The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #61: The Year of Yes

Each year when January rolls around, everyone focuses on where they are, where they want to be, and the distance between those two points.  It is usually at this time, that many physicians make goals for the New Year.  These New Year’s resolutions may include working out more, eating better, or you decided that this will be the year that you are going to jump into the Alpha Coaching Experience and finally get the coaching you need to speed up your journey to creating a life you love in medicine. 

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Yet, by February or March, most of us have fallen off the treadmill.  We put the effort in, but come to realize that we can only white-knuckle our way to the change we want for so long.  Each of us only has so much willpower.  So, what happens? Why don’t we tend to stick to the goals we set each year?

The answer for most is that other items on our agenda start to get in the way.  So, in this post, I want to discuss what doctors can do to make sure that they actually meet their goals! 

The Hell Yes Policy

Long-time listeners and readers are aware of The Hell Yes Policy. For the uninitiated, these are the things on our calendar that make us say Hell Yes.  It might include your marriage, kids, your physical and mental health, or a big project that you are working on.  If you want to learn more about how to make and apply your specific Hell Yes Policy make sure to sign up for the ACE waitlist to hear when the 2 live workshops are coming up!  Because we will discuss how to create your Hell Yes policy and apply it on Day 2.  

My HYP for the last few months has consisted of my marriage, my kids, my mental health, getting physically fit, and writing my second book.  Pretty much everything else outside of that I said “no” to so that I could say Hell Yes to those top 5 priorities.  

This is important because far too many do the opposite.  They fill their schedules up with urgent tasks like meetings, emails, and the like only to look up a few months or a few years later and realize that they kept putting the things that were most important last.  In other words, the things that would likely make it into their Hell Yes Policy on paper weren’t reflected by their schedule.

The Life Priority Jar

It is like the parable about the philosophy professor that circulated online in the 2000s.  It goes like this:  

There once was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture. In front of him, he had a big glass jar, a pile of rocks, a bag of small pebbles, a tub of sand and a bottle of water.

He started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full.

“Is it full?” he asked.

He then picked up the bag of small pebbles and poured these in jar. He shook the jar so that the pebbles filled the space around the big rocks. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full.

“Is it really full?” he asked.

The professor then picked up the tub of sand. He poured the sand in between the pebbles and the rocks and once again he held up the jar to his class and asked if it was full. Once again the students agreed that the jar was full.

“Are you sure it’s full?” he asked.

He finally picked up a bottle of water and tipped the water into the jar until it soaked up in all the remaining space in the sand. The students laughed.

The professor went on to explain that the jar of rocks, pebbles, sand and water represents everything that is in one’s life.

Urgency is Not Importance

When we go about trying to fit the big rocks of our Hell Yes Policy in after we have already filled our jars with the water that is so urgently filling it… we just make a big mess.  This is why we have to turn off the water and then plan our priorities intentionally.

Only then can we fit the big rocks in first. Then the pebbles, sand, and finally the water.  

The reason that this is hard is that too many people confuse urgency for importance.  Just because something is urgent, does not make it important.  The opposite is also true.  When you get an email, it doesn’t have to be answered that day.  When someone says that they forgot to tell you about the lecture they wanted you to give, that’s also not your problem.  A failure to plan on the part of other people does not constitute an emergency on yours. 

To this day, I check 90% of my work emails on Thursdays and Fridays when I work clinically.  I am also way overdue on a bunch of online modules that are supposed to be done.  In fact, I have some that were due in 2018. The world hasn’t stopped spinning. No one has died. And I still have a job.  Crazy isn’t it?

So, the first step in figuring out how to stick to your goals for this year is to set up some time to be intentional about the goals that make your Hell Yes Policy and to start saying no to everything else that doesn’t make that list.  Otherwise, if you continue to say yes to the next ask you will surely be saying no to what matters most.  

Obstacles are THE Way

The second component that gets in the way of people accomplishing their goals is that they give up once they run into obstacles.  They haven’t flipped the script on difficulties and perceived failures. Only until we stop viewing obstacles as being IN the way and realize that obstacles are THE way to success can we make meaningful progress toward many of our goals. 

So, if you really want to get physically fit this year, what do you need to do?  Let’s say that your goal is to lose 15 pounds in the next 3 months.  If you toss that 15-pound weight loss in the result line, what things will you have to learn about or accomplish in order to get there?

Well, you might have to determine which exercise routine is most likely to help you accomplish that goal. Is it high-intensity interval training, weight lifting, or running 12 miles each week?

You will also have to likely figure out how many calories you are consuming and what sort of lifestyle you could adapt to eat better.  This means you’ll likely have to dive into eating habits you know that you can keep, instead of trying to stick to a diet you know you won’t be able to keep past six months.  

With each task you come up with, you can either look at them as being just another thing you have to add to your busy life.  You can look at them as an obstacle that is in the way.  Or you can view them as a learning opportunity that is a stepping stone on your path to success. 

The Year of YES

As you write down your intentional goals for this year – whether it be giving a TED talk or writing a book like me – or finally investing in your physical fitness goals, the coaching that you know you need to catalyze your journey to create a life you love in medicine, or some other goal… let this be the year that you finally say yes to yourself.

Let’s let this be the year that you stop putting everything and everyone else first.  Remember, self-care is not selfish.  In fact, it is only when you take care of yourself that you can take the best care of everyone else in your life at work and at home. 

Take some time. Say yes to yourself. Write down your priorities. And then say no to absolutely everything else.

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