Thoughts and ideas from The Physician Executive
How To Achieve Physician Happiness Despite A Topsy Turvy World
April 25, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by The Physician Executive
physician happiness

As satisfying as my physician coaching work is, a depressing aspect of this work is that I receive regular communications from physicians in distress who are reaching out for help. The majority who write to or call me are miserable practitioners who feel that their physician happiness and well-being are suffering. As a result, they are deeply discouraged about their futures and worry they won’t survive one to four decades of “more of the same.”

While it’s exciting to work with physicians on leadership development or even physician career change, it saddens and alarms me to witness this “brain drain” of excellent physician practitioners quitting medicine and opting for nonclinical physician careers. I, too, quit practice years ago and opted for a nonclinical career in my own quest for greater professional happiness. And yet, as I age, I too will need care from an engaged, committed physician!

Perhaps that’s why I’ve been fascinated by the topic of how physicians find happiness and have read just about everything I could lay my hands on.

However insightful a book or article may be, I realized that hearing the stories of others who have transcended their unhappiness and unlocked some simple keys to finding professional and personal fulfillment is much more my thing.

A TED talk by positive psychologist Shawn Anchor, whose topic, titled “The happy secret to better work” (12:21 mins, from 2011) excited my imagination. It is best summarized this way, through quick humor and engaging storytelling (his words, my emphasis):

· It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.

· If I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.

· Only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

· If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.

· If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

Ah, there’s the rub. How do we become more positive in the present?

Anchor offers several simple research-proven activities to engage in daily to actively rewire your brain and take control of your physician happiness.

1. Write down three new things you are grateful for every single day for 21 days in a row

2. Journal about one positive experience you’ve had in the past twenty-four hours

3. Engage in regular exercise

4. Meditate regularly

5. Perform intentional and conscious acts of kindness.

Sounds simple? Yes.

Sounds easy? No.

Can you do this? Yes, you can!

Now get started. Your effectiveness as a physician leader depends on it. Your personal and professional physician happiness is at stake here!