There's A New Guy In My Life


So there’s this new guy in my life named Andy.

He’s kind of bald. No, not kind of. There’s a very distinct lack of hair on his head, but it looks rather good on him. He sports a lovely British accent and just the sound of his voice calms my mind. When I listen to him, I’m more aware of my breathing and better able to be in the moment. When I can’t sleep at night, his softly spoken words help me drift off. During the day, if I’m in a tizzy, he reminds me to not get reactive and to observe my thoughts.

As helpful as Andy is, I doubt he has any real interest in me.

We’ve never actually met, and probably never will.

Some of you may have guessed…

Andy Is Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert, and the voice and co-founder behind the acclaimed meditation app “Headspace.” And I might add, Andy is happily married to a gorgeous woman.

When a physician client of mine, a man’s man kind of guy, told me he was using this app called Headspace, and meditating every morning, I was intrigued, but skeptical. Having always done silent meditation, I wasn’t sure about someone talking during a meditation. Was this “meditainment” – some gimmicky New Age thing?

Yet during subsequent coaching calls, my client would tell me how he was more patient with his family, had less anxiety at work, and hadn’t missed a single morning of Headspace – for months!

Hmmm……..Maybe there is something to this, I thought.

Now you may be skeptical too, but before you run off, saying meditation is not for you, you don’t have time, or it’s for fruity people who wear yoga pants, please hang with me just a bit.

Instead of meditation, I prefer the term “mind training.”

Mind training helps with being present, letting go of rumination over the past, and anxiety over the future. It increases your ability to self-observe without judgment, and when you do that, you’re better able to choose how you respond to people, situations, thoughts, and feelings. “Mindfulness” is a term often used to describe this type of practice and it has been shown in studies to help reduce physician burnout.

Do any of you experience that Sunday night dread or pre-call anxiety?

You’re at home, and you’re not on call yet, or seeing patients. Instead of enjoying time with family, your mind is filled with anxious thoughts. It’s pre traumatic stress, and it robs you of any enjoyment of the present. As much as you wish you could stop those pesky thoughts, they have taken over! They are the boss of you. 

Sunday night dread is just one example of the mind having its way with you. If you suffer from any of these common issues, mind training may help:

Dwelling on the past

Worrying about the future, perseverating

Feeling distracted and unfocused

Not being present

Being reactive to people and circumstances

Difficulty sleeping

Anxiety during surgical cases

Self-doubt, lack of confidence

Every week I hear from physicians who have excellent training, are highly skilled, and have a great track record caring for patients. Yet they often have thoughts of self-doubt and not being good enough or smart enough. They may second guess their decision-making and surgical skills. For no good reason.

It’s the thoughts, not anything based in reality that’s getting in the way. Mind training helps us to identify that these are just thoughts, so we don’t get overly caught up in them.  We then have a clearer (head)space to find out what’s actually true.

There really are no idle thoughts. They can empower as well as sabotage us. They can unleash our highest potential, or literally drive us crazy. But we don’t have to be at the mercy of an unruly mind.

We use personal trainers to help achieve better fitness. Why not use one for mind training?

With a mind training app, you can have your own personal trainer for less than the cost of a potato – 26 cents– a day! And we’re talking 24/7 access! Yes, your trainer is on call for you all the time!

What I love about Headspace:

You have a highly trained teacher at your fingertips.

There are meditation “packs” which have meditations on specific topics such as:

Self-esteem, Patience, Forgiveness, Happiness, Creativity, Focus, Health, Work and Balance, Athletics, Sleep, Pregnancy, Depression, and much more. 

The guided and unguided meditations range from 1 to 20 minutes ( you can hit pause to lengthen the meditation).

To support the training, Andy gives “assignments” for you to bring into your day to reinforce the concepts he introduces in the meditation.

With an unobtrusive headset, you could do a 1, 3, or 10-minute meditation at work. This little break could potentially reset your mood from cranky to calm, or from scattered to focused.

To be clear, I am not implying that the purpose of mind training is to make it so you can tolerate a dissatisfying or dysfunctional situation. Rather, one primary aim is to help you be more aware of your thought patterns and reactions so you are better able to discern what works for you and what doesn’t, and take constructive action.

And as I mentioned in my last blog, Creating Your Personal Pan Retreat, a meditation app is a great resource to use as an anchor for your own retreat.

Click here for the Headspace app.  You can try 10 sessions for free.

Promo Code: GETSOMEHEADSPACE – gives you 25% off the annual subscription.

Click here for some other popular meditation apps.

OK – gotta go. Andy’s waiting.

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  1. Lynette D Charity MD on July 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Now THAT’S the way to grab an audience! Thanks Dr. Heather for another invigorating blog to help us doctors deal with the stress of medicine whether we do it full-time, part-time or just some-time. And even in “retirement”. YOU introduced me to Andy and Headspace about 4 months ago. I was skeptical I must admit about all this “mindfulness” STUFF. But after listening to a talk on mindfulness while in Coimbra, Portugal back in February, I realized that I was living with several personalities in my head and I didn’t have schizophrenia (to my knowledge). So many voices, so many distractions, and the ever-present inner critic. Prior to “meeting” Andy (and you have to share him), I struggled with “the worries” about my medical practice as an Anesthesiologist, my ability to be a caregiver to those in my family who needed me, and my personal relationship with my hubby. I worried, but I couldn’t focus on any one problem. My mind was too busy trying to take care of everything at the same time. It was quite busy in my cranium. But now, there is calm, there is focus and there is peaceful nights of blissful sleep (especially after Andy soothingly “suggests” that I count back from 1000 if his suggestion of turning off parts of my body didn’t work). I never make it past 986 and when I awake in the morning, I feel rested and my brain feels “revuvenated” rather than full of sleepless thoughts. For me, HeadSpace works! Andy works! And I bring him into my consciousness through meditation everyday. I am doing Headspace on Focus right now and it has grounded me in “the present”. I actually finish tasks now because I don’t “squirrel”. I don’t think that “multi-tasking” is good. Since committing to a mindfulness life, I am much happier with a recent decision to move, to say “NO”, and to allow myself time for me. No more guilt trip regarding my medical career. With your help (and Andy’s), my transition from full-time Anesthesiologist to public speaker and humorist is moving along at the speed it needs to go; no deadlines. And I too, use meditation during the day to just give myself a “time out” from THINKING. So nice. So peaceful. So carefree. Om…

    • Heather Fork on July 20, 2017 at 4:30 am

      Awesome sauce Dr. Lynette! Thank you so much for your kind words, and double thanks for sharing the details of how Headspace and practicing mindfulness and meditation have helped you in a variety of significant ways. It’s so true how we can have all these balls we are juggling in our mind – it’s like a three ring circus up there. Kudos to you for your commitment to the practice – it may be simple (just be present!) but it’s not easy. The fact that you are seeing real results is proof you are putting in the time. I’m happy to share Andy with you – anytime!

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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!

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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