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Choose Again
Episode 2211th July 2022 • Stress-Less Physician • Sara Dill
00:00:00 00:20:52

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Throughout our lives and careers, we face times we’re stuck… things we wish we could do over… big and small ways we long to go back and choose over again. But despite those inner yearnings, the “I have to” factors of life interfere. The question is… Should they? What if you could make different choices, while still maintaining the things you don’t want to change?

More than once, I’ve asked myself this life-altering question: Should I quit everything and choose again? As I’ve worked through the deep self-examination necessary to answer this question, I’ve discovered some truths and methods I’d love to share with you. So if you’ve been struggling lately, just feeling blah, and restless like I have, I hope these thoughts and insights help.

“Whenever we’re trying to escape or we feel urgency, we tend to not make the best long-term choices. And that’s often because we don’t see our choices. And we don’t see many options... [That’s why] this idea of potentially quitting everything and anything – even mentally – I find very powerful… The question you can ask yourself is, ‘Would I choose it again?’ Now. In your current life. Not choosing again in your past. Right? But choosing it again as it is now.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Quitting everything on paper
  • Choosing again in your mind
  • Examining the reasons for each answer
  • Noting the obstacles
  • Working out solutions
  • Loving and creating what is now

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach

Transcripts

I’m Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stress-Less Physician Podcast, episode number 22. Welcome to the Stress-Less Physician podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I am actually recording this on the 4th of July. Although I know you will be listening to it a week later. But it’s a beautiful day. And sort of fun for me to do this. I’ve actually been thinking about doing this topic for a while. It’s something that has come up recently, both for me, myself, I’ve sort of been thinking about this exercise, and then it’s come up for a lot of my clients.

So today, I wanted to talk about this idea of choosing again, what would you choose again in your life? So again, I’ve talked to a lot of people lately who feel stuck, and maybe aren’t sure why, and aren’t sure what to do about it. And I coach a lot of doctors who are thinking about or even trying to change their careers or lives in small ways or big ways. And usually, they start by telling me that they aren’t really sure where to start, or if to start, whether they should even want to change anything, or whether they should work on being happier.

And a lot of the time we feel stuck, at least this has been my experience, because we are telling ourselves things, beliefs that we have, like we can’t just quit our job, or we can’t just quit anything. We don’t know what we want. Maybe we’re telling ourselves that we can’t have what we want, that what we want isn’t possible, that we have to keep going to work or living our lives just as they are. But I always like to remind my clients and remind myself that any “have to” is always a lie in some way, right? So “have to” anything is generally just not true, right? You don’t have to do anything.

We’re choosing to, and it’s often good to get clear about why we’re choosing to. So if your thought is, “well, I have to go to work, I can’t just quit,” that’s not really true, you could just quit, you could actually just stop going. There are people that just never show back up to work. We aren’t usually those people, but it is possible. So you could just start by telling yourself the truth, which is I’m choosing to go to work because maybe you feel responsible for your patients or to your colleagues or you need the paycheck, whatever it is. But this exercise is a really good one, especially if you are feeling stuck or sort of unhappy, or not sure where to start or what to do about it or whether to do anything about it. So I, myself, have been feeling a little introspective lately and sort of restless, maybe a touch burned out and sort of blah, I don’t know. So I’ve been asking myself lots of questions. Maybe it’s just post vacation or summer time, I don’t know what, but I am investigating.

But this is what I do. And this is actually what I have been doing. So again, as you know, I am really a fan on working on getting happier now in whatever your current situation is, while considering what it is you might want to change and why. The why is always very important. And the reason for that, the reason to get happier now is one just to know that happiness is always available to you, regardless of your circumstances. And the reason as well is that when we feel urgency, or we’re trying to escape anything like a job we consider toxic, or relationships that we find challenging.

Whenever we’re trying to escape or we feel urgency, we tend to not make the best long term choices. And that’s often because we don’t see our choices. And we don’t see many options, right? Urgency, I think of it as giving us sort of tunnel vision, we lose a lot of our peripheral vision, we’re just looking for an escape route. It feels like an emergency. So it’s sort of like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

And in my experience because I’ve done this I’ve made a lot of decisions from urgency. We often recreate a very similar situation for ourselves, because we are the same. Our viewpoint or perspective is the same, our issues, or our triggers are the same, our reactions are the same. But while you’re working on your own stuff, while we’re doing this, I’m getting happier now, finding a little more contentment now, you can also start to get clear on what it is that you really do want to change and why, right? Your reasons for it.

So I call this exercise choosing again. So the way I think about it, and how I explain it, is I would mentally imagine, or you can write down, potentially quitting everything in your life. Just put everything in your life on an imaginary table, so to speak. I picture just like a big conference table, or maybe a stage or something, mostly, I picture a table. So put everything there: where you live, maybe who you’re married to, or maybe a partner, your work, your career, your house, all of it, your income, every detail of your life, just imagine it on a table. This idea of potentially quitting everything and anything, even mentally, I find very powerful. So I just want you to consider it. So I like to imagine my whole life and everyone and everything in it on a big table. And then I consider the possibility of quitting each and everything. Or really, the question you can ask yourself is, would I choose it again?

Now, in your current life, not choosing again in your past, but choosing it again, as it is now. So the question is not would I choose to go to medical school again…how long ago? 23 years ago. But would I choose to practice medicine, to see patients in clinic as a dermatologist again now? Would I choose the person I’m married to if you’re married again now? Would I choose to live where I live again now? Would I choose to have my puppy again now? So this is what I want you to invite yourself to do. And it can feel sort of a little bit scary. But also it can feel a little bit freeing, just to consider not choosing something again.

And this exercise is a great way to start to tell yourself the truth about what you want, what you don’t want, and what is a priority in your life now, what in your life is something that you want to continue to have an experience, and what maybe you don’t? So again, would you choose your partner or your spouse again now? Would you choose being single now? Would you choose your children if you have them now? I would put everything on the table and notice, we’ll often have judgments about, well, we can’t just reconsider that. But I just want you to go through this exercise, and notice everything that comes up—any judgments, any fear, any excitement, anything like that.

So again, would you choose where you would live? Your neighborhood, your house, your city, your state, maybe your country? Would you choose your friends, your career, your current job, your hours, your schedule, your income? Would you choose, I don’t know, you could even ask your clothing or your hobbies. I would really put anything and everything on that imaginary table. And really ask yourself, really consider it.

Notice how quickly your brain might try to create confusion with answers like, I don’t know, or maybe. Notice where you are clear on what you absolutely would choose again, and not quit or not change. Notice where you are not clear on what you absolutely would choose again. Why or why not? What are the thoughts or the worries that come up? That’s the good information to really look at. If you knew you could actually have or create whatever you wanted, would you be more clear about what you want to choose again? Or what you want to quit or change? What I find is it’s typically fear and worrying about the how, that creates uncertainty and confusion, or about other people, what they might think. It can be financial concerns. Again, that’s the how, and is it possible? You do not actually have to quit anything, or choose anything in this exercise. And in fact, I would recommend not acting on this at all right away. This is more of an exercise in awareness, in telling yourself the truth about what you would like to keep in your life and what you don’t. Then you can start to notice the obstacles that might exist to letting go or making the changes you want to make.

So you can ask yourself, why do I want this, or why don’t I want this? Why would I choose this again, or this person again, or this job again, or this career again? Or why would I not? And then you want to ask your brain, your very practical brain, once you’ve sort of gotten clear on what’s a yes and what’s a no in an ideal sort of recreation of your life, ask your practical brain to point out all the problems and all the obstacles. Get very realistic at that point, but not before.

When you’re asking yourself, would I choose this again? That is not the time to be practical. Again, this is an awareness exercise. This is about telling yourself the truth, which can feel very scary. And again, you can just tell yourself, you don’t actually have to take action on it, you’re just going to start to tell yourself what you want and what you don’t, what you would love to quit and not. And at some point, then you can start to look at the problems and the obstacles to actually implementing maybe one of those changes, right, quitting something, choosing something else.

Then you can start to list those problems and obstacles out and start coming up with potential solutions. Our brains are amazing at problem solving, right? That’s what we do all day long. As physicians we problem solve. We identify problems, diagnoses, diseases, everything, and then we come up with solutions, or at least an approach to potential solutions. So I would love it, if you would try this and see what you discover. For me, lately, what I noticed is how many things I would choose again, just as they are right now in my life. And then I noticed the things that I would choose again, but maybe in a slightly different way.

So an example of that is my house, here in Santa Barbara. It’s like a little cottage, and I love it. I rented it for years before I bought it. And I am so happy I bought it before the market went crazy here, as it probably is crazy, where you live. And I just love, love, love my neighborhood, and I love my house. But over the last year or so I really have noticed a desire, right? A wish for my house to be a little bigger. It’s a very small cottage, it’s very cozy. And I would love a walk in closet, and maybe a master bedroom and a second bathroom. I just have one little bathroom, and an actual guestroom. Now that I have guests coming to visit again, that would be amazing.

And I always check in with my reasons, right? Why do I want a bigger house? What are my reasons for it? I always think the best reason is just because I want it because it feels genuine and true. Make sure you like your reasons for whatever too, or at least know what they are. So a reason I might not like as much, would be if I wanted a bigger house, because I felt like I needed to impress people, or maybe if I believed I should have a bigger house. Those would be reasons I wouldn’t necessarily like as much and maybe then wouldn’t really decided that that was something that I wanted to choose again, or at least not yet.

But the thought I have about having this house but slightly bigger, feels very genuine to me. I like it. I like my reasons. It’s something I want, it’s very clear to me. And then when I do this exercise, I noticed that things I wouldn’t choose again. And I have to say, in all honesty, they are much fewer these days than in the past. When I first started this process years ago, when I started this sort of self-coaching process and really self-development and exploring all of this, a lot of my life I wouldn’t have chosen again. And I didn’t really feel at the time like I had chosen it. It sort of seemed like it had happened to me, or I hadn’t quite made the choices that got me to where I was. It’s like the outcome was somewhat of a surprise to me. I mean, clearly I had chosen everything I had chosen, but I didn’t necessarily like where I was at the time.

My life felt like a lot of obligation. And I didn’t really see that I had choices and options, and could choose again, or quit things change things. So I felt very stuck. That was a lot of what drove me into this work. And I think that’s where a lot of clients come to me as well, feeling stuck, feeling like they don’t even see their options or choices, they just know that they aren’t happy, and aren’t sure what to do about it.

So if that’s you, and you don’t really feel like your life is a choice, or that you have the option to just choose again, if you feel stuck, or sort of trapped, and don’t even see options or choices. I hear you, that’s a hard place to be in. And I would just encourage you to start to wonder if maybe it really is possible to choose differently now. Maybe you just want to wonder, what could I choose again? If I believed I could, what would I choose again? What might some of the choices be? What would I love to quit or tweak? Maybe you want to blow up your whole life, and start over. Sometimes we do, especially if we’re sort of in burnout, or really feeling trapped or stuck, the idea of just blowing it all up and starting over, can seem very appealing. I would just consider that. Just explore it. Investigate it.

Or maybe you just want to do a slight renovation of your life, some tweaking here and there. Like what I want to do with my house, add a bathroom, add a walk in closet. Maybe just start to wonder, is it possible for me to? What would I change if I knew I could? So just putting everything out on the table, examining your whole life, as if everything really was something you could decide to choose again now, in your life now. We aren’t going back to the past and regretting our choices then. You might notice if that’s what comes up for you. I’m going to do another podcast on regret.

But I like to come at this with the idea of what if all the choices I made in the past were exactly the decisions I needed to make and I was always going to make. What if nothing’s gone wrong? What if I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now? What now? What is the life I want to start creating for myself in the future? What do I want to bring with me from my current life and my past? What do I not want to continue creating or recreating? What do I not want to bring with me?

This is the opportunity to ditch some of that baggage that some of us continue to carry around. What do you want to bring with you? What do you want your future life to look like? What would you choose again right now, and why? Again, you can notice if it seems very scary to do this, maybe this is something you do a lot. But just consider the possibility that you could quit anything and everything, anyone, or any place. You can choose anything again, or not choose it. You could choose any person again, or not choose them. Just give yourself that possibility and get curious. And if it feels really scary, or you need help doing this, or it feels impossible, or too good to be true, that’s good to notice, too. And that’s sometimes when having a coach or a therapist or someone else to talk to, especially someone who’s not involved in your current life, can be very helpful.

Sometimes if you try to talk to the people in your lives, they love you, they want the best for you. But if you really start questioning everything, it can be somewhat destabilizing or scary for them too. That totally makes sense. So sometimes you just need an outside party. And that’s what coaching offers you. Again, that’s what therapy can offer you. And sometimes a good friend can offer you that too, where they’re just there to hear you consider this idea.

I hope this is helpful and interesting. I’d love to hear any feedback, any questions or comments. But yes, this idea of choosing again, just imagining choosing anything and everything in your life, all on the table can really be a fast track way to getting clear about what it is you really want and what you don’t, especially when you feel confused, when your brain is making you feel confused. So definitely do this exercise. I would do it multiple times. And again, you really want to get clear about your reasons. Those are super important, not just the yes or no, but notice the things that are a solid yes and a solid no, and then notice the things that are maybes, get curious about those too. All right, I hope everyone is having an amazing week and I will talk to you soon. Bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more, and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at www.saradill.com. That’s S-A-R-A-D-I-L-L.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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