Kindlelife

Insight, Inspiration, Motivation

Is ‘Stress-free Physician’ an Oxymoron?


I am back, with a year-end blog, this time. Today, the winter solstice has led me to do some reflection. I launched my new website, (www.stressfreephysician.com).

Is it really possible to have a ‘stress-free’ life at all? When I look around me, I see people who are complaining about the stresses in life, and in work. There seems to be no workplace today, that can be considered stress-free. No matter what people are doing, there seems to be this drive for efficiency, return on investment, better quality, greater quantity, and so on. The healthcare field – and in fact, any service sector – just seems to have a greater intensity of stress, because of the increasing demands, and the diminishing resources. There is the pressure from the business aspect, to get better results with lesser expense, while medical care is inherently more expensive. There are also increasing advances, and the pressure to do whatever it takes, to keep people alive longer. One very palpable effect of the global stress levels, is that people often take out their frustrations on anybody at work who does not have the power to fight back, or at home, on the people who are closest to them, and therefore often taken for granted!

So, the big question is: Can we really hope to achieve a stress-free state? More importantly, is any amount of stress actually good for you? My answer would be a resounding “No” to the first question, and an equally resounding “Yes” to the second.

Stress is the body’s response to a real or perceived threat. The purpose of stress is to get people ready for some kind of action to get them out of danger. The action can be the ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, the action taken either helps the person overcome the danger, or helps them remove themselves from harm’s way.

Some stress can be a good thing. It can motivate us to focus on a task or take action and solve a problem. In this situation, stress is manageable and even helpful. In a questionnaire I remember doing many years ago, a wedding was described as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.

When a person is unable to achieve either of those results, is when stress becomes a negative thing. This is perhaps the biggest problem facing people today. Often at work, they feel frustrated at not being able to perform in the way they feel is best, or feel that they are in an environment that clashes with some values they hold dear to their hearts. There are also feelings of not being appreciated enough, and the demand to do more and more, with very little emotional support.

It is when such stresses occur repeatedly in a person’s life, with inadequate recovery in between, that burnout occurs. Burnout is of course the stage where a person gets physically exhausted, emotionally drained, with a sense of detachment, and has a feeling of ineffectiveness. “What’s the point?” is often their attitude.

Instead of aiming for a stress-free life, I think it would be best if we accept the reality of life as it is today – the reality that stress is not something we really can avoid, unless we become monks and go into the woods to meditate!

Once we accept what is, then we can equip ourselves to deal with it. We can figure out methods to recover well from the individual stressful episodes and to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of stress, so as to prevent burnout.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Refocus and Thrive, Self Improvement | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Work – Life Balance” – The Very Term Seems Flawed!


I was at the biannual CUSEC (Canadian Undergraduate Surgical Education Committee) meeting in Ottawa last week, where burnout was a recurring theme in many of the presentations and discussions. Dr. Judith Brown, from the University of Western Ontario, gave a presentation titled ‘Seeking balance: The Complexity of Choice-Making Among Academic Surgeons.’

A very poignant question that arose from the discussions, (thanks to Dr. Geoffrey Blair, University of British Columbia), was the idea of ‘work – life balance.’ Geoff (rightly) questioned the term, because it seemed to imply a separation of “work” from “life”! While seeking a balance between one’s personal and professional life is what people really mean to convey, we have, for long, loosely used the term, ‘work-life balance.’ For a person (like most physicians), who enjoys his profession, this instantly produces a subtle discordance,and its pursuit, even a sense of guilt! Isn’t work supposed to be a part of our lives, and a very important part at that? Isn’t work supposed to bring us great satisfaction? Isn’t it supposed to make us better people, through the challenges we face and overcome, through the miracles we see, through the joys and the pain that we see and share, through everything we learn and teach?

When inserted into this particular term, however, the word, ‘work’ has such a negative connotation! The part of this work that we really need to balance out is the repeated stress and the exhaustion, from which everybody should get adequate time to recover, if we should prevent Burnout. The important thing is to make sure that other aspects of life are nurtured just as well. Make sure that we do not sacrifice everything else for this work, especially those things that make us happy.

Let me know what your thoughts are, as you ponder over these terms and what meaning they hold for you.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Burnout: Chinese vs US Physicians


Just read yet another article on Physician Burnout (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/803968). This one compared burnout amongst physicians in China and the United States. In order to keep the groups comparable, only the responses of physicians less than 45 years of age were selected – there were 6000 Chinese, and 7500 US physicians. I was specifically intrigued by one of the charts presented, which is reproduced here:

Options Chinese US
It is manageable and I’m not making any changes 36% 25%
It is manageable but I need to make some changes in hours/workload/etc. 52.2% 62%
I am thinking of leaving my current position 7.3% 7%
I am thinking of leaving medicine altogether 4.5% 5%

Forty two percent of US Physicians, and 82 percent of Chinese physicians who took part in the survey reported burnout. Of these, 52% and 62% respectively said they needed to make changes in their working lives. This is very significant in that 3120 Chinese and 4650 US physicians know they should do things differently. It would be interesting to know how many of them are really doing something about it, and how many simply feel stuck, and will sooner or later end up either resentful or leaving their jobs.

What is even more disconcerting is that almost 12% of the responders in both countries were thinking of either leaving their current job, or giving up medicine altogether. This means, 720 physicians in China and 900  in the US – all under 45 years of age). If we consider the entire physician population in both countries, this number would obviously be much higher.

These physicians who report burnout must have put in a lot of time, money, and sacrifices to get to where they are. The government also would have spent a lot of resources, training them.

I wonder, what would it take for these physicians with burnout, to decide to stay? What would it take for them to re-discover their love for the profession that attracted them initially.

Please let me know your thoughts, either through comments on this page or by e-mail: kindlelife7@yahoo.ca.

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June 17, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Burnout – FAQs


In my last post, I answered one important question that physicians often ask, when the question of looking after themselves is brought up.

Another question that was asked of me recently, was this: “OK, so, I recognize that I am burnt out, but it is such work (sic) to get help! When I think of seeing a coach/counsellor, I worry that they are going to give me ‘homework’ and that is added burden to my already burnt-out life! So, I prefer to just go on, hoping that things will get better. Isn’t it better to do that, than to jump into something (coaching) and then halfway across, find that I am treading on thin ice, and then be unable to turn back?”

Quite a poignant point, don’t you think? Well, there are many points raised in this question, which I shall try and address.

The first point is that it is, of course, important to recognize burnout – but what is more important is to figure out, what is it costing you to stay in status quo??? If you are already aware of your situation, then either you are very self-aware, or something is already going wrong, in your life/career. Chances are, based on the question, that the latter is more likely. What is the price you pay, for not fixing the problem? Is it discontent at work, disrupted relationships – with colleagues/family members/friends, lack of time for self, illness-physical or psychological, or is it lack of recreation time, or a lack of well-being? How badly does this affect you, make you unhappy? How badly do you want to change this situation? Once you figure out the value of change, and if that value is big enough, then you will have the motivation to change.

The idea of “hoping that things might get better” is really hoping against hope, if you do nothing about it. You cannot sit on the sidelines of your life, and ‘hope’ for things to get better. It just doesn’t seem to happen, at least, not with any reportable frequency!

As far as coaches giving you ‘homework’, I think the term itself conjures up a very negative emotion! While most coaching sessions end with the client making a commitment to an action towards their stated goal, it is entirely upto the client to decide how they want to get to the goal, and what the reasonable action is, to get there. For example, if a person decides that they want to have a positive attitude at work, a simple step towards this goal would be to become aware of one’s thoughts/speech, at least a few times during the day, and if it is negative, replace it with a positive thought. Writing things down would make this exercise more effective.

This does involve some work, indeed, but if the motivation is to change one’s thought pattern, and if you want it badly enough, then you cannot help noticing your thoughts, and you would not consider this as unpleasant ‘homework’. The only way to change your life is to change something that you are doing – to that extent, there is homework to do. There are habits to change, and this can only happen with conscious action, done repeatedly.

The idea of turning back is interesting. The whole point of starting a new program is to make a significant change for the better in life. People only do this when they feel unhappy enough with their current lives. Any change, however, is a step towards the unknown. It is a step outside your comfort zone. And a person would only do that when their current situation is uncomfortable or unsatisfying. To expect things to e easy is rather naïve. When considering the idea of turning back, the question is – towards what? The same situation you were turning away from in the first place? What good would that do? Most worthwhile successes in this world have happened when people have stuck it out just past the point where they wanted to turn back! So, one can only start knowing fully well that any change is going to cause some discomfort, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

Please send me any questions/suggestions you have, that I can address in future posts.

 

 

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , | Leave a comment

Burnout – FAQs


I recently gave a talk at my hospital Grand Rounds, about Burnout, which is one of my favourite topics. There were a few questions asked, which I thought I could try and answer here.

“If I take any time off, what will happen to my patients?”

I would like to clarify that I wasn’t asking people to all take lots of time off, and go away! On the other hand, I suggested that everybody needs rest, and that we should all be sensible about recognizing that need, and taking rest, before we become too fatigued, and forced to rest. If we wait until we have to go, then we will not be able to enjoy such time off. Also, if going away for any length of time is impossible, then make sure that the time that we get every day that we come home after work, be well utilized to recover as completely as possible, from the stresses of the day.

It is very true, especially in community hospitals, that there often is nobody else who shares the care of our patients, normally. We have a great rapport with most of our patients, and the sense of responsibility for their well being is also great. This can lead to a sense of guilt, even at the thought of having to make them wait longer to see us, or worse, having to cancel their appointment, for any reason.

On the other hand, we have a responsibility also to give them our best, when we are with them. If we work ourselves to the point of burnout, then we will surely be unable to feel the compassion that the patients need, and perhaps the good judgment we need in certain situations that call for more involved, critical thinking. This can lead to mistakes, or at the very least, misunderstandings and a loss of trust and that very rapport that we try to maintain, by not missing work!

To look at things from a broader perspective, imagine a freshly dug hole in the ground. At first, the hole will have very sharp banks, but slowly, the soil around it will shift, the edges will look blunt, and eventually, the hole will disappear. How long it takes to fill the hole will depend on how big the hole was, but fill up, it will.

Similarly, if a physician suddenly drops out of the scene – due to illness or (heaven forbid) death, there will be a void at first. The size of that void will depend on how well that physician was thought of. It is probably the physician’s own family who will be the most severely affected – let’s make no mistake about that. However, life will go on. Sooner or later, alternate arrangements will be made, others will move in, and the patients will get taken care of, the work will get done.

It is true that each of us is unique – and nobody will be able to do things exactly as you do it! But people will learn to adjust and even like the way it eventually gets done. That is how they will cope with the change themselves.

So, ultimately, it is in our own interests to not be forced to drop out of our working lives before we are ready to go. Also, we owe it to our patients to give them our best, when we are there, in front of them, giving them our full attention.

I will answer some of the other questions that have been raised, in future posts.

 

 

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement | , , , | Leave a comment

Making Mistakes


I had promised to write on this topic, a while ago, so here goes.

I was shocked to hear, in this day and age, that any medical educator can actually warn students to “never make a mistake!”

I can only hope that they did not mean it literally. I hope they meant to TRY to avoid mistakes. I hope they meant to say that in the business of human life and health, a mistake made by us can actually cost another human being their health, and therefore can be a very bad thing. I hope they meant that mistakes can be costly in many other ways as well. They can lead to litigation, immense stress, burnout, depression, and so on.

All of that would be right. But the fact remains that, despite everything we do, despite our best intentions, mistakes CAN happen.

What is most important to teach students and trainees is – How to avoid them, and how to deal with them, when they do happen.

Avoiding mistakes involves a lot of forward thinking, even play-acting in the initial stages, when setting up office. Work-flow has to be carefully analysed, and possible sources of error have to be eliminated.

For example, every lab report should be seen within a certain period of time, by the physician ordering it, and should only be filed away after it has been acted upon. In order to prevent mistakes in this sequence, it is necessary to make sure that every lab report is seen by the right physician, at the right time; there has to be some sort of code, that the physician puts on the report, that informs the staff of what action is required. there has to be a mechanism for the staff to see this, and then act on it, and follow up on those actions. Finally, the report has to be filed in the appropriate chart. A system has to be put in place, to ascertain that every one of these steps is carried out correctly, if mistakes are to be avoided.

Even after a system is set in place, and things are running smoothly, there have to be regular evaluations of these systems, to try and improve upon them, and make them more efficient.

When a mistake does occur, it can be a very scary thing. Mistakes can sometimes be small and inconsequential, and at other times bigger, and causing either distress or bodily harm of varying severity. It can also be the result of the action of any one person in the whole team of individuals involved in a patient’s care – and that includes clerical staff, as well as other support staff in hospitals. Often, however, the physician in charge has to take responsibility for it, anyway.

Whatever the cause of the mistake, early, full disclosure is always the best policy. It is of course, required by the law in Canada. There are plenty of resources, and workshops put out by the CMPA (Canadian Medical Protective Association), that help physicians understand what this means, and how to go about it. I am sure that such resources exist in other countries as well.

No matter what, the one thing that patients appreciate is a physician who tells them the truth. The majority of cases that go to court have been ones in which the patient felt that they were lied to, or not given answers to their questions in an honest and open manner. There will always be things we cannot explain when something goes wrong, however, and it is alright to say “I don’t know,” about such specifics. But overall, the patients and their families expect to see that the physician cares that something went wrong, and that they are not taking it lightly.

Perhaps the one thing that will be most appreciated when a mistake has been made, is an indication as to how this will be avoided in the future. If we can make it clear that we have identified ways to avoid it in the future, and put necessary mechanisms in place already, that will avoid a lot of conflict.

I do not know any physician who has worked for any length of time who can honestly say that they have not made mistakes. As far as I have seen, the person most affected, is always the physician, who feels guilty, and worries about making the same (or other) mistake again. They often find it hard to forgive themselves, especially when there has been a bad consequence. Over a period of time, however, they do learn to go on.

Ultimately, mistakes make us humble, they help us grow. They teach us forgiveness, and other valuable life lessons. When we do make mistakes, it is important that we try and learn everything there is, to learn from it, before we move on. And pray that we don’t make more!

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement | , , , | Leave a comment

What is Burnout?


While talking with a colleague recently, I was asked this question – and I realised that the word ‘burnout was used a lot, and the signs of severe burnout, the point where it hits you in the face, is easily recognisable. However, burnout is something that has to be recognized before it reaches this stage, and there are many people who seem to be functioning reasonably well, and yet, do have many of the symptoms of burnout, which they put down to stress.

There is a big difference between stress and burnout. The main difference is that a person under stress will feel better when the stress is relieved, whereas a burnout person has no hope that things will be any better, even if the current stresses are relieved. Burnout is the result of too much stress, often repeated, without enough recovery in between, over a period of time.

The term was first used by Freudenberger, who described it as a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.” This is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy.

Causes of Burnout: There are many factors that lead to burnout. While most cases occur due to stressful work environment, burnout can occur in a stay-at-home parent, or in a person working two or more jobs to make ends meet, without any vacation or leisure. It can also occur in the obsessive compulsive person who expects too much of himself- and everybody else!

Burnout can thus be due to a combination of work environment and responsibilities, lifestyle, and personality traits. Some of the factors are as follows:

Work Conditions: (anybody in the healthcare field know what these are like)!

Overly demanding job, with high expectations

Working in a chaotic or high pressure environment

Feeling a lack or loss of control over the work

Lack of recognition or reward for good work

Lifestyle Factors:

Too much work, no time for relaxation or socialization

Inadequate sleep

Too many responsibilities

Being too many things to too many people

Lack of or inadequate support

Personality Traits:

Perfectionistic tendencies – expecting too much from self and others

Pessimistic attitudes – related to self and the world

High-achieving, Type A Personalities

Need to be in control – reluctance to delegate

Burnout is something that happens over a period of time, and can be prevented, if the symptoms and signs can be recognized early enough. It is important to be vigilant and pick up these signs, many of which may be subtle.

The symptoms and signs may be categorised as follows:

Physical:

Feeling tired and drained most of the time

Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot

Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches

Change in appetite or sleep habits

Emotional:

Sense of failure and self-doubt

Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated

Detachment, feeling alone in the world

Loss of motivation

Increasingly cynical and negative outlook

Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioural:

Withdrawing from responsibilities

Isolating yourself from others

Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done

Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope

Taking out your frustrations on others

Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

In the next post, I will be discussing methods of avoiding burnout, as well as measures to manage burnout, once it has occurred.

 

 

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Time for Reflection and Renewal


Christmas is gone, the New Year is fast approaching. What better time for self-reflection and renewal can there be?

Confucius said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”

How does one go about this process? How does one know it is being done ‘right’?

The important thing is to set an intention. Then, set the stage, to quieten one’s mind, by putting aside about three uninterrupted hours for oneself. Create a space – where one can sit, without any distractions – a clean space, without any clutter, and those who like it can further enhance it with candles or whatever else they like.

As for the process itself, the first thing to do is, take stock of one’s life. I usually do this under different headings including physical, mental, emotional, financial, career, spiritual, family, friends, community, etc. I also specifically look at what went well in the last year and what could have been better.

If there are any experiences that are strong enough to still produce a significant emotional response, then try to work through them, by first acknowledging the emotion. It is important then to ask oneself some ‘smart’ questions, in order to understand the experience better, and to work through the lessons therein. If the experience was a negative one, and we want to improve things, then it makes sense to understand what made it a negative experience, and what needs to happen to make it better. The most important thing is to recognize our own role in the creation of that experience, and what we need to change within ourselves to create a positive experience in the future.

It stands to reason that one must be honest with oneself for this kind of reflection to work, if one is doing it without the help of a coach or a friend who can be objective. Writing things down is a great way to reflect, since one cannot deny what one has written, when reading it again later, no matter how surprised one may be!

Writing often helps to clarify matters a great deal. It is important that the writing be spontaneous and not edited, for good lengths of time, so that the subconscious mind has enough time to express itself.

Ultimately, it is imperative that one makes a plan, for all the reflection in the world does no good if no action is taken. The plan has to be as clear, as specific and time-bound as possible, with smaller steps laid out for bigger goals, and rewards also specified for achieving milestones.

Accountability is the one thing that is often forgotten, in all the goal setting that is done, and sets apart the 5% who are successful, from the rest! A life coach offers the best possibility of accountability, but in the absence of one, the best way to make oneself accountable is to have structures in place to counter any possible obstacle to following the plan. Obstacles may include lack of motivation, resources, time, energy… you name it. One has to foresee what these are likely to be, based on one’s lifestyle, and put in plans to overcome these as they arise.

While such detailed reflection and planning can be done at the end of the year, self-reflection ideally should become a daily habit, and will bring great rewards, if practised regularly, especially along with regular journaling.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement, Spirituality and Religion | , , | Leave a comment

Why Physicians Burnout – and Why They Don’t Seek Help


In my last blog post, I wrote about the problem of surgeon burnout. Although the particular paper cited was about surgeons, burnout is not a problem of surgeons alone. It is common amongt all physicians, and even among medical students and residents these days. It is becoming more prevalent, as the stresses in life all around us seem to be getting worse.  I have been pondering on the reasons for this, and have come up with the following:

Physicians are High Achievers – Most of them have been high achievers from their school days, and have been consistently working hard, putting in long days and nights, through their medical school and residency, and even afterwards, in most cases.

Delayed Gratification that wasn’t! Many of them chose to “work while their companions played” (a little poetic justice used there), thinking that if they worked hard now, they could have the good life later (trust me, I know. My father promised me that if I worked really hard in the last 2 years before college, and got into med school, I would never have to work so hard again)! They often come out of their residency with huge student loans, that they find themselves working even harder to pay off. If they have a family, or other responsibilities, then it is one thing after another, and before they know it, they hit the middle ages, and feel cheated.

The Ever Changing Health Care System– It is becoming more and more difficult to practise medicine with the diminishing resources, and increasing expectations, that there is a great deal of frustration on a day-to-day basis.

High Expectations – Physicians are seen as knowledgable, and ‘life savers’ by their families and their patients, and when they do not get good results, they often find it difficult to accept. While they enjoy their successes, many take the treatment failures quite badly. They also want to be really good at what they do, and so are their own worst critics.

Sources of Strength – Physicians are the sources of strength for their patients and families, at their most vulnerable times, ie, when they are sick, or have a sick relative. Because they carry out this function really well, most of the time, they are somehow seen as strong people, and so, they try to live up to that image subconsciously, even in the face of their own stress.

Why do they not seek help?

Unfortunately, physicians are their own enemies, in that they are the last to acknowledge their own problems, and even when they do recognise it, are unwilling to seek help. This may be because of two main factors.

Fear of appearing weak – Physicians may not want to seek help because they are afraid to be seen as weak in any way, considering they are the sources of strength at home and in the community.

Lack of Support – There really isn’t much support to the physician at risk of burnout, or who is going through excessive stress. There are physician hotlines for when they have reached a pathological level that they are unable to function, and have either broken down completely, or worse, are considering suicide!

What we really need is coaching to help guide them through troubled waters, and PREVENT suicidal ideation, rather than treatment for it.

Tell me, what do you think might be some other factors in physician burn out, and what you have found helpful in your own experience, to overcome it.

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Meditation


 In the last couple of decades, meditation and yoga centres have mushroomed all over the western world. With so many people taking courses and even more people teaching these courses, one would have expected the collective energies to have risen over the entire western hemisphere. However, where-ever you look, you see discontent, unhappiness, resentment, conflict, depression, anger, hatred and many other negative emotions. Common themes at conferences include ‘workplace stress‘, ‘professionalism’, ‘emotional intelligence‘, and so on.  

The problem I see is that yoga and meditation are sold to the western public as an exercise routine – something that is good for their health. Somehow, somewhere, the mental and spiritual subsets of health got taken out of the equation and the ‘modern’ person came to understand health as relating to the physical body only. Herein lies the trouble. If practiced  as a spiritual exercise first, the mental and physical health would be so much easier to achieve. This is a secret that is clearly not taught widely for some strange reason which I would hate to speculate on.

When I discuss meditation with friends,  they often say that it is difficult to control the mind and that it is impossible to have a mind empty of thought. Obviously, this is how they have been told it should be done. I feel sorry for anyone trying to thus control the mind. Imagine if you are told,”you shall not think of a monkey when you eat a banana”. What do you think your first thought will be when you eat a banana? In fact, the monkey will be positively difficult to banish from your mind!

The idea of meditation is not to empty the mind but to observe it, to be present and aware of the thoughts that are going through it. The aim is to achieve a ‘presence’ of mind, so that we fully experience the richness of each moment that we live. Being so present helps us make better choices, and thus become better people. Being present in each moment also takes away regrets and resentments from the past, and worry, fear and anxiety about the future. Life certainly could get more peaceful, if everybody went around, ever immersed in the present.

“Meditation may require a lifetime to master, but it will have been a lifetime well spent. … If you want to judge your progress, ask yourself these questions: Am I more loving? Is my judgment sounder? Do I have more energy? Can my mind remain calm under provocation? Am I free from the conditioning of anger, fear, and greed? Spiritual awareness reveals itself as eloquently in character development and selfless action as in mystical states.”– Eknath Easwaran

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement, Spirituality and Religion | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goal Setting


I started off the new year like everybody else.  There were things I needed to do better this year. From prior experience, I knew that just having goals was not good enough. I knew exactly what I needed to do.   Make a plan. Make a plan to plan. Make a plan to review the plan.  Review everyday. Review the week’s activities. Review and revise or modify plans and strategies every 3 months and finally at the end of the year. Put it all down on the calendar. So far, so good.

Now, for the next step. For each goal, what is the one small action I can take each day, that would help me reach my goal, by the end of the year? I had one down for each goal. I had one physical, mental, emotional,and  spiritual  goal and one for my career. Even that I made simple. Exercise, read/write, spend time with kids, meditate, and complete my paperwork on time. For each one of these, I only asked of myself a committment of 10 minutes.  That seemed like an attainable goal.

Well, at the end of one week, here’s what I have accomplished. I set the alarm to wake me up at 7 am. I am still on my holidays and I really don’t need to wake up until noon if I don’t need to. God knows I need the sleep. But I have drawn on all the mental toughness I could, and got out of bed every morning. I have done my 10 minutes and sometimes more of exercise and meditation everyday. I did not write or read a single word some days, and have been stressed out with having to complete everything that I want to achieve that I haven’t really been much company for the kids at all. I did get caught up with the paper-work, although I don’t know how long I can sustain that once I start back at work.

I certainly did no daily reviewing at all – formally, that is. In my mind, I did all the time. I still think I will do it once a week.

What have I learnt? It is important to have a plan, an ultimate goal. It is more important to have an immediate action to take, a small step towards the goal. It is imperative, that  small seemingly harmless temptations be fought – viciously, for they are the ones, that can ruin every good intention.

Sow an act – and you reap a habit. It is important to focus on developing habits that will lead to success in the long run. It is said that it takes 30 days for a new action, if repeated daily, to become a habit. If this is true, then goals should really be set for 2 or 3 month periods, not every new year! This way, one can form one new habit towards a goal each month, and start to see real changes within two or three months.

This reminds me how my grand mother used to consider the first day of every month sacred. Maybe there was a point to that after all!

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Personal Journey, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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