How Physicians Harness the Courage to Create Change


“Life Shrinks or Expands in Proportion to one’s Courage.”
Anais Nin


Courage / Cour.age
– mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.


As a hard-working physician, does it almost feel insulting to ask yourself whether you have the courage to make the changes that you feel you need to make in your life and career?After all, you have likely spent years making difficult clinical decisions or performing demanding operations, along with being accountable for important leadership decisions. All these actions required a high degree of responsibility, mental fortitude, moral strength and the ability to handle a degree of uncertainty.  Ways that you may have managed uncertainty in the past could include:

  • Excellent education and training.
  • Diligent practice and experience.
  • Thoughtful weighing of the pros and cons of different options.
  • Consultation with colleagues and other resources.

These and other tools helped you envision the desired outcome and gain the confidence to take action. Even when you might have felt that there was a degree of risk to the outcome, you had been able to create a mindset that the risk that you were facing was manageable.

However, you may be considering embarking on a path of change and growth that is totally different from your usual professional challenges.

 The uncertainty that you are facing at the moment may feel very different from what you have experienced in the past.  

Are you:

  • Dissatisfied with your job, but unclear and anxious about what steps you need to take to move forward.
  • Concerned that decreasing your number of  committee and project commitments will be viewed negatively or even put your career trajectory at risk.
  • Living in such a way that you feel completely out of balance, but you are working in a culture that appears to see rampant stress as a badge of honor.

All of above are examples of scenarios that demand change, but instead get mired in inertia, because of uncertainty (fear) about the future.Unfortunately, inertia is rarely a solution and is likely to simply perpetuate and worsen a bad situation.

What are 10 steps that you can take to build the courage to face these new and unfamiliar uncertainties and move from inertia to action?

Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.

  1. What is the change that you are looking for?                                                                     
    Write it down (without editing).
  2. Why is this change important to you?                                                                                     
    Write down all the reasons.
  3. Is your mind in a reactive, unbalanced place?                                                                     
    Step back; take a few moments to breathe deeply and get clarity about your reasons.
  4. What is the best case scenario if you make this change? How likely is this?       
    Write down your answers.
  5. What is the worst case scenario if you make this change? How likely is this? How would  you handle this outcome?                                                             
    Write down your answers.
  6. What are the pros and cons of not making this change? 
    Write them down.
  7. What trustworthy, neutral person will brainstorm with you and provide support?
    Find someone, personal or professional to speak with. 
  8. Have you created an intention statement for your future that is authentic and that will keep you accountable?
    Write an intention statement. 
  9. What are the mini steps that you need to take to bring about this change?
    Write down 5 steps that you can take immediately. Think outside the box.
  10. Do you have a grounding strategy for the times you feel yourself losing focus, clarity or balance?
    Take one minute or more to breathe deeply and refocus your mind.

These steps allow you to move this process out of a fear-based experience to one where you have taken the time to carefully consider the challenge that you are facing. Not only does this process create more equilibrium in the body and mind, you will find that you will begin to find ways to move from amorphous uncertainty towards measured decision-making.

                      “Courage is knowing what not to Fear”


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