COMMENTARY

Lost the Passion for Your Work? Ways to Get It Back

Kurt Scott

Disclosures

August 30, 2021

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If you feel like you're on a career treadmill going nowhere in your practice or organization, there are many ways to get that passion back and feel like you're progressing in your career.

It doesn't surprise me that many physicians often feel that they are trapped in Groundhog Day. The focus needed, anxiety of patient care, long hours, reimbursement issues…on and on. And this is under normal circumstances.

With COVID-19, everything gets amplified 10-fold.

Kurt Scott, Founder; CEO, Physician Leadership Career Network, Tampa, Florida

It's easy to see why many feel like they've lost their passion and even forget why they became physicians in the first place. The sad truth is that it may drive some to leave clinical practice, or worse.

What can you do to regain that feeling of being excited to get up in the morning? How can you regain control of the career you worked so hard to acquire?

To provide meaningful answers, I spoke with Elsie Koh, MD, a practicing interventional radiologist and chief medical officer and CEO of LEAD Physician, a virtual leadership training platform.

Stepping off the treadmill to improve your career may seem impossible, but according to Koh, it is doable. Koh, who coaches and teaches physicians how to take control over their career and their lives, notes some common reasons why physicians start to lose their mojo.

"I think the main issue and question as a physician is, are you living life on your terms?" says Koh. "At such a young age, we had to decide to go into medicine at a point where we don't even know who we are yet. We are still developing our personalities. Meanwhile, the path we're on may have even been given to us by someone else and is not part of our own dream."

"Then as we get older and more mature, we start feeling like we're stuck. We're living someone else's dream. We may feel that, based on what we know now, our passions would have taken us in a totally different direction. That could be a specialty or subspecialty or even a niche area that we never had the time or support to pursue."

Koh has many irons in the fire and is passionate about all she does.

I asked her, what advice would she give other physicians regarding dividing themselves between all their responsibilities and still keeping the passion and balance in their life?

"The first thing to do is figure out your strengths and passions," says Koh. "Maybe you haven't even thought about it. If you struggle with the answer to these questions, ask someone who knows you well."

"From there, start being more intentional about your career. Instead of living your same life, wishing, hoping, and praying something will change, be intentional and take small action steps toward a different life. In order for things to change, you have to schedule time to think about what it is that drives you so you can start living purposefully."

"Without purpose, anything you do will start to feel like work," Koh says. "If you start living with purpose, doing the things you love, driving you toward your own personal goals, you will start seeing things unfold and change will happen. As busy as I am and with the many different roles, I find that my passion in what I'm doing doesn't make it feel like work to me."

It's likely that physicians may say, "That's all well and good, but the reality is that I wake up early, put in an enormous amount of hours, and have tons of stress, and I'm exhausted when I get home. I spend a few moments at best with my spouse before I crash into a deep sleep, just to wake up in the morning to do it all over again. How am I going to fit in something else that I love and have passion for?"

Koh advises, "Start making yourself the priority and not everyone else's agenda. Second, you have more time than you think. When you get extremely organized, you will find the time needed to think about the things you really want to do, even if it's just 5-10 minutes a day.

"Write them down. Start creating a list of the things that drive you that you want to pursue. Then prioritize them. The list may be 10 things you want to get accomplished, but these three things are the ones that really matter to you most and you have to make yourself the priority. The next step is to learn how to forgive yourself for not getting the other things done."

Koh maintains that the number one reason people don't do what they want to do, even though they know what they want to do, is paradigms. Paradigms are a group of habits and mental programs that keeps us stuck where we are, in our "safe zone."

"We have excuses to keep us there," she says. "'As soon as my kids are old enough' or 'When I'm more financially secure.' In addition, our self-image creates a subconscious ceiling for what you can achieve. These habits need to be broken so we can experience the new."

Even small things can help break your routine habits. Take a different route to the hospital or clinic. Start writing with your left hand. Wear clothes from your closet you haven't worn in a while. Changing things up will force an awareness so you can say, "I can stop these habits." Your habits are what get you stuck.

Koh also suggests that physicians who feel stuck should start by getting help. She recommends talking to others who have done what you want to accomplish and get their story and advice. Make that call or reach out to that person and start learning how to network, communicate and build relationships you haven't had in the past. They should be able to help with a framework that will guide you through the process.

The most important catalyst for making necessary changes is to adapt your focus from all the things you have to do for everyone else, to focusing on what drives you and your passions. Suddenly, you will make room for that dream. You may have to give up something to make the time, but the bottom line is the need for prioritizing your time to work on the things you are meant to be doing.

The biggest takeaway for me from this conversation is: In order to get off the daily treadmill, you need to break the cycle.

  • Take the time to find your passions and what drives you.

  • Break the habits holding you back.

  • Get organized with your time, and you'll find the time needed to start pursuing what matters most.

  • Prioritize what you need to accomplish each day, making sure there are pieces of the thing that drives you at the top of the list.

  • Get help by searching and connecting with others who have accomplished something similar to what you want to achieve.

  • Start living intentionally.

Kurt Scott is founder and CEO of Physician Leadership Career Network.

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