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….
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.
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?
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Til next week, be well and Carpe that Diem!
A big thank you to Dr. Lynette and Dr. Jess for sharing their drawings!
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!
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!!
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!!