I’ve been speaking with lots of doctors about their lives and careers lately, and the vast majority tell me they’d like to be doing something different with their lives. Not all of them are ready to give up on medicine, but almost all of them wish they could change something about their careers or lives in a substantial way. Some would like to work less, some want to see a different type of patient or would consider a different practice style, some want to do more volunteer work, and some would like to try a different career altogether.
Sadly, of all the doctors I talk with, only a very small fraction believe they could actually make the significant changes they dream about. Most of them are so entrenched in the day-to-day grind, so wrapped up in the identity of how their current career defines them, and so unaware of the amazing gifts they possess, they can’t allow themselves to really consider making the changes they think would ultimately make them happier. Instead, most doctors just keep living lives of quiet desperation, burying their true desires and watering down the impact they can have on the world.
So what does it really take to step away from what’s familiar, yet unfulfilling? How do some people—even “successful” doctors—make the leap from a career that feels safe, though uninspiring, to a life that is more exciting and rich with opportunity, yet certainly more risky and uncertain?
Through discussions with those who have accomplished this transition, as well as looking back at my own journey, I’ve identified six major principles, or characteristics, that must to adopted or developed to successfully recreate yourself in some meaningful way—whether it be within the realm of your medical practice or an entirely different pursuit.
I call them The Six C’s
By far, the most important principle to master is clarity. Without this, it’s impossible to move forward in life because you have no idea where forward is.
Clarity means having a thorough understanding of who you are and what you really want in your life. It means knowing your values and the unique gifts and talents you possess. It means understanding your true purpose here on earth.
Clarity comes from doing an honest assessment of your life. What do you love doing and what do you never want to do, no matter what? Who do you want to spend your time with? What does your ideal life look like? (I wrote about this in my last post, “Have You Checked Your CVP Lately?”)
Only after you’ve honestly answered these questions about your life can you have an accurate framework from which to create the better life you want.
There’s no question that it takes courage to make major changes in your life. No matter what, someone is always going to be disappointed, critical or unsupportive of your decision to make a change. Your decisions will send shock waves into the foundation of other’s people’s lives and will force them to question themselves. Their own discomfort will cause them to discourage you from making any changes that will continue to affect them.
Courage is a combination of desire and faith. Once you know what it is you desire, you must have faith that it is worthwhile and you can achieve it—if it’s important enough to you.
The answers are not always obvious. Wanting things to change for the better in your life —having that desire—is the first critical step, but it takes creativity to figure out your path to achieving that better life.
You can look at what others have done before you and decide if any of their paths make sense for you, but if not, there is a new path, an uncharted path, waiting to be carved out by you.
It requires creativity to decide where to step and which tools you will need as you forge this new path toward happiness and success.
Very few people can successfully navigate a major life change without developing new and meaningful relationships with other people. Whether it’s a mentor, a business partner, a friend who knows someone you should meet, or the person sitting on the train next to you who sparks a great new idea, the connections you make are powerfully important when it comes to making significant changes in your life.
Things don’t always work out perfectly the first time. The fruits of your labor may not be apparent immediately. The people who succeed in making positive changes are the ones who are committed, and push through the difficult times.
If you’ve chosen to make a major change, chances are you gave it considerable thought beforehand. Stay focused and stay committed once that decision is made, and honor where the decision arose from and the process you followed to make it.
There will likely be times when it seems like the best option (maybe even the only option) is go back to the safe, familiar world you have left behind. Being committed will help you resist that temptation and stay the course. A good friend of mine calls these difficult times “being in a wormhole.” When you pop out on the other side of a wormhole, which you will do if you have followed the other “C”s, the rewards are even sweeter and more substantial.
You need to celebrate yourself for the victories you make along the way. Rather than wait until you’ve achieved your entire vision to reward yourself, it’s important to set small, achievable goals and celebrate them throughout the journey.
Instead of focusing on the gap between where you are currently and where you ultimately want to be, spend some time focusing on the gap between where you started and where you are now. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, but focus on what you’ve accomplished already and celebrate yourself enthusiastically and frequently. This makes the journey more fun.
After all, it’s really celebrating and being grateful for the journey that’s important, right?
The “Six C’s” apply to anyone who is interested in making significant changes or improvements to their lives. Each of us deserves to be happy and fulfilled by our work and our relationships. If you find yourself “unhappy” or “unfulfilled,” it’s up to you to make the decision to change that. Once you make the decision, the resources, tools and inspiration are out there to assist you. You just need to start looking.
One great place to look is the Medical Fusion Conference in Las Vegas coming up November 11th-13th. I’m excited to be around hundreds of other physicians and entrepreneurs who recognize the importance of “Connections” as we all share our ideas and inspirations for creating great lives and adding value to the world.
Hope to see you there!