mind rays

Can You Imagine Work Without Burnout?

I began my journey into improving my experience at work before I ever considered becoming a Life Coach.  I was working with a coach on weight loss and I realized that one of the main reasons I overate and/or overdrank alcohol was that I believed I was doing a nice thing for myself after having hard days at work.  What I discovered through coaching, though, was that the problem wasn’t that my days at work were actually hard.  My problem was that I believed the story that they were.  I had fully bought into the narrative that practicing medicine in the United States at this time leads to burnout.  The truth, however, is that I was wrong.

Our brains are programmed to look for evidence of what we believe.  I had been told, since before I started medical school, that medicine is hard and it leads to burnout.  So, for years, I believed that.  I let my brain constantly look for evidence to support my belief.  Every long shift that went a little longer than planned while waiting for that last CT result, every difficult interaction with a patient or a colleague, every note I wrote to meet the specific billing criteria I needed to get paid – it was all proof of my belief that the career I had chosen was going to slowly break me down.  I worked with an eye toward retiring as soon as I could. Because of this self-imposed belief, I dreaded every shift.

Underneath it all, however, was something else that kept me going.  Somewhere deep down I knew that there was a lot that I also loved about being a doctor, but it almost didn’t feel like I was supposed to embrace that love.  If I admitted I loved parts of my job and I allowed myself to be happy, wasn’t I giving in to the trappings of the modern medical system?  If I focused on my enjoyment of my career and I rejected the dominant narrative that my career in medicine was supposed to chew me up and spit me out, what was left?  The answer was joy.

When you look up the definition of burnout in Merriam Webster, the first thing that comes up is: “the cessation of operation usually of a jet or rocket engine”. If you want to put something into space, calculate the amount of fuel needed, and then, when that fuel is all used up, you have burnout.  The amazing thing about being a human, however, is that the only thing that limits the amount of fuel you have for any given task is your belief about how much you have available.  You don’t have a set amount of fuel in your tank that burns out when you leave the atmosphere.  You have as much as you want.  The only thing that prevents you from accessing it is your belief that it’s not there.  

Through coaching, I was able to learn how to question my beliefs about what is meant to show up for my shifts in the emergency department every night.  I challenged my brain to find a way to love my job and, happily enough, it immediately began to show me examples of things to love.  It showed me the hilarious and talented people I get to work with every night, the patients who are so gracious and appreciative even after long wait times or a difficult diagnosis, the colleagues who have my back and support me even when I wake them up at 3:00 a.m. for advice.  

Now I’m not going to lie to you.  There are still times where I feel like I’m pushed to my limit.  There are times where I’m intellectually, emotionally, and physically exhausted at work.  There are still times when I question how much longer I want to practice clinical medicine.  The difference now is that I know how to recognize these thought patterns and I know how to work through them while still having compassion for myself.  Working with my coach revolutionized my experience of both my career and my life.  I would love nothing more than to teach you the tools to do the same thing. Contact me if you are struggling with burnout.