How to Achieve Any Goal: The Carpe Diem Process Stage 2


Today we’re in for some fun. 

If you missed last week’s blog, we’re doing a mini Carpe Diem process for any goal where you want to move the needle and make some changes. This can be in your personal life or your career. 

Last week you made a commitment statement about the change you wanted to make. It’s not too late to do this now. Here’s the blog. 

Today we’re doing a simple, yet powerful exercise to move into the Assessment phase of Carpe Diem. 

C – Commitment

A – Assessment

R – Research

P – Preparation

E – Execution

When I work with my physician career coaching clients, we do a variety of assessments related to nonclinical job options, skills, values, work preferences, and personality type. 

All of this information is very helpful, but to start out, I love to use something that harkens back to the time of the caveman….

Simple drawings. 

Drawings are powerful because in a matter of minutes they can capture the essence of how we’re feeling and our situation. They also tap into our subconscious. 

Everyone can draw stick figures. I don’t know anyone who failed first grade because of their stick figures. 

For this part of the assessment phase you’re going to get to do your own drawing. And no excuses that you can’t draw (wait until you see mine!).

Here’s the assignment:

Divide a piece a paper in half with a vertical line so you have a side A on the left and Side B on the right. 

On side A draw a stick figure that represents what’s happening when you’re frustrated and unhappy with your situation. You can flesh out the scene with any props, or a speech bubble, or words. Try to capture what it feels like to be in this situation. 

On side B draw a stick figure that represents you in your element feeling happy and energized. If you know the setting that makes you feel good, include the setting. If you don’t know what you want to be doing, just draw yourself feeling happy and empowered and add into the picture what goes along with this feeling. 

Below are some examples (used by permission). 

On side A, this is Dr. Jess, a Family Physician. She calls herself “Victim Jess” here. She’s behind bars, feeling trapped by having to see so many patients. She’s very introverted and ends up exhausted at the end of the day. A tear is visible on her cheek. She wrote “PTO” because it makes her mad that she has to ask for PTO so far in advance and is often told she can’t take it. 

On side B, this is Super Jess! She’s no longer feeling like a victim of her situation. She’s sporting a cape and some killer boots. Now she’s smiling. The bars have been transformed into a bookcase behind her. Jess absolutely loves books and reading and wants to be surrounded by books. It’s also important to her to not be in a work setting where she has to ask permission to take a day off. 

As we go through the coaching process, we will be focusing on how to incorporate these elements on SIDE B as much as possible in her career and life. 

This next one is courtesy of Dr. Lynette Charity, whom many of you know from her blog post, From Fired to Public Speaker, An Anesthesiologist’s Story. 

On side A, Dr. Lynette is in the OR, note the surgical cap. She wrote, “In OR. Frustrated. Angry.” About her drawing, Lynette said, “I had reached the ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’ point in my career! Stupid regulations, long hours, no damn respect!”

On side B, Dr. Lynette is singing in front of a piano, belting out “Fever all through the night,” a song made famous by Peggy Lee. After decades of practicing, she wanted to be performing in front of an audience (that was awake). She ended up joining Toastmasters and became an award-winning humorous speaker.

This last drawing is mine – clear and compelling evidence you don’t need to be artistic to do this exercise! My mother’s artistic and musical abilities went to my brothers. Sigh. Remind me to tell you sometime about when I tried out for the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 5th grade. Aye yai yai!!

On side A, this is what I felt like after a number of years in practice. I really did like my patients, they were wonderful. But being introverted, I found it hard to see 30+ patients a day (not excessive for a dermatologist). I loved learning derm and being in residency with my peers. I wasn’t prepared for the isolation of being in solo practice. 

On side B, I’m doing a sclerotherapy treatment on a patient. It was my happiest time in practice because I had 30 minutes with one person and I could listen (instead of talk) and hear about their life. The conversation wasn’t about medical things, but about what was on their mind and in their heart. 

I didn’t realize this while in practice, but if I had paid attention to what was draining my energy versus what was energizing me, there were clues about my future direction. 

Now it’s your turn to draw. Don’t overthink it, or try to make a Monet or a Rembrandt. If it looks funny, well then, it’s a fine Picasso. 

So how do you interpret these drawings?

Here’s a short process you can use.

Step One

Side A: Write down what’s not working for you in this situation. Why are you feeling unhappy? How is this situation making you feel about your life and yourself? What is keeping you here?

Step Two

Side B: Write down what is working for you in this setting. Why are you happy? What is different about you from side A? How are you feeling about yourself when you look at this picture? 

Step Three

Figure out what is one thing you can do now to start moving in the direction from A to B. 

You don’t need to have a clear idea of what you would be doing in Side B, simply capturing how you want to be feeling is enough for now. 

There are some next steps in the assessment process to help you dig further into analyzing your drawing and situation. 

These next steps will reveal why the answer for me wasn’t to have a sclerotherapy-only practice, but to actually leave medicine. 

I’d love to see your drawings! They are always spot-on and telling. Feel free to email me at

“Til next week, be well and Carpe that Diem!


A big thank you to Dr. Lynette and Dr. Jess for sharing their drawings!

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  1. Lynette Charity MD on June 17, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    My thanks to Dr Heather for allowing me to “express” my innermost thoughts via MY Picasso-ish drawings as to my “Why” for transitioning out of clinical medicine. We sometimes hold on to our careers way past their “expiration date”. I know I did. So do as Dr. Heather says. One of you may decide to accompany me on THAT piano or even join me during an “open mic” comedy session. Whatever your drawings reveal, it will give you some clarity into how to be happy and healthy in your new-normal future. And Dr H is a wonderful guide!

    • Heather Fork on June 17, 2020 at 10:10 pm

      Awe, thank you so much Dr. Picasso-Charity! I appreciate how you’re always willing to put yourself out there and let others learn from and be inspired by your story (and now there are pictures to go with the story!). It’s been quite the honor to witness the arc of your progression from that very first Toastmasters meeting to your becoming such an entertaining and transformative speaker. As you have artfully quipped, you used to put people to sleep and now you wake them up with your humor and stories. Rock on!!

  2. Modupe Oladeinde, MD on June 18, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    This was such a fun exercise Heather! Yes, I drew my stick figures too!
    It was so helpful to see the drawings you shared. I can relate! Thank you for keeping it real for us, so reassuring to know that I’m not the only one experiencing frustrating issues in a career that I truly love and I’m passionate about, but thank God I no longer feel stuck like I did before I met you as my physician coach. Now I know that there are other things to do out there that will bring me great joy and satisfaction and I’m already on my way, yaaaay!!

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"Heather’s approach was great! She would listen to me and helped me appreciate who I am."

I remember when she said ‘do your resume before our next meeting’, I was about to push back but she gently nudged me along and I’m glad I did exactly what she wanted me to do. We also did interview prep via Zoom and I was offered a great job in UM. She has continued to follow up even after I was offered this job, helping me with pointers about negotiating. I will totally recommend the Doctors Crossing and Heather to anyone feeling stuck like me and looking for a great coach! Thank you Heather!

- Modupe Oladeinde, MD

Family Medicine
Tim O

The coaching I have had with you has been life changing."

You helped me find the courage to seek out leadership positions and become a medical director as well as a physician advisor. I am grateful we crossed paths and am a different person because of it. You have inspired me to "believe" in spite of my inner skeptic. I consider you one of my most important mentors and am proud to also call you a friend. This says a lot given the apprehension I felt when I took a chance with our first coaching session. Even though I have already made a successful transition, I still value your ongoing mentorship and can enthusiastically attest that the value of your services is tremendous!

- Tim Owolabi, MD

Family Medicine
Lynette Charity

“I was at a crossroads in my medical career. I asked myself, "Do I stay or do I go?" 

I met Heather at the SEAK conference. She and I revisited this question.  Did I want to quit being medicine completely? She helped me to identify my needs, wants, and my vision for my FUTURE, not just in medicine, but in life!!!

She was able to listen to my "ramblings" about becoming a stand-up comic, lounge singer and voice-over actor and translate them into action steps.  I chose to become a composite of all of these. Now I am a more confident, healthier, happier person. I credit this in its entirety to the tutelage I have received and continue to receive from Heather.  She cares. She listens. She was there for ME.  She will be there for YOU!

- Lynette Charity, MD

Gail Miller

“I am forever grateful to Heather for helping me to recognize, I am more than just my M.D." 

Heather helped me understand that I am more than just a doctor and that my experiences in clinical medicine are valuable in so many arenas.  As a result I realized that there are other ways to use my background, still be able to help people and continue to challenge myself and grow.  To that end I discovered coaching - specifically health coaching.  I am on my journey becoming a health coach and truly loving it!

- Gail Miller, MD

OB/Gyn physician

“Thank you, Heather, for helping me transform my career, my faith and my life."

What started out as an initial thirty-minute consultation call turned into an amazing four-year journey that transformed my life, personally, spiritually and professionally. 

Heather helped me to discover my doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth... wife and I are opening our first concierge medicine clinic in a community we love. I’m actually excited to have the opportunity to practice medicine the way I believe it’s meant to be, with a focus on the doctor-patient relationship and an emphasis on faith. I know if I had not reached out to Dr. Fork, my life would not be where it is at today.

- Steve Lapke, MD

Papillion, NE
Sue Zimmermann

“Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart."

She is incredibly knowledgeable about the range of careers available to physicians and provided me with advice and connections which I would not have found on my own.  From the start she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try different things.  I was laid off unexpectedly in early 2017, and Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart and making decisions based on trust, not fear.  Now I am enjoying working part-time in a clinical setting in addition to teaching and writing.

- Sue Zimmermann, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon
Devki Patel

After months of struggling to find a non-clinical career that matched my values and passion, I stumbled upon Heather's website which truly changed my life."

Heather's insightful and personalized approach to career coaching made me think outside the box since she took the time to evaluate my personality, values, interests, and preferred lifestyle.

Through her encouragement, practical advice, and professional connections, I was able to find a non-clinical position at a state Medicaid agency that aligned with my passion for population health and serving low-income communities. In addition to her coaching sessions, Heather has built a community of like-minded physicians through her blog, and I feel honored to recommend her to friends and colleagues who seek to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives.

- Devki Patel, MD

Jay Macregor

Working with Heather ultimately helped me leave my job in corporate healthcare and find a path that was much more fulfilling."

My career was going reasonably well but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling I could do better; or at least find a better long-term career fit.  

I was able to find a surgery job that better aligned with my goals and professional interests.  Additionally, Heather helped me start a consulting business which has allowed me to pursue a true passion: helping medical students, residents, and attendings surgeons navigate the challenges of high-stakes standardized exams.    

If you are reading this as a “Type A” surgeon who doesn’t think coaching is for you, I would encourage you to give Heather a shot.  I’m very glad I did!

- Jay MacGregor, MD

Colorectal Surgeon

“I gained the confidence in myself to develop an action plan that blended the best parts of my experiences and interests into a cohesive career." 

Through our work, I learned to trust myself to make good decisions for my own future – something I hadn’t realized I was struggling with because as an emergency physician, I make life-changing decisions with patients every day. 

By feeding my creativity and interests in other realms of my professional life, I’ve found renewed compassion for my patients and myself, making every shift an opportunity to actually care for people. Thank you Heather. I really couldn’t have made these changes without your help!

- Liz McMurtry, DO

Emergency Medicine Physician

The simple truth is - Heather Fork totally helped me change my life."

I never would have had the courage to make the changes I’ve made without her unwavering support, wealth of knowledge and commitment. 

When I first started working with Heather, I was downtrodden...I’d been practicing medicine for 20+ years and yet had never quite found my place.  During the first year I worked with Heather, I left the practice I’d been working at, and recreated an entirely new professional purpose.

I’m now an executive and leadership coach, a university professor, and a Brené Brown Daring Way facilitator, and I have never looked back.  I love what I am doing more than at any other time in my professional life and I credit Heather with seeing in me what I was never able to see in myself, until now.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself, schedule your time with Heather as soon as possible- she can help you reconnect to your purpose and reinvent your life.

- Amie Langbein, DO

Family Physician
KB Karen Barnard Photo

"After 30 years in academic medicine, I wanted a career change but had no idea where to start. Medicine was all I knew."

I signed up for coaching with Heather and it transformed my life. She helped me get clear on what I wanted my life to look like. We reviewed my skills, values, and strengths. She instilled hope in me that change IS possible after 50 years! 

The outcome is that I have created a life I love! I practice endocrinology part-time and own a life coaching business! Coaching with Heather is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

- Karen Barnard, MBBCh, MPH

Endocrinologist and Life Coach

"Heather was my source of hope during a time when I felt stuck and confused. She gave me the permission and confidence to reach higher than I believed I could."

After graduating from residency and starting a family, I lost sight of why I became a physician. I struggled to convince myself to stay in a career that was clearly the wrong fit for me and my family. My anxiety about work was at an all-time high when I reached out to Heather. She provided something that my mentors, friends, and family could not – rather than just offering career advice, she changed the way I think about my life so that I could understand how my career would fit into it. I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on medicine and eventually found a job in academic medicine. I finally feel that excitement for medicine that I used to feel when I was in training. More importantly, I feel like I can be the role model to my young daughter who may one day also face similar challenges between career and family. Thank you, Heather, for all your kindness, support, and skillful coaching! The experience was life-changing!

- Yuri Shindo, MD

Internal Medicine Physician
Camille Gardner-Beasley

"As a Physician, your personal and even professional needs are often overlooked. I learned how to prioritize my career goals by working with Dr. Heather Fork."

She taught me how to put into practice what I knew in theory, that taking care of myself was a priority. I learned to give myself permission to make the career choices that would give me the work-life balance I desperately craved and needed. The process of confronting fears and insecurities was a bit scary, but well worth it in the end. I am now a happier version of myself with a non-clinical job that I truly enjoy!

- Camille Gardner-Beasley, MD

Family Medicine
Anna testimonial

"After 10 years in outpatient family medicine I felt stuck and knew I needed a change but I didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully I found Heather and she guided me every step of the way."

She helped me carefully assess my interests, strengths and passions while also providing me with constructive changes to implement in my job search and resume. With Heather’s help, I just landed a fully remote UM position and I am also exploring coaching as well. Now I feel like the possibilities are endless and I’m excited for this next chapter in the nonclinical world! Thank you Heather for changing my life for the better.

- Ana Jacobellis, DO


"I'm truly thankful to have had the opportunity to be coached by Heather, she is not only a resourceful mentor but a wise and supportive friend. I'm honored to recommend Heather to all my friends and colleagues."

I had been a practicing Internist for 20 years when I reached a point when I needed to make a serious change in my career path. While I enjoyed seeing patients, I was not satisfied with my life-work balance. My job was taking me away from my family and left me little time and energy to do other things that are important and meaningful to me. I came across Dr. Fork's podcast; The Doctor's Crossing Carpe Diem Podcast, it is such an informative and enjoyable podcast for any physician who wants to do more with their career and life in general. Then I had the pleasure to get career coaching from Heather, it was truly an amazing experience. Heather has broad knowledge of all the different career paths that are available for physicians, she is so insightful and very easy to talk to. She helped me clarify my goals, examine my own mindset and definition of success. Together we developed a clear plan and actionable steps to reach these goals. I eventually made a career transition to a remote non-clinical position that allows me to do meaningful work which aligns with my personal and professional goals and priorities. 

- Abbey Awad, MD

Internal Medicine

"There have been a handful of people who have come into my life and changed it, and Heather is one of those people."

From the very first interaction with Heather, it became abundantly clear that she possessed a systematic approach and a methodology firmly rooted in my focusing on my goals and aspirations. Heather's coaching sessions helped me dismantle limiting beliefs and unearth the capable woman, mother, and physician within me. Under Heather's guidance, I began to dream again. I rediscovered my passion for writing, found the courage to share my stories, and even launched my own coaching practice. Today, I specialize in helping others conquer imposter syndrome and overcome burnout, empowering them to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Working with Heather fundamentally shifted my perspective and allowed me to show up authentically in every facet of my life, resulting in a profound sense of fulfillment.

I am deeply grateful that I can continue my work in the emergency department and serve my community as a physician as well as a coach. Working with Heather was a transformative gift that enabled me to rediscover my true self, find clarity in my life's purpose, and unlock my full potential. Through her guidance, I not only reignited the powerful, confident, and bold version of myself I had lost sight of but also realized the boundless possibilities that lay ahead.

- Maria Dominguez 

Emergency physician and coach