Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 13.47.35Spotting when you might be getting stale and how to freshen up.

Renewal is an important part of personal development and it seems to be a theme for many of the people I work with. There is the very real potential to get slightly bored with doing the same things, or run out of ideas at any stage of your medical career, despite how busy you are. Obviously there are huge challenges at a day to day level for doctors currently, but it is important to recognise when you need a refresh in order to avoid starting to burn out.

Some of the signs that people describe having are; low energy, lack of interest and a feeling that they are not fulfilled. Left un-checked this can descend into low esteem, poor morale and unhappy working relationships.

This is difficult because Doctors are expected to manage their own careers and develop the non-clinical interests and ideas away from their clinical base; whether it be education, management, research or organisational development. But there is no clear pathway or training and development to access. On the flip side, as doctors you do have relative autonomy to explore options, as long as you priortise yourself.

In order to access the right opportunities or spot the potential in new areas, you need to know what matters to you and what is of interest.

Take time out to establish:

  • Your personal values
  • How you like to learn
  • What you have learnt about yourself and your work
  • What skills you have gained
  • What you would like to get better at or improve
  • What you would like to be a part of

Clarifying for yourself the above will help you identify what you are and are not interested in, and how you would like to make a change.

So, here are some of the things that people I know have undertaken in order to refresh:

  • Start a new activity (teaching/research)
  • Get involved in policy or strategy development
  • Take on role in professional society or college
  • Investigate roles in medical education (post and undergraduate)
  • Get involved in mentoring or appraisal
  • Join a ethics committee or NICE
  • Become the lead for a local service
  • Get involved with your Local Medical Committee or CCG
  • Join your Clinical Senate
  • Take on a quality improvement task/role or pathway redesign
  • Write articles / newsletters or a blog
  • Use social media to connect with people who have similar interests as you

Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.” Steven Hall

If you would like to talk over your development call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at 

alexishutson@yahoo.com

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Medical careers reach a long plateau after training and doctors seem more susceptible than others to the midlife crisis.

Dr Carl Gray, Consultant Histopathologist (See BMJ article)

I’ve been thinking about the midlife crisis recently. OK, some of it is personal interest (I’m 45) but a lot of it is about my clients.

Firstly, I really don’t like the word crisis. It’s negative and stops you seeing this period in your life as an opportunity for developing further insight into who you are, what you want and where you want to go.

Carl Jung described this period as the ‘Midlife Transition’ which I prefer. I think his work gives us a really useful way of viewing this natural process and getting the best out of it. In summary, Jung says that in the first part of our lives we are concerned with adapting, achieving, conforming and making a place for ourselves in the world – it’s externally focussed. This often involves compromise and the creation of roles/personas we develop for ourselves to fit in to society. This corresponds very neatly with doctors’ education and training pathway. However, we will all usually reach a point where we might start to think, “Now what?” or “Is this it?”. This can be triggered by a loss or separation of some kind, but will mark the start of a period of emotional upheaval. It often means people will want to retreat and spend time alone to reconnect with who they were and assess what they have become. If successful, the process can lead people to a deeper understanding and connection with themselves (more internally focussed) and with a greater sense of peace.

I see people of all ages whilst working with Doctors, but typically my clients are between 35 and 55. Therefore many of them will be experiencing some form of midlife transition. Perhaps the upward trajectory of getting through CCT and finally getting that GP or Consultant post is such a huge task that the plateau reached thereafter can trigger a transition. Either way, it’s normal and whilst it can be a bumpy ride at times, it is well worth the journey.

  • Carl Jung and the Midlife Transition – If you want a longer explanation of the Jungian theory see Dr Murray Stein’s paper here.
  • BBC Story on the midlife phase and happiness, click here.
  • And apparently chimps have a Midlife Transition too! See here.

When was the last time you thought about what you want to achieve, for you?

When I first meet clients one of the first things we start to discuss is what they want to achieve. Some Doctors are quite clear about their goals; a job opportunity, a project to lead, or improvements to their GP practice for example. Others need more time to define the development they want to make through communication style or understanding the group dynamics in their team.

Either way, goal setting is crucial. It’ s hard because goals are often set for us with clinical / management targets or career progression tasks. Actually setting personal professional goals is much harder. The distractions of daily life and professional pressures can really get in the way.

That is why I think it is so important to spend time exploring, testing and defining goals. And it’s OK if they evolve because coaching gives you the opportunity to reflect and evaluate regularly. Sometimes this means adjusting your goal as your thinking depends and your experience broadens.

Last week a client said to me “Am I still on track? I feel I’m constantly distracted by the issues that occur in the here and now.” Because this client has a clear and specific goal, I could say, “Yes.” If you know what you are heading towards and you have a plan to follow, then the here and now can be harnessed to help you. By having a clear vision of your future and using your immediate reality as a stepping-stone, you can link now with the future.

To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.

Kolfi Annan