Make a "Do or Die" Commitment to Get Unstuck


The other morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and peeked out the back door. It was cold and rainy. My kitty, Remy, took a few steps onto the porch and ran back in. Our hot Texas summer had just skipped over fall and landed smack dab into winter. 40 degrees is not winter in most places, but in Texas, I’m calling it winter.

This would not normally be an issue.  However, 33 days ago, I had made a  “do or die” commitment to meditate outside on my bench every day for 365 days. Crazy idea, right? That’s what I was thinking that morning. For the first month, I’d managed with the swarms of mosquitoes and sticky, humid mornings, but there is a reason I moved from NJ to TX. I can’t take the cold. 23andMe says I have some Neanderthal blood, but honestly, I’m feeling more of a reptilian thing going on.

I shut the door and tip-toed back to my warm bed. Ahhh…. it felt so good. The comforting thought came to me that I hadn’t actually told anyone I was committing to meditate outside every day for a year. To a few folks, I’d only declared my intention to meditate. I never qualified where. I told myself, if I meditate inside today, who would know? I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

But I couldn’t. I felt restless. Something was nagging at me. After about 5 minutes, I got up and opened the back door again. Still cold. Still rainy. Then it hit me. I had made a commitment. I made that commitment because I was feeling stuck in an area of my life (it’s actually easier for me to help others get unstuck!). I had this feeling that if I committed to something that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone, it might help me get unstuck.  Staying in bed was giving in to the stuckness.

So I put on my rain jacket and plastic cycling pants and grabbed my umbrella. Yes, it was cold and wet. And the rain kept coming. But I ended up having a delightful time. Remy even ran out to join me for a few minutes.

It was really empowering to push through the resistance to something uncomfortable. By the end of my meditation, I could hardly sit still on the bench, I was so pumped with energy. I was half-expecting to take flight with my umbrella.

One of the main reasons why I’m telling this story is because I have come to believe that the single most powerful tool we have when we are making changes in our lives is a “do or die” commitment.

Too often, we wish for change or say we will try, but we don’t fully commit to going after what we want.

A “do or die” commitment can be as simple as, “I AM going to be happier in my career and have quality time for my family. I WILL DO whatever it takes to make this happen.”

When you make a “do or die” commitment, you are doing something powerful. You’re saying to yourself,

“I believe in you. I believe you have what it takes to do this!”

This mindset is so important, because what often gets in our way is a barrage of motivation-zapping thoughts, such as:

I don’t know where to begin.
I need to see all the steps.
I’m not sure I have what it takes.
Other people are better than me.
What if I fail?

These limiting thoughts are so not rocket fuel. In fact, they are anti-rocket fuel. They are the wet blankets that can put out the wildfire of our dreams.

If you want to make changes in your career, but you don’t know exactly how to move beyond stuck, this is normal and not a deal-breaker. Start with a “do or die” commitment for something you desire. Let’s call this your “Big C” commitment. Then make a “Little c” commitment action step to doing something WITHOUT FAIL on a regular basis to support your overarching goal.

Here are a few examples of “Do or Die” Commitments:

Big C – I will do everything in my power to have work I enjoy by 2020.
Little c – I will spend 2 hours every week working on my career direction.

Big C – I will get healthy and in shape by the summer of 2019.
Little c – I will exercise three times a week and prepare food for the week on Sundays.

Big C – I will write a novel by 2020.
Little c – I will write 2,500 words a week on my novel.

Big C – I will be out of debt in 5 years.
Little c – I will devote one hour a week to my finances until I have a good plan in place to be out of debt.

The Little c commitment needs to be as strong as the Big C commitment. It is called “little,” not because it is insignificant, but because it is a smaller step, that when repeated consistently, will help take you to your Big C commitment. We can get overwhelmed by a goal that seems unobtainable, but each of us has the power to take one step at a time.

The SECRET of success is that as you honor your commitments to yourself, you send a powerful message to your subconscious that you have faith in yourself. You trust yourself.

Trust in yourself, combined with the carbon fibers of commitment, transforms your desires from mere wishes to marching orders.

So if you are feeling weak on faith in yourself, your Little c commitments will start to build that trust. Through keeping a commitment, even when it’s hard or uncomfortable, you start to trust yourself more. What could have been feelings of guilt and self-reproach are instead feelings of self-confidence, and that is rocket fuel. So then the next challenge becomes not only more doable but even enticing.

If you’d like to make your own “Do or Die” Commitments for 2019 and beyond, you are welcome to download this Commitment Worksheet to get started! If you’d like to share your commitments with me, please feel free to send them to me at

Postscript – I ended up doing 400 consecutive days of meditation.  The day after I spoke at the SEAK Nonclinical Careers Conference, I totally forgot and broke my streak. But it’s OK, the commitment worked. I was completely freed from feeling stuck. I didn’t achieve that inner state of a quiet mind but the external aspects of my life improved greatly. 

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  1. Stephanie M. Culver, M.D. on November 7, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Wonderful piece. Thank you for your description on how those little c’s turn to the big C. As a mom of 5 kids, 4 school aged still, and trying to find the path to return to work, a couple hours a day can be directed towards a larger goal by adding up smaller personal victories. Thank you for sharing your insights and I can’t wait to download and work on my little c’s!

    • Heather Fork on November 7, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      You are incredibly welcome Stephanie! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and share your kind and thoughtful comments. I have full confidence that you can meet your goal of returning to work. I will hold this intention and “keep the light on” for you as you stay committed and persevere!

  2. Hany Eryan on November 7, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Awesome mindset preparation. This article simply describes how perseverance can be an actual day-to-day attitude. Thanks for the practical idea. it gave me a boost!!!

    • Heather Fork on November 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      Yay!! I am really happy if the blog is giving you some rocket-fuel! Thanks so much for reading and giving me a boost! All the best to you with your commitments.

  3. Lynette D Charity MD on November 7, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Dr. Heather! Were you speaking DIRECTLY to me with this blog post? I feel you were. Change is HARD! The creepy crawlies of ‘self-doubt” squiggle in and out of your mind. First you feel “Yeah, I can do that!” and the next thought (sometimes very negative) says “No you can’t!”

    So my BIG C Commitment is: “Just Say YES!” and see where it takes me.

    This commitment is important to me because: There are so many reasons to say “No” to everything. “It’s not the right time. I don’t have the time. I don’t want to make the time. I have little time left on this earth, so why clutter it with THIS!” Whatever this is. So I will embrace this “YES” and take a leap of faith that the world will not explode because of my decision. And maybe something unforeseen and good will come out of my decision for me and for others.

    My commitment fulfill date was today! I said “YES” to something in my business that I originally said “NO” to.

    My first little “c” was to write this response to your blog thanking you for all you have done for me. I will share other little “c’s” with you later and have you as my accountability buddy (everyone needs one!)

    I am excited to get started because I need to “get back on the horse”! LOL!

    • Heather Fork on November 7, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Awesome sauce Lynette!!! It’s really helpful to others to have you share your own personal experience. People who met you at SEAK and heard your great intro likely think that now that you made it to being a paid speaker, the doubts and uncertainty are gone. If we want to continue to grow and challenge ourselves and not gather moss, we have to keep facing new doubts and fears. But you are a great example of getting back on the horse and galloping into the unknown boldly and with unbridled enthusiasm. Go Lynette! Thanks for being a beacon to other physicians and showing how one can forge a creative path.

  4. Lynette D Charity MD on November 7, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks Heather!

  5. Andrea J Eisenberg on November 7, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Thank you for this post. It is so relevant for me at the moment. I am on the precipice of needing to make a change, but the leap seems too big and honestly, scary. I’m making little steps to feel my way into what would interest me, but I’m barely dipping my toe in the water and in a flash, it is out. Anyway, your ideas make sense and I love reading about your own challenges.

    • Heather Fork on November 7, 2018 at 10:36 pm

      Hi Andrea, I very much appreciate your commenting and sharing your own experience. I can so picture the toe dip that barely makes it into the water. It is sooooo common to have these challenges around making changes. The more we speak out about the struggle, the more it becomes normalized and that can actually be freeing. I hope the waters start feeling a little better to your toe and you can linger a bit to learn what they experience can tell you! Wishing you much success on the journey.

  6. Megan Leivant on November 8, 2018 at 2:05 am

    Thank you for this post, Heather! As others have said, your timing is impeccable! It is amazing how much you can be dragged down by self-limiting thoughts and there’s so much to be said for personal accountability and perseverance. I am proud of you for keeping your commitment to yourself. At the end of the day we answer to ourselves and it does create positive momentum when promises are kept, whether they are a little c or big C. The concept is so simple yet often one of the hardest to embrace and put into motion. Thank you for sharing your story and for all that you have done to help me and so many others.

    • Heather Fork on November 8, 2018 at 2:44 am

      Thank you Megan for your very sweet comments. All of you have made my day. I never know when I write a blog whether or not it will be helpful. I learn so much through the work I do and consider it a true privilege to help other physicians. Each one of you teaches me so much with how you move forward in your own lives, often juggling incredible loads and responsibilities, and not giving in or giving up. You have made a lot of inspiring changes this year Megan, and I am proud of your commitment and courage – so back at you!

  7. Thomas L Denley, M.D. on November 8, 2018 at 1:06 pm


  8. Lisa Tener on November 9, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    I love the specificity of these “Big C” commitments. I often tell aspiring authors that the most important step to write a book is to schedule specific dates and times to write and schedule them in as if they were importants meetings–they are!

  9. Dr. Kip Saunders on December 28, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for this post. It is so relevant for me at the moment. I learn so much through the work.

    • Heather Fork on December 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      You are most welcome Dr. Kip! I’m really glad that this post was helpful for you. I’m sending you some Texas-sized encouragement to keep on doing whatever practice works for you and know that you have company on the journey. Wishing you all the best for a great new year.

  10. Abhinav Singh on January 29, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    It’s very detailed and relevant to me. Thank you for posting.

    • Heather Fork on January 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      You are most welcome Dr. Singh! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. I am happy that the post was helpful for you.
      I was intrigued by your website and thought it meant, “Dentist in Luck Now!” And then I googled and saw that you are a dentist in Lucknow, India! Loved your website by the way. All the best to you.

  11. Singhvi Dental Clinic on October 9, 2023 at 1:02 am

    Upon reading the article, I was struck by the potency of embracing a ‘do or die’ commitment. Often, we merely wish for change without wholeheartedly committing to action. This piece underscores the vital significance of resolute commitment in achieving our goals.

    • Heather Fork on October 9, 2023 at 9:59 pm

      Thank you for reading this blog and commenting! It’s so true what you say that if we make a goal but don’t really commit, it is only wishful thinking. I know for me, unless I make a deadline for my goals, time becomes elastic and I keep pushing the can down the road!

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“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!

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“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!

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OB/Gyn physician

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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.

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“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
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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.

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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!

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“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.

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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. 

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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