My compelling reason to sleep

What am I working on this month myself? Getting the right amount and quality of sleep that I need. It’s been a process, but I’m ready to solve it once and for all. It’s something I’ve been putting off. I’ll tell you why in a second.

Long story short and simple – I have acquired many poor sleep habits starting from when I was a young kid. It’s time to change them.

As a kid, I would stay up late reading under the covers with the flashlight on (with ears listening for mom coming up the stairs.)

As a teen, it was the newness of the cell phone, romantic relationships, and the pressure I put on myself even then to be the best in everything I did. (Does it even matter now who was on the honor roll?) Late nights were the norm.

In college, it was staying up to try to complete a never-ending list of what I needed to study next. Why did I do this? It was in order to get the grades I wanted (to get into medical school.)

In med school, it was much of the same, with late nights studying and preparing for my clinical rotations. The continued sense of “there’s not enough time to learn it all” drove me to stay up later. I was simultaneously driven by an enthusiasm for living the dream I had worked for all during my youth.

In residency – the context for poor habits included the long hours at work, the continual learning curve, and trying to create the feeling of a normal life outside of work. Some rotations were better than others. 

As an attending – things eased up for a little while, and then it was the question of how I would keep up with my admin tasks and growing practice (answer then: give up sleep.) Before long, my son was born, and frequent awakenings were unavoidable. 

These are the things that happened, and these were my behaviors in relation to my sleep. But why did I chronically overwork at the expense of sleep?

For a lot of reasons, into which I now have insight. We need to look at my thoughts.

Some of them were…

-Wondering if I was enough the way I was. (Now I know I am enough.)

-Wondering if I would be liked. (Now I know that some people will like me, others won’t, and that’s okay.)

-Wondering how I could do everything I wanted in the limited time I had. (Now I know that there is no rush at all, and I enjoy everything I’m doing in life.)

-Thinking my body could handle it because I had done it before. (Now I realize that there was no need to stay up late and that it was a choice all along. Staying up late was something I didn’t have to give into, even though society and medical culture said in many ways I would be better off to live that way. It might have meant that I not choose medicine as a career, and that’s okay. There would have been other ways to live my purpose in life without hurting my body through sleep deprivation, which is a usual part of medical training.)

Why do I continue to work on my tendency to overwork? 

Because our society is constantly feeding us thoughts that we have to do more, that we have to have more, that we have to be more than we are in order to matter.

Because old thought patterns can diminish, but depending on how long you’ve been having them, they may never go away completely, or they will come up in a new way with new goals and life challenges. This is okay. Have awareness of this and manage it.

My life has changed a lot in the past two years. I have new perspectives about my self-worth. I know how to set boundaries for myself. This is good news, because now I know how to create a balanced life around my part-time clinical practice, my health, my family life, and my passion for coaching. 

I know it’s possible to have all of this, but first, I need to sleep.

To get the sleep I need to do it all, I needed to find a compelling reason

I had been having a hard time finding a compelling reason to sleep – not because I didn’t understand the benefits in general, and not because I didn’t love myself or my health or my family. These are common reasons we use to drive ourselves into action, but isn’t it interesting when they don’t always work?

The reason it was hard was because part of my human brain believed what it chose to believe. For a long time I had strengthened the compelling reasons to follow old habits (by choosing to believe them.) For example, “Well, if I stay up a little longer, I can do more and I can learn more. I can be more.” I found all the ways in which this was true — missing the ways in which I was simultaneously creating the exact opposite reality as well.

I needed to question that thought and find strong evidence to support an alternative perspective.

This happened when I started reading the book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, PhD. (I highly recommend it if you have sleep issues yourself.)

After having had many failed attempts, I found my compelling reason in the refresher about NREM and REM sleep. NREM sleep, predominating earlier in the night, refines neural connections; REM sleep increasing in duration over the course of the night, strengthens neural connections.  

By staying up later and having lost a couple hour of sleep, we lose more of our REM sleep, “60-90 percent of all your REM sleep,” Walker states. 

No way. Not after all that I have invested in myself. I have invested so much of my life into learning for my profession, so much of my money into coaching to enhance my mental health, so much of my time to create a beautiful family life, and more. What a shame if I was to just lose the benefits of all my investments — including the ability to be awake and present in my life, and the ability to maximize my creativity and critical thinking– due to a few hours of lost sleep each night. 

No way. 

So I keep reading the book, and practicing the thought, to strengthen my compelling reason. “By going to bed now, I’m going to live my best life.”

Find your compelling reason. Then decide how you’re going to invest in yourself.

Getting from A to B: Stop Checking Boxes

For a long time, I had lived by checking the boxes – boxes that society, school, friends, and family had created for me, but that I had adopted as my own. 

 

There were items on that list of “shoulds” and “to dos” that had even come from an old version of myself many years ago.

 

Have you ever done that? Gotten stuck on autopilot – living a good life, living a not-so-good life, or living an okay life – but never really stopping to ask yourself if that life is what you wanted to be living? 

 

I’m not suggesting that you need to change a thing – your life might be amazing for you right now in many ways. Actually, you can choose to see that things are great if you want to, no matter what. And that’s exactly it — I’m asking you to pause and notice that you have a choice in each and every moment of your life to decide what you want. 

 

Did you know that? I didn’t. For a long time, I thought that I was “stuck.” Stuck because I thought that I was bound to the decisions I had made a long time ago. 

 

Why? Commitment, loyalty, embarrassment, to eliminate confusion and uncertainty – there were a lot of reasons. 

 

I also thought that I was stuck because I didn’t realize the power I had in creating my own life – the power I had to be in charge of my mind, my feelings, and how I showed up. 

 

One big reason that I was stuck was because I wanted to check the boxes. Checking the boxes meant that I could be certain that I would reach my goals, when I couldn’t know with certainty if I would get there otherwise. But this kept me on a path, without an option to try something else. 

 

Checking boxes: it’s an easy and sometimes useful thing to do 

 

Until it isn’t. 

 

After a while, it gets exhausting, because ultimately you aren’t the one creating your own path. Rather, you’re following someone else’s. And it’s hard living a life that someone else has decided for you. For me, I lived with tension about this for a long time. 

 

The hard thing is, sometimes the paths that have been laid out for us to follow seem perfectly appropriate and nice. They really may help us get to where we want to be. But we may get lost in the allure of the final destination, and miss the fact that scenery isn’t really what we were looking forward to. We put up with this, thinking that there is going to be better than here. 

 

But you know what? It isn’t. It really isn’t.

Life is lived now, in the present moment. The thoughts that we have about the past and the future even, these occur now. It is worth it to create a life where you can enjoy the journey of getting from point A to B. 

 

Are you enjoying your journey? Are you enjoying it 100%? The good stuff and the bad stuff? 

 

Remember, life is a 50/50 balance of negative and positive emotions. You’re always going to experience some negative aspects of life. But in what you are able to control, you can choose what flavor of “negative” you want to experience. This is still in your power. 

 

What do you have to do before you choose a path that is your own?

 

You must develop certainty and clarity. You must have clear goals that you are working on, and then develop the mindset to create certainty about what you can achieve. (In other words, you must believe in yourself and your vision without a doubt.) When you can do this, you free yourself from checking the boxes. You become willing to follow your own path, even if it takes you a bit longer to get to where you’re going. 

 

Life becomes easy.

 

Life becomes more joyful. 

 

Because you can love all of it, the whole experience of getting from A to B.

Are You Living 100% of Your Life?

Pura Vida – it means, pure life. 

 

“What does it mean to be living 100% of life, 100% your life? What has opened you up to your 100%?”

 

These are questions that I asked myself last year during a trip to Costa Rica, where I experienced “Pura Vida” during a simple family vacation. At that time, an intentional slowing down occurred, and I was able to experience being with myself, my son, and my husband. I appreciated the simplicity and ease with which Costa Ricans lived. Costa Ricans use the saying “Pura Vida”, to greet each other, to say goodbye, to show appreciation, and to shrug off what can’t be changed. For me it was a saying that created calm and ease and was an expression of gratitude for all of this life that we have been given. It was an expression of something I had wanted to discover more deeply, and so, I was curious. 

 

When I think about Pura Vida and the context in which it is used, there is an inherent idea of sufficiency contained within it. Relating it back to my own journey, I had always wanted to be more than who I was, to do more than I was doing. This is a habit I have had to unlearn, and one that I continue to work on, though with new perspective and understanding. In the past, this resulted in a busy life focused on things outside of me to help me feel like life was good. I was always pursuing something new, chasing after happiness.

 

In truth, at that time, my life up to that point could still be seen as a good life. But what I had come to realize, whenever I slowed down enough to observe what was going on, was that life lived that way wasn’t sustainable, and that in many ways I was numb.

 

Why was this the case? Part of the reason was because I wasn’t embracing 100% of my life. It comes back to the idea of 50/50 balance of life, or 50/50 balance of positive and negative emotion – because life is experienced and motivated by our emotions. For so much of my life, I was constantly resisting or avoiding the negative parts of life. There was a resistance against the fear of my own mortality, there was a resistance of the sadness and disappointment that naturally come throughout life, and there was a constant push to be perfect, which was a resistance against my own humanness. 

 

I was a doctor. All of the achievements that came with that accomplishment interestingly only given me a fleeting joy (though thankfully, it was regenerative as well.) Overworking, overeating, and looking outside of me for happiness, I had also lost the ability to enjoy the journey and lacked an appreciation for all of the good things in my life. 

 

When my son turned one, it had been a year that I had been trying to figure out a new way of life on my own. I was struggling still. I asked myself, “What is my aim here?” It was to find out who I was, to transition from my old self into a new version of me, and to ultimately recreate my life from blank slate. Without even initially knowing that life coaching would be the solution, I found my first coach. There was something about her message that resonated with me and I connected with her at the time when I needed it most in my life. And perhaps because I wanted to change things so badly, I believed that this was the solution for me. Now, of course, I know how this work can be so powerful. 

 

Coaching was both inspirational and transformational. I soon developed fuller awareness of my “self” and my feelings, an awareness that had been absent in my life prior to this point. I was no longer numb. This unearthed a lot of things for me, things that I continue to work through even now. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t easy at times. But on a whole, life was easier. And for sure, it was real, and I was living my life. 

 

I am living my life, and in a much bigger way than I ever imagined, and it’s because of coaching. 

 

A huge part of life for me is about connection. It is why I have pursued my work as a physician and as a life coach, and through connection with others is when I experience the most joy. 

 

Life for me is also about creation and creativity. Existence alone is good enough, but by contributing in the world, by creating something in this world, it amplifies our experience of our existence. Sometimes though, fear, uncertainty, and other aspects of our humanness get in the way of that amplified experience. 

 

On the day that my son was born, with my son laying on my chest, and my doctor by my side, I observed various facets of life. I saw a new life – in my son. I saw the preservation and delivery of life – through my physician. It was in that moment too, that I realized: I create my life. That realization would inevitably bring me to life coaching, and to becoming a coach myself.  

 

Why? Because life coaching – whether you coach yourself or you coach someone else – is a way of guiding the creation of life. A life coach is someone who helps people develop belief in themselves to overcome the fear and uncertainty that are a normal part of human existence, so that those people can create and live their biggest, most amazing lives. Empowerment through coaching is one of the most profound things a person can achieve. Coaching helps people experience their own version of Pura Vida, and then learn how to create that for themselves.

Does Being A Parent Make You Happier?

While checking out at the grocery store recently, I came across a “Special Edition” of TIME Magazine titled, “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for A More Joyful Life.” As a mom, physician, and life coach, I was intrigued to see what advice was offered, so I picked up the magazine and flipped to the contents. My eye landed on an article titled, “The Parenting Paradox” by Belinda Luscombe.
In summary, the author of the article reflected on the question: “Are people who have children happier than people who don’t?” Most of the article was spent discussing the contrast of experiences in being a parent – the simultaneous “joys and tribulations”—and ultimately determined that being a parent doesn’t necessarily make us happier. 
Was I surprised by this conclusion? No. Still, I felt an uneasiness as I thought about this further. Socially, it’s difficult to hear that being a parent doesn’t necessarily make us happier overall. Who wants to think that our children don’t bring us a net positive in terms of the happiness we experience in life? 
The truth is, no circumstance in life makes us happier. Rather, it’s how we choose to think about that circumstance that causes our emotional experience. Having children and all that it entails is a neutral life situation. We decide what we make it all mean, and then ultimately how we feel. Does this mean that we should try to be happy about our kids all the time? Not at all!
I regularly talk about the idea of 50/50 balance of positive and negative emotion – meaning that our emotional experiences in life will be a balance of positive and negative feelings. Definitions of happiness and success aside, none of us was meant to live a life that is more happy than not. Most simply put, life is meant to be both happy and sad. It is more fully lived this way. (Have I needed to remind myself of that this week as my son transitioned daycare rooms and was crying at each drop-off? Yes.)
For me, embracing this concept has created so much more fulfillment than trying to be happy all the time. One of the things I teach through coaching though is how to alleviate unnecessary suffering and how to maximize positive emotion through being in control of your mind.
Though our children can, and do, bring us so much joy (i.e. make it easy to think thoughts that create joy), having children can also be the circumstance in which we experience negative emotion too – the worry over a sick child, the sadness of leaving them with another caregiver, the guilt of wondering if we are doing the right thing, the frustration with a child that doesn’t listen to our requests, etc. 
Questioning our current belief patterns can help alleviate unnecessary suffering that compounds the challenges that naturally come with being a parent. When we can take a step back and examine our current thoughts about what parenthood and parenting is, and what it “should be”, we are then one step closer to achieving the real joy of parenthood. 
Take a few moments these next few days to reflect on your thoughts about your experience as a parent and what you think parenting should be like. 
1. Do you currently have expectations of what parenting/being a parent should be like that are causing you to feel frustration, sadness, guilt, or some other negative emotion? 
2. What would it be like if you let go of some (or all) of those expectations and just looked the whole experience of being a parent – all the ups and downs – as being perfect just as it is?
 
(Originally published on my “Happy Physician Mom” email list – July 9, 2019)

Can You Have It All?

 
2 years ago…
 
“Dada,” my son said as he tried to squirm out of my arms once again during the family photo shoot. As he said that, my mind drifted off… I thought about “dada” being his first word and how it took him many more months to name me. This was consistent with usual speech development since the consonant sounds are easier to say, but nonetheless it was emotionally heart-wrenching for me. I thought about how I had so few pictures of us together – not just because I was usually the one behind the camera, but also because during his first year of life, so much of my life was consumed by my work and the routine daily tasks of caring for an infant. I had been just getting by; I had not remembered to have family members take our picture regularly. Fearful that I would not have special moments captured with my son, I had scheduled a professional photo shoot, but in that moment, it felt like capturing the special mother-son moment just wasn’t happening.
 
I held back tears, feeling the guilt, shame, jealousy, and sadness I had felt all year. I kept thinking that I was spending too much time at work. Thinking that as a result of my work commitments, I wasn’t being a good mom and that my son preferred my husband. Thinking that I was being selfish for choosing to work, while simultaneously wanting more connection with my son. I wondered, as I often had, if I could have both: a fulfilling career and connection with my child.
 

As I pondered that question, I hoped the next year was going to be different. I had signed up with a life coach who was going to help me feel better, help me gain control over my work efficiency, and finally live a life without regret.

 
3-6 months later…
 
I came home from a long day at work and settled in for the evening. My mind was still thinking about the day, but there was a change from how I used to think: I was able to pause long enough to see that my son was ready to walk on his own, and I made a choice to be fully present for this momentous event. He demonstrated his new-found skill as he walked back and forth between me and my husband as we coached him to continue taking his first steps on his own. In that moment, I saw that it wasn’t just about me, my husband, or my son. This experience was showing me how we were all learning to be ourselves, be with each other, and be there for each other. We needed to have curiosity, acceptance, and love in order to grow.
 

Once I had signed up for coaching, I knew my first focus was to be the best mom I could be in the space and time that I had. I also wanted to feel good about the choices I was making as a working mom. I became extremely diligent in learning to separate what was actually happening with my son (i.e. that he was healthy, happy, and loved his mom and dad) from what my mind was saying was happening (i.e. that he preferred my husband and that I was a bad mom for working so much). In these instances, I learned to experience unconditional love in the truest way. Knowing that his dad held a special role, and that I did too, I was able to answer the question:

 

“What can I do to love him the way he needs to be loved right now?”

 

I learned to refocus my mind and energy into doing what my son needed, rather than forcing a connection through negative energy. In doing so, I started to experience more often a deep feeling of love, connection, and being loved. It was exactly what I had been yearning for all along.

When my son needed it, I was able to let go and hand him off to my husband without jealousy or bitterness, knowing it was what my son needed. I stopped asking the question, “How can I get him to love me more?” Because the truth is, for me to experience love, I had to choose to see that it was there all the time if I wanted it to be. I had to deliberately choose to feel it. And I had to express it myself first.

I also worked on improving my presence at home and being more engaged with my son. I set boundaries so that the effects of work would not spill over into my home life.

 
Now…
 
“I love you, Mommy,” my son says spontaneously sometimes. I’m ready to hear this from him.
 
“Mommy, listen to my words!” he bellows sometimes when I am distracted. Instead of endlessly judging myself for my inattentiveness, I redirect myself and am grateful that he wants me there in his life.
 
“I want Daddy,” he still says occasionally. I no longer make it mean that I’m a bad mom or that I’ve done something wrong. Instead, I’m grateful my son has both of us, and that I can get some time for myself every once in a while!
 
I am more present with my son than I have ever been. I intentionally take the time to reflect upon the sparkle in his eyes, to hear his laughter, to observe his behaviors, and enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. I approach my time with him with the thought, “I want him to know that I am here, that I see him, and I hear him.” Whether I have ten minutes or an hour after I return home from the office, through practice, I have learned to feel gratitude for the time that I have with him. “There’s no amount of time with him that could be enough” is no longer a part of my regular way of thinking. I see my time with him as enough, and with this mentality I have a deep sense of joy and appreciation for what I have.
 
Now, I am able to make decisions about my work more confidently. I am able to choose to give time to my clinical work when I need to. When guilt about how I’m showing up as a mom is present – I reassess, tell the guilt to quiet down, and then let it come along for the ride. I’m no longer driven by it. Are things perfect? Of course, not – I’m human. But I’m in control.
 
 
Why I Share My Story…
 
I share my story so that you can know that right now, in the time that you have, it is possible for you to balance your career with connecting with your family at home.
 
You may or may not have had the same experience as me. Yet, I suspect that you may have had some similar experience or wish that you could have more connection with your kids while you are trying to figure out how to get a handle on your workload. Even if you don’t see a direct connection to your own experience, I hope my story may have prompted you to think about how a shift in perspective could enhance even one of your best relationships. We can all have deeper connections, and it begins with us.
 
If having a deeper connection is the one missing piece between you and your ideal life, it can happen without anything having to change.
 
If you are in the process of making some changes at work or in your career, you don’t have to wait for everything to be “figured out” in order to have more fulfillment and connection in your relationships.
 
If you are feeling joy, satisfaction, and complete unconditional love each and every day with the people in your lives, applying the work of life coaching can help you to maintain and deepen your love, and help it remain resilient to life’s most mundane and profound challenges (those that we may easily miss, or those that try us the most, respectively.)
 
It all starts with a small shift in perspective.

When Change Feels Hard: What You Can Do To Keep Moving Forward

A little boy said to his mommy, “I’m scared to go to bed by myself.” 
She asked him why, and he indicated that he didn’t want to be alone. 
In response, she said, “What if, instead you said to yourself, ‘Mommy and Daddy are here if I need them. I’m not scared.’”
“Ok,” he said.

He walked over to his bed, laid on the mattress without a blanket (as was his preference), and quietly he repeated this mantra again and again. The mother sat in the rocking chair in the corner of the dark room, breathed a sigh of relief, hoping he may put himself to sleep. 
30 seconds later…
“Mommy,” the little boy said.
(“Yes??!” she thought.)
“I’m scared,” he said. 
Silence…
“Okay honey, how about this? Say, ‘I’m a little scared, but that’s okay. Mommy and Daddy are here if I need them.’ Does that feel better to you?”
“Yes. Mommy don’t forget the words,” he said. 
He laid back down, and whispered what was newly suggested to him… The mother sat back in the rocking chair in the corner of the dark room, breathed a sigh of relief, hoping again that he would fall asleep on his own.
And then 30 seconds later…
“Mommy…”
Sometimes we feel a negative emotion. Here are some examples — maybe we feel guilty thinking about how we are showing up as a parent or spouse; maybe we feel overwhelmed thinking about the amount of work we have to do; or maybe anxiety comes up as we think about if we are making the right choices for ourselves and our families. 
Through coaching, through this work, we know that our feelings come from our thoughts. The idea that “I’m not doing enough” makes us feel guilty. “There is so much to do!” causes a feeling of overwhelm. And the thought of “I don’t know if things will turn out okay” may cause anxiety. 
I teach about how we can let go of a thought that does not help us, and in its place create an intentional thought that does. From that thought, we can create a model to see how we will feel and act in a situation, and ultimately determine the results we want to see in our lives. 
It seems easy – just let go of one thought, and then replace it with another. 
Very occasionally it is easy – awareness of this simple concept may be enough to transform our perspectives. 
HOWEVER, the great majority of the time, it is not so easy. It takes time to change a way of thinking. In certain situations, we may not be 100% ready to take the leap. Our minds may not be open to the change. We may need to spend some time practicing what it will feel like being a person who doesn’t think “that way” any more, allowing ourselves glimpses of that existence before that way of being fully takes form. 
So, do we stop? Do we just stop trying to change? Do we let ourselves believe that it’s not possible? That it wasn’t meant for us? Absolutely not. 
We keep going. Even if we can’t yet see who it is that we will be on the other side, we hold the belief, and in that mindset that it is possible to change. And having that belief, we keep trying until we find a way that works. 
There is no rush to get there. There is no better place “over there.” We are meant to experience the challenges in our lives. We are meant to learn how to overcome them in our own time. And when we do, we will be in a place of our choosing, and that is the difference. 
We can learn how to be in control of our minds – to be deliberate in thinking in ways that serve us and be deliberate in choosing how we feel. We can be in control of when we feel sad, disappointed, and angry. When the human experience brings us anxiety and fear – we can learn to be present with those emotions too. And so importantly, we can remember that we can choose positivity as well. But this will all be learned in time. This work is not easy, nor is it quick. But it is beautifully simple and accessible. 

Through this work, become the next version of yourself through patience and compassion for yourself during your journey. 
The little boy in the story above, he was still scared to go to bed on his own, and that’s okay. He tried that night to go to bed on his own, but he couldn’t, and that’s okay. He tried, he really tried his best, and that’s all that anyone could ask for.

His mom laid down next to him, patted his back as he requested, and told him she loved him. And that’s exactly how it was meant to be that night.

Look at the challenges you are having in your life right now. Remember that I am here to help you. Remember that you have so much ability to keep growing and moving forward. It may not always turn out “perfectly” – but it was never meant to. Remember that the challenges you are experiencing are not a sign that you are weak. Not at all. They are an opportunity to grow yourself. Who would you be if no part of your life had been difficult? Who will you be because you have overcome and learned from your life’s challenges?
P.S. Interested to learn more about how you can become the next version of yourself? Learn how you can get your work done so you have more quality time with your family. Make confident and guilt-free decisions about your career. Schedule a 25-minute consultation with me: CLICK HERE

Bedtime Solutions: Change This One Thought At Your Child’s Bedtime and You Could Reclaim Hours Each Day

Without going into great detail, I will share that my almost-3-year-old son had some difficulty going to bed during our family vacation, and for several weeks before our trip. More accurately stated, he had taken anywhere between 30-60 minutes after reading books to fall asleep when I was the one to put him to sleep. Maybe there had been some contribution from him going through a developmental change or the scariness of being in a new place without all of his toys or usual routines. Despite this, my husband pointed out that I might have had some role in the matter (surprise!) He didn’t mean that I did anything to cause the problem, but rather that I was failing to do something to make it better. 
I am a life coach, and I am also a human being. My mind still presents me with mental drama that many others experience. Through what I have learned, I think that I have developed awareness of myself, but sometimes I have needed an outside observer to point out the obvious. Sometimes we are too close to the problem to see what is happening. In this case, my husband was the necessary neutral observer, but my personal coach has also served this role for me.
Regardless of how I achieve the awareness, one great lesson I have learned in general is to let go of having to be right, to have acceptance for my imperfections, and to consider another perspective – knowing that my current perspective is a choice. So, in this situation with my son’s sleep, even when my mind was throwing an all-out temper-tantrum about how he just wouldn’t go to bed and how it was impossible for me to make him change – with awareness of my role in the situation, I was willing to learn better ways of getting him to go to bed.
In each and every problem that is being negotiated, there are at least two parties. In the case of the nap and nighttime sleep routines in our home, the two parties were me and my son. For all of these weeks, I have been under the impression that I was chosen as the parent who would have difficulty in putting him to sleep – that only with me he would negotiate bathroom breaks, multiple sips of water, an extra book (or two or three), time sitting in my lap, and transfers back and forth between my husband and me. Without even realizing it, I interpreted this as an unhchangable situation. I assumed my son was in control and that I was the victim of his manipulations. This almost-3-year-old had complete control over me, or so I thought.
Actually, he didn’t have control. What had complete control over me were my thoughts of, “I can’t get him to sleep. He won’t fall asleep with me putting him to bed.”
These thoughts became my reality as I subconsciously repeated them again and again. As I predefined my reality through my thoughts, I failed to pause to think of ways that I could make the situation better. 
The tactics here of how I will get my son to bed are not the key, because each child and parent-child relationship is unique and needs its own consideration. What’s important here is the fact that I saw that I had more control that I had given myself credit. This doesn’t take away that there are factors related to my son that are beyond my control. Maybe he likes to talk through the day’s events and put away his toys a certain way before going to bed. But if I take these as circumstance, I can remind myself how I want to think of them and view myself in relation to him. I can decide how I will show up and serve my son’s needs by thinking, “I am his mom and I know I can help him.”
So, I ask you, is there any challenge in your life that you may be too close to, to take a neutral observer role? If so, ask someone for some honest, neutral feedback. Be open to accepting your contribution to the situation and work to make a change that seems realistic and meaningful. You will feel more in control, and I bet things will be better in the end too. 
Lesson: We each have a role in every situation we are in. The contributions we make in comparison to those of outside factors or people may or may not be equal, but when we can take responsibility for our contributions, we can potentially make a bad situation better, or at best find a solution ourselves.
—-
P.S. If you want a neutral observer to help you see something more clearly, CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 25-minute consultationwith me to help you discover how you can transform your life. 
I help early-career physician moms learn how to make confident decisions about how they spend their time at work and at home, because I get it –7+ years after starting the medical career journey, and after having kids, your perspectives and priorities change. This stage of life requires an honest reassessment so you can have the most joyful, regret-free life moving forward, and I’m happy to help you develop the self-confidence and clarity needed to get there. Let me show you how. It all starts with a single call.

Start Doing These 3 Things Each Day To Ignite the Self-Confidence You’ve Always Wanted

You’re sitting with one of your patients during an office visit and you’ve just finished creating a plan for their new dyspnea, when you realize that you are 40 minutes behind schedule and that they’re indicating that they have a few more things they wanted to talk about. You have two options – ask them to come back another time to discuss, or take care of things right then and there even though you will be further behind. You choose the latter, even though deep inside you were wishing you had the self-confidence to ask them, kindly and tactfully, to schedule another appointment. You’re also wishing that you wouldn’t be left afraid that you could’ve missed something.
You’re working in the hospital and you hear a Code Blue called overhead. You’re the hospitalist on call and you’ve done this so many times before, but you’re wondering why then you still get this pit in your stomach when you hear the page overhead. Things always go okay, and you’re comfortable applying the ACLS algorithms, but you wish that you had the self-confidence to run into each code feeling more in control.
It’s 2AM. Your 5-year-old has been up all night with a fever. He’s complaining of mild abdominal pain that started just before he went up for bed. You think to yourself that he probably just has a GI bug, but then realize you know too much just to stop there. Your mind races through all the worst possibilities. You think of calling your pediatrician but then don’t want to seem like you are overreacting. You go through all the symptoms and signs and possibilities in your mind. You try to convince yourself that he’s okay, but something tells you that there may be something more there. It’s hard to be objective, and you feel stuck. You feel palpitations as you call your pediatricians’ office for help, knowing it is the right thing to do and that there is no problem in calling, but feel guilty for doing so. You think, “I’m bothering them. I should know what to do. What will they think?” You wish you could just do what you needed to do and not feel so horrible about it.

What is the common theme here? What might have been part of the solution?

Placing yourself in these situations, you may have already sensed that having more self-confidence in each of these scenarios could have helped you to take a more appropriate action, catalyze more powerful actions, or alleviate unnecessary suffering. 

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is a feeling of confidence that comes from how you think about yourself.
It allows you to be secure in yourself and your abilities, even when there isn’t yet evidence to support your thoughts and the success or results you are aiming for. It indicates that you trust yourself, trust that you will consistently take care of yourself and keep your word to yourself no matter what.

Self-confidence allows you to do what you need to do, even if it means others might not always be happy. When you have self-confidence, you have the ability to accept that you aren’t perfect and let go of the shame.
Self-confidence occurs when you know that you can experience any emotions, especially negative emotions that may come up naturally in life. You are better able to handle risk in life.

Self-confidence is different from arrogance, which is a situation in which you feel better about yourself by putting others down. Actually, arrogance often comes from a lack of self-confidence. When we look down on others, this is often a projection of how we feel about ourselves, as we are often trying to compensate for our own lack of confidence in ourselves.

Ultimately self-confidence is a state of being that is created by thinking thoughts that create confidence in yourself. Repeatedly thinking these thoughts, again and again, they become deep-rooted belief in yourself.

Why is Self-Confidence Important?

Looking at the scenarios above, having self-confidence in the office-visit example would allow you to set boundaries so you could stay on time and see your other patients. You would be able to set the boundaries because you would have respect for yourself (and your other patients). Also, you wouldn’t be afraid of disappointing that one person – you would be more in control of your feelings and be able to rebound better from any potential objections your patient might have to needing to come back another time to complete the visit.
In the Code Blue example, you have run these codes so many times and are confident in your ability to do what is necessary. But you are left with that pit in your stomach – maybe because you are afraid of losing a patient, or because you are afraid of not succeeding. It has happened before, where someone has died despite your best efforts, and it felt horrible. Each time, you though it was an unbearable feeling, and so you suppressed and ignored it. With having more self-confidence and experience processing that emotion, you can see that you can handle the challenging feelings of loss and grief and come out on the other side okay. Actually, you see that it makes the job of trying to save a life even easier, because then you are not so afraid to try an approach you haven’t tried before, or to be more aggressive in an approach when needed, knowing that you will have given your best and be okay even if you fail in the desired outcome of life saved.

In the example with your child, having more self-confidence would allow you to ask for help more easily. You would know that even though you are a physician, you don’t have to feel guilty or embarrassed to ask for help, especially when you aren’t being expected to act in the capacity of a physician. In having self-confidence in that situation, you would be willing to trust your instinct and ask for help, even if it meant that you might be wrong. This is because you would know that you could deal with any potential feeling of embarrassment that might come up, and know that it is okay to be wrong, especially when no real harm was done. Feeling secure in yourself and who you are, you would be less concerned about what others thought of you for calling in. 

How You Can Start to Develop More Self-Confidence

1. Notice that how you think about yourself determines whether you feel confident in yourself or not. Choose thoughts that help you to feel confident. 

Remember the Self-Coaching Model (developed by Brooke Castillo.)

Circumstance (in this case – YOURSELF)
causes
Thought
causes
Feeling
causes
Actions
cause
Results

Even when you have never done something before, you can develop confidence in yourself by practicing thoughts that create belief in yourself. You can also learn to trust yourself and that you will be emotionally resilient.

2. Be willing to be vulnerable and accept your imperfections. You may not succeed every time, and that’s okay. When you can let go of needing to be perfect, then you will be more willing to do more. 

Brené Brown describes the “wholehearted” as people who “are the most resilient to shame, who believe in their worthiness…” She states, “The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection.” (Daring Greatly, pp 9-11.)

3. Seek out opportunities to do something outside of your comfort zone, where you might “fail.” Follow through! Take action and see that you will come out on the other side okay. 

Intentionally create or seek out opportunities to potentially fail. The more you do this, the more likely it is that you will take risks to grow yourself. In failing, you will learn to rebound. In doing this again and again, you will have successes and develop confidence in your abilities. Ultimately, you will be more likely to succeed in your larger goals.

3 Simple Steps to Start the Workweek with Less Stress

Have you felt anxious, overwhelmed, or nervous going into the workweek? I am going to cover with you three simple things that you can do to help yourself feel more confident and prepared to take on anything that comes your way.

 
When I was in full-time clinical practice, I worked very hard to find an effective way of preparing for and completing my weekly work. 

Interestingly, just as I created a pattern that was easy and reproducible, I decided to transition to part-time clinical practice so that I could help other physician moms through life coaching. The transition into having multiple pursuits didn’t result in a 1:1 exchange of hours in my schedule. This was no big surprise to me because I recognized that it was a new pursuit, I was learning new skills, and learning new processes – and therefore I was again working to create balance between how I dedicated time to the different areas of my life.

 
I say this to illustrate that I cannot know what specific piece of advice will work for you, because I don’t know all of the details of your life and there are many moving parts. I won’t tell you to look ahead at your schedule and prep your notes. I won’t tell you to create order sets. Some of these strategies may work and others may not. I have been given a lot of action-based advice on how to stay ahead in my clinical practice – some things have worked, other things haven’t, and some things have worked only for a period of time. It is ultimately up to you to try different things and see what works for you.

 
But here are three suggestions that you can apply in any situation that will create a positive change if you apply them regularly. You can start to see things feel easier relatively quickly. And importantly, you will be able to search for solutions less frantically, from a place of calm intention. I want to provide you with ideas that can help you manage your thinking and feelings in order to feel in control. This will put you back in control of your work week.

 
Circumstances are neutral and thoughts are just sentences in your mind.

 
If it is Sunday evening and you are already noticing that you are anticipating a busy week, notice the thoughts that make you feel anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Take a few minutes to write down these thoughts. Notice that they are just sentences in your mind and nothing more. I am not pretending that these thoughts won’t be there, but for a few minutes allow yourself the awareness to see that these are just interpretations that your mind is offering to you and that they are optional. This awareness can be important to help you make a change in your thinking when the time is right, and sometimes awareness naturally leads to a change in mindset on its own. 

 
The next piece of this exercise is to refocus your mind on the neutral facts. What is it that you are heading into this week? You might look at your schedule and notice that you have 18-20 patients scheduled each day. There may be a certain number of people on your inpatient list. There may be a couple of sick visit slots open each day. You may have meetings scheduled for certain times. Focusing on the neutrality of the circumstances can help you neutralize some of the negative feelings you are having. 

 
Some emotions will come up regularly, and that’s okay. Process those feelings and create an intention.
 
Notice that there may be some negative emotions that regularly come up for you. After years of experiencing anxiety, even now as I feel so much more in control of my day, that anxiety still shows up. I talk about it as if though it was a passenger in my car. Previously it used to speak up a lot, but now it just sits there, less vocal. I learn to just be with that feeling, to process it. 

 
Next, I create an intention for how I want to feel about the week – productive, excited, committed, or fulfilled for example. In order to feel what I want to feel, I must be intentional in my thoughts. One suggestion I have is to focus on your patients and think about how you want to help them and connect with them.
 
 
Put your highest priority items on your calendar. There is enough time to get done what needs to get done.
 
The first thing I suggest you write on your calendar is all of the things that need to happen to make life happen – laundry, cooking, bathing and dressing, paying the bills, childcare, etc. Second, carve out some time for silence, meditation, rest, or rejuvenation. You can decide how much time you want to allot to this to start, but I recommend you do this next because it is often the last thing that we try to schedule, and then never find time for it. Third, write down the top five things that must absolutely happen this week. These may be steps to reaching a goal, meetings and appointments, or other responsibilities. If there is time, you can add other items based what you want to accomplish this week. By prioritizing and constraining what you put on your calendar, you counter the common belief that there isn’t enough time. In doing so you take active steps in your thinking and actions to overcome the feelings of urgency and overwhelm.

Who Is Perfect?

Various parts of our culture have taught us that we must be perfect. 
Maybe it was our family culture, ingraining certain beliefs about what personal or physical attributes were most desirable and appreciated. 
Maybe it was our academic culture, setting standards for who would be considered “smart” or “most likely to succeed.” 
Perhaps our medical culture has had an impact, traditionally teaching us that errors are not acceptable and that physicians are infallible. 
In an even broader way, our economic culture has taught us that who we are isn’t good enough, that what we have isn’t good enough, and that we always have to acquire more to be liked and valuable. 
No matter what part of our culture you look at, the ideal of perfection has somehow become a part of the standards that are set and undoubtedly perfectionism is on the rise.
I am sure that most of you have experienced perfectionism in some form, in the past or even currently. I have been dealing with perfectionism all of my life, including now.
For me, the difference between then and now is that I have more awareness of the impact of perfectionism. With this awareness comes a power to make a change. 
I can see that my efforts to be better – when arising out of black-and-white thinking, my thoughts of “I’m not good enough”, and a desire to please others – lead to closed-mindedness, self-criticism, and stagnancy. It seems noble to improve oneself, but fueled by this energy, it is actually counterproductive. 
I can understand that my efforts to be better can be derived from a more productive energy. 
 
When intentionally fueled by broadened thinking, I will look for and find more solutions. 
When I accept my inherent value in this world as well as ability to err, I appreciate myself, my contributions, and have compassion for myself when I need it. 
When I do things from a desire to learn, love, and serve because it is a joy to do so – I stay in control of my emotional experience.
I encourage you to look at yourself and take an assessment of where perfectionism has made its way into your life. 
         What kinds of results are being created by a perfectionist mentality? 
         Is this something that you want to change? 
         If you are resistant to letting go of being a perfectionist, why?
P.S. If you are interested to join my email list for physician moms who want to create their best lives, then CLICK HERE