The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #15: Changing Jobs: 3 Tools to Help You Make the Decision

Over 50% of doctors change jobs in the first three to five years after they enter practice. Changes continue to happen for many of us, even after that time period. So if you’ve ever changed jobs, or are considering a job change in the future, this episode is for you.

Today’s thought is this. Some circumstances make it easier to have thoughts that lead to the feelings, actions and results we want in our life.

If You’re Unhappy, You’ve Got a Lot of Company

It is common for doctors to be super-unhappy in a job, and think that, “Hey, the grass is greener. I like the job over there. I bet that would make me really happy.” So they change jobs just to find out that they’re just as unhappy, or maybe even more unhappy, at the new job. They try to come back, they look for a different job. It just turns into this giant carousel.

This feeling is completely deflating, and it’s also preventable. How? By doing the thought work to figure out why you weren’t happy in your current job. But what if you’ve done the thought work? 

What Do You Do After the Thought Work?

You’ve worked on changing thoughts to create the feelings, actions and results you want in your life. And even then, you recognize the thoughts that just don’t come easily in your current situation. What do you do then? What do you do when you have circumstances that constantly surround you, that lead to thoughts that cause feelings, actions, and cause you to show up in the world the way that you don’t want?

That’s when the tough decisions start. When we consider changing jobs and/or our environments where we work.

The first time I coached clients about being overwhelmed or burned out or morally injured at work, I spend a lot of time diving into the specifics about their circumstances and their thoughts. The reason is, that facts and things that we tell ourselves, are often very different.

What Are the True Details? 

Let’s say we have a critical care physician who hates working in the unit where they are. It’s a toxic environment and this doc is frustrated, angry, and burned out. Every day before a shift, he sits in his car and thinks, “Man, I really don’t want to go in for the shift. This is going to be terrible.”

Now, if you’re listening to this and you say, “I can relate to that”, that’s actually normal. Whenever a doc shares that on a group coaching call, there’s always like 15 comments that say, “Oh, me too.”

There’s a fundamental thought in there, which is that the ICU is what is leading to all of these burned out feelings, anger, anxiety, frustration. 

We spend a lot of time in coaching trying to separate our stories from the facts for this exact reason, trying to separate the facts of the job from our thoughts that we tell ourselves about it. It’s so fundamentally important to do this.

Our Thoughts Determine Our Feelings

If we don’t drive home the fact that it is our thoughts about our circumstances that drive our feelings, actions and results, and how we show up in this world, then we will have missed the entire power behind coaching. We will miss the entire power behind the truth in this life, that our thoughts produce our feelings, actions and results.

We really have to wrap our head around the thought of the day, which is that some circumstances make it easier to have thoughts that lead to feelings, actions and results that we want in our life. So do the tough thought work first, and then change your circumstances thoughtfully, so that you can have an easier time having those thoughts that you want in your life.

The Three Tools to Help You Decide to Change Jobs

What three tools do I often use to help clients make decisions about jobs they are changing?

The first tool is to think about how do you think this change is going to make you feel? And what thoughts are you having about your current job that lead to your current feelings? Only then, once you really wrap your head around that, and only then, can you change your circumstances to make it easier to have the thoughts that you want.

So tool number two, accepting the worst case scenario. This one’s fun. As a coach, what I do is I take my clients down Job A and Job B. Okay, Job A is staying where you are, and Job B is leaving. 

Consider each alternative for each job, draw it out to the conclusion that it could be, have a conversation with a coach, a spouse, a partner, whoever, about this and figure it out. And the reason that this tool is so important is because the main reason why people stay in a bad situation is because they are scared of getting it wrong. 

But if you can draw your conclusions to their worst case scenario, and end up in a spot where you can accept either worst case scenario, it turns out there’s nothing to fear. It’s a great way to conquer that fear of getting it wrong.

If you draw out the worst case scenario and, in both of them, you can accept the worst case scenario, guess what my friends? That is freedom. Pick which one makes your heart happy at that point. If you can accept the worst case scenario, you just pick based on what you want. The worst case scenario is acceptable, you can move forward. This gets people unstuck.

The third tool is to continually ask yourself, “What do I actually know?” So I talked about the facts and the stories earlier, and how our brain really likes to fill in the gaps. So just reminding yourself that you have very few facts, and what the facts are. Not the stories we tell ourselves in the midst of change that could occur. 

It’s Never as Bad as You Think

It is normal to have doubt, it’s going to creep in, but also recognize that you don’t know how it’s going to go. You don’t know what it’s going to be like, it’s a story. The same thing we do when we make transitions from med school to residency, and from residency to being a fellow or an attending, or into practice.

And the reason this happens is because our brain’s job is to protect us, right? Everything is driven by our feelings. We’re either trying to avoid pain or seek pleasure. So our brain’s job is to prepare for the worst

But how many times in your life did you have a transition, whether it’s a job or a relationship, something else, and it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was going to be? It was actually fine. It was not the best day in the world, but it was not a big deal. 

You walked into that terrible clinical situation and it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Afterwards, you’re like, “Man, I really shouldn’t have gotten worked up about that.” How often does that happen? All the time. It happens all the time.

So fortunately, you are not your brain. You are the watcher of your brain. Super-meta, I know. You get to tell your brain to stop thinking that, it’s just not helpful, by continually asking yourself, “What do I actually know?” “What are the facts in this circumstance, in this situation?” Write it down.

Final Thoughts

Today’s thought is this. Some circumstances make it easier to have thoughts that lead to the feelings, actions and results we want in our life. So as long as you’ve done that tough thought work, it is okay to change your circumstances. Just don’t do it in the reverse order.

Download Episode 15 Transcript: Changing Jobs: 3 Tools to Help You Make the Decision Download
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