, or stop thinking about everything that I could have done wrong. I was exhausted. I remember almost falling asleep while driving home and then feeling bad about asking my program director for an alternative way of getting home, should I ever feel so tired again. (They were more than helpful with this by the way.) Now, I think, “Do not ever feel bad for taking care of yourself.” The focus on taking care of others before myself, of thinking that I had to earn everything I wanted – even if it included the most basic needs in life – was hard to overcome. Apologetically surviving and staying small was a pattern; only a part of me saw life challenges as opportunities for growth. Now, things are very different, but I still see evidence of my past thinking. It’s an evolution.

Over the years, I watched how people in the world survive, how they are resilient, and even how they transform themselves. I started to understand on a deeper level what it takes, and what we need to let go of to finally realize the power we have. On all levels – whether on a physiological, psychological, emotional, or spiritual level – understanding what it meant to be human intrigued me and pulled me in. It’s always been a part of who I am. Connecting with the suffering of others, as well as my own, I was guided by a deep belief that life doesn’t really have to be so hard, if only we can see, accept, and respect ourselves (and each other) for who we are. If only we are willing to love and be loved.

There are so many layers when thinking about the human condition, but it’s ultimately led me to appreciate what it means to be here, right now. I’ve found answers in learning to be more present. By no means am I perfect, but I am here, and ready to receive knowledge that doesn’t just come from books or other people. One lesson I’ve learned, little by little, is that the essence of me is beyond labels, and that I am allowed to be here, with all of the excitement, and sadness, and anxiety, and love that I possess. With all that I want to create. And – I don’t need to apologize for any of it.

I see this in others too. I see their greatness, their unique creativity, and their vision for how they want to experience life more fully.

I love their desire to make the world a better place at the same time. Sounds corny, but truly it’s what excites me. I know it’s possible to live in a way that honors the things in life that sustain well-being and satisfaction, while also making a unique difference in the world. Also, from all my observations professionally and personally, I also deeply believe that so much of our human suffering, and that of others, can be alleviated by how we lead our lives. I want to create a ripple effect in the world by supporting physicians to define and live their lives well, through the purpose they are inspired to live in each moment.

Over the past week, butterfly metaphors have been in my head. So, it’s not unexpected that the visual of a caterpillar came to mind when I considered recent changes in my own identify and in my business. (Some may hear them as stereotypical personal development, life-coachy metaphors. But there are so many lessons contained in them, that if we are critical, I think it’s worth asking why.)

Earlier this summer, I had transiently shared about a new brand name – TRENDUP Life Coaching. So many things led to the development of this brand, and then to the evolution of Ashwini Nayak, MD.

On a quick internet search, I learned that in a matter of about a month, a caterpillar can progress through the metamorphosis to become a butterfly. Interestingly, the climate can affect the rate of its progression through this cycle.

TRENDUP Life Coaching was a stage, albeit short-lived, that I needed to go through to solidfy my ideas for this next phase of who I am and what I do. In the meantime, the climate this year was perfect to help me evolve. The pandemic, a career change, working with a new coach, new relationships and mentoring, and more time to think – all helped me to see the obvious: at Physician Wellness Through Coaching, what I’ve been offering people all along has been through me.

 

At this stage in my life, I’m still serving, but now informed as a physician and knowledge-seeker who is skilled as a coach.

 

The focus is still on people, on relationships, on YOU – but I’m taking it to a deeper level, both for my own joy, and in service of my clients and people with whom I’m connected. I want to experience more of what the world has to offer, expand my perspectives, and create paradigm shifts that I can share with people in my life. This is what motivates me to learn broadly and to have deep conversations. I bring this back to the coaching work I do, as I offer personalized one-on-one coaching to physicians. Many of the people who I work with are going through a career transition within or out of medicine. But this is just the beginning of where we start our work. Ultimately, the common thread is that they have a vision for creating a more conscious way of experiencing life, and for making a difference through some creative spark. They see that it’s all possible, and by working together I guide them to solidify that possibility and make it a reality. With a focus on personal leadership, my clients are able to find more inner joy and acceptance as they confidently navigate life’s decisions and lead themselves and others.

Catching Up Won’t Get You There

Catching up isn’t what you think it is.

When it comes to time and our calendars, there is this idea of “catching up” that comes up frequently among people who never quite feel complete in their day – and I’m a long-time member of this group. Over time, I’ve started to truly understand the reality of what is. One truth is, we’ll never completely catch up, at least not by the default standards we set for ourselves.

On the surface this sounds like a bad thing. What does that mean, that we’ll never catch up? Are we doomed to suboptimal productivity, to letting others down, never being able to accomplish what we want or reaching our highest potential?

Of course not. But continually trying to catch up doesn’t help.

Strategy matters, but it’s limited.

In life, we develop strategies for how we spend our time. We develop strategies to succeed in other areas of our lives too. The thing is, we make some incorrect assumptions when we engrain these strategies: we think that these processes are going to work no matter what, and that they’ll work in any situation indefinitely. This just isn’t true.

Even if we get what we want, or some of what we want, as Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t [always] get you there.” Interestingly, we aren’t conscious of the fact that we are blindly and universally implementing these time management strategies.

And, the successes that we see – even if they relate not to tangible results, but rather familiar and predictable outcomes – often keep us stuck in doing what we do. Why would we try anything new that wasn’t certain?

 
What leads us to want to catch up.

In the process then, for a multitude of reasons some of us will learn to commit ourselves to more than we have time for. Or, we lack skill in prioritizing the things that need to get done first. These two scenarios lead to a perception of unfinished tasks that set us up for wanting to “catch up.”

 
“Should” doesn’t have a place here.

Catching up means to “do work or tasks that one should have done earlier.” What an interesting definition that avoids the facts of what actually happened – that desired tasks weren’t completed, and that was all.

Even if it was theoretically possible to do the tasks sooner, who determined that it was actually realistic, or that we possessed the capability to do so? There was obviously still some learning with regard to timing, planning, committing, and executing. Therefore, in some way we didn’t have the capability. Let’s accept this without judgment, learn about what we can do better, and look forward.

Having a moral judgment that we should have done tasks earlier creates a fixed, unquestioned belief that those tasks must be finished, even now. We feel urgency to get things done. Things feel incomplete. The feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment or humiliation may come up and lead us to play “catch up.”

 
An important distinction

The thing is, we may actually have good reasons for why we want to complete those tasks. I’m not diminishing our ability to decide this. The distinction then really revolves around whether we’re rescheduling those tasks into the present due to feeling a sense of urgency or incompleteness, or whether we are feeling grounded in integrity and wholeness. The energetic outcome is completely different depending on the starting mindset.

In trying to “catch up”, the deeper emotional need is for calm and completeness. Recognizing this, we see that we can create calm and completeness whether or not we complete the original tasks on the “catch up list.” How do you think you would do that?

 
The present moment has the answers, once again.

One solution is to be grounded in the present moment as we consider our tasks. By ensuring that we look at the optional “catch up list” in this way, we’ll be more likely to decide what is still important to us and listen to our bodies when we sense we’re depleted. Not only this, but we will be more likely to identify when “catching up” is not an intentional pursuit, but rather a distraction from what we really need. In my experience, when I’ve wanted to catch up, there has almost always been a feeling of overwhelm, guilt, or incompleteness. For true healing, these emotions (and those unique to you) need to be acknowledged, accepted, and heard.   

Ultimately, the idea of “catching up” is inherently grounded in the past. This past focus causes us to miss attending to what we really need right now. Not only that but continuing to play “catch up” keeps us from fully opening up to the future possibilities that are available to us.

If you’re someone who regularly tries to “catch up,” what would need to change to no longer approach life from this mindset? What more could you create by exercising constraint and focus in your moment-to-moment commitments?

 

(updated 9/28/20)

Episode 2: The Landscape of Leadership

How will you choose to explore the landscape of leadership?

As you begin your journey to step into the leader that you are, we will answer questions such as:

  • What lies at the heart of great leadership?
  • How does your map relate to your territory? and
  • How can you show up to be the leader that you are? 

We have spent countless hours reflecting on what leadership means to us. In this episode, we are excited to share the stories and lessons of inspiring women leaders in our lives. In doing so, we aim to help you confidently choose to be a leader in your own space. Let’s open a conversation about what leadership means for women today, and how we can support each other to be leaders at every level.

This episode was created in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – who will always remain Notorious.

Co-hosts: Ashwini Nayak, MD & Archana Nayak, Esq.

Please rate and review the Uncheck the Box Podcast on your Apple Podcasts App – We greatly appreciate your support!

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Disclaimer

Copyright © 2020 Physician Wellness Through Coaching, LLC and Albatross Editing, LLC. All rights reserved.

Episode 1: Box Checkers & Free Thinkers

Welcome to the first episode of the Uncheck the Box podcast! Join us as we introduce ourselves and talk about what it means to “uncheck” the box. 

We created this podcast especially for you – the professional or entrepreneur who is ready to re-invent herself and create her own path to success. 

Are you someone:

…who has achieved great success but is feeling inspired to create more?

…who’s feeling uninspired or stuck, always having done what you thought you “should” be doing?

…who wants to learn about coaching and communication strategies to enhance your current life?

Learn how to develop the mindset needed to “uncheck the boxes” you’ve been checking.  Cultivate the communication skills that will help lead you to success, the way you define it. Here, we want to inspire and support you to continue becoming the incredible, multi-faceted person you are. 

Co-hosts: Ashwini Nayak, MD & Archana Nayak, Esq.

Connect with us!

Disclaimer

Copyright © 2020 Physician Wellness Through Coaching, LLC and Albatross Editing, LLC. All rights reserved. 

Meditation – Day 1: Reaction

My mind seeks out understanding and wants to react.

I started practicing silent meditation regularly a few months ago. By regularly I mean three or four days a week, for 5-10 minutes each day, usually as I sat in the dark  in my son’s room waiting for him to fall asleep. Every now and then, I’d spend a few minutes meditating before I started work in the mornings too.

I remember what it was like the first time I had tried to sit quietly. I had set my meditation app for two minutes. After what seemed like an eternity, one minute later, my eyes popped open, looking down at the phone, surprised that only sixty seconds had passed. I wondered how I would ever be able to practice for longer. My mind couldn’t keep quiet, and I couldn’t sit still. 

Over the months, I found that I was able to sit silently for a longer period. It was even something that I looked forward to.

A respite from the constant chatter in my head.

I questioned whether this feeling of escape would ultimately become a barrier, but decided to just continue to observe that reaction.

I started noticing how I felt more calm too. I was able to finally allow myself to enjoy and seek out simple, restorative activities, like going for a walk in the middle of the day to clear my mind. (In fact, at first I experienced these actives as guilty pleasures due to years of not being able to take (truth: not allowing myself to take) a break midday during my clinical practice.)

The creative process had a new beginning now — in quiet, mindful observation. If I struggled to create, I would slow myself down and stop trying so damn hard. It worked. 

Being present has been a goal since the beginning, when I worked with my first coach. At that time, the motivation was to get the most out of my time with my son, and to enjoy my work more. Now, I see that presence — noticing without judgment or attachment,  current life circumstances, thoughts, and feelings — is the path to the peace that I desire, as well as the source of inspiration and ideas that keep life exciting and evolving.

So I am committing now to a daily practice of meditation, with a goal of eventually meditating an hour daily, knowing that it will enhance my ability to be present.

I had focused so much of my life on literally being educated and gaining knowledge, that I failed to trust my own inner wisdom and intuition. While I was up in my head, I had no idea what was going on in my body, even though so much valuable information was contained in it. This practice is opening me up to things I’ve never seen and known.

Here, I want to document what I learn so that others may learn from me, someone who is very much a beginner.

Today was Day 1 one of this commitment. 10 minutes. I noticed the sounds — cars driving by in each direction, birds calling and responding to each other, the lawnmowers running. Even in that description, I notice my mind wanting to understand, to make sense of it all. It created a brief story for everything I sensed.

I also noticed it wanting to react. Thoughts would arise about what I still had to do today. I caught myself starting to plan. Back to the breath… Then I noticed an itch on my forearm. I noticed that I wanted to scratch it, but stopped myself.

What would happen if I didn’t react?

I decided to refocus on the breath and…

It went away.

Creating Certainty Within Uncertainty

When there is so much uncertainty in the world, especially now during the pandemic, it is good to have some skills to create the certainty that we desire. 

Talk presented at the Cleveland Academy of Osteopathic Medicine virtual meeting this weekend. 

3-minute Inspiration

Life-changing inspiration can be born in the simplest moments. What inspired you today?

Recording provided by and posted with permission from The Life Coach School.

What Is Your Spark?

Over the past year, I’ve been personally exploring what it means to truly connect in my relationships, both personally and professionally. As a physician, I have been reflecting on my relationships with my patients and how much I appreciated learning about what it means to be human from their personal stories. Now, as a coach, I’ve discovered new meaning for the word engagement. As I’ve spoken with people from various backgrounds and diverse life experiences, I’ve been in awe as I’ve noticed a creative spark in each individual…

I’ve seen this creative spark in one of my patients who experienced pervasive and deep emotional hardship due to her life situation. Yet she came to each of her monthly visits with me with a persistent belief that she could achieve better health and be supported to create a safe environment for her and her family.

I’ve also been inspired by the creative spark of an innovative female entrepreneur with profound knowledge and expertise in her field. Her readiness to trust through community collaboration, even when the outcomes were uncertain, was astounding.

As a mother, I’ve learned to become more present with my son as he teaches me through his own wisdom, even at his young age. His emotional intelligence astonishes me each day. He asks the usual questions a young boy may ask as he studies his world but is also keenly attentive to understanding others’ needs and comfort. His emotional intelligence is also displayed through his humor and desire to connect with others. His humor has evolved from a simple appreciation and engagement with us through laughter, to now an advanced experimentation with joke-telling. 

In all of these examples — the creative sparks of the first woman’s ability to see beyond her circumstances, the entrepreneur’s readiness to engage with the unknown, and my son’s innate capacity to connect through caring and humor — guide each of them to live a rich life, making a special contribution to the people and the world around them.

These connections and others have led me to conclude that each person has creative sparks within them. By removing barriers that get in the way of this potential energy, they can ignite personal transformation and contribute something unique and valuable to our world.

Whether or not you’ve discovered your creative sparks, I want to help you fully uncover them and help you decide how to channel your creative energy into meaningful change.