I’ve got a question for you… when is the last time you took the pulse on your work and life?
Earlier in my career I realized there’s something that was missing. This element of regularly checking in with myself and those around me. I was missing the opportunity to reflect and relay what was going well and what I was struggling with.
We each have the power to touch base with ourselves, to see how things are going, to ask deep and meaningful questions is important.
Today we are going to unpack 5 questions that Unicorn PAs are asking themselves regularly and how to use these questions to build deeper connections with our networks.
Connection is a powerful thing – connecting to our inner knowing and those in our lives and these questions are designed to do just that.
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Question 1: What are you grateful for?
This sounds simple, because gratitude is so powerful and starting with thanks is a great springboard.
Being able to ask yourself to identify specific things that are making you thankful – in life or at work – is an excellent way to start this exercise in self-reflection.
There’s actually a lot of scientific evidence that supports why being thankful and practicing gratitude can help us to live better lives. Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and mental health, relationships, resilience and overall well-being.
Starting self-reflection with gratitude helps to set the tone for the rest of the questions. It grounds you in seeing the blessings and helps to get you in the mindset of looking for aspects that are optimistic.
The best gratitude practices are the ones where you answer in specifics. Instead of saying “I’m grateful for my job, my health, my family.” Get granular and zero in on the specific people and aspects of those things that you are grateful for.
Think of things that you are grateful for both at work and at home. Identify who you take care of in your job and at home. Share what you are thankful for even when you are in a hard season.
You could argue that gratitude is more important and powerful than ever when you are walking through trials, burnout, and tribulations. It’s pretty easy to find abundant things to be grateful for when things are going well, but it really stretches us to find things we are thankful for when things are hard.
Flexing any muscle in the face of resistance is what makes it stronger and that same principle applies to gratitude and burnout.
Of all the questions, gratitude is the one that is best used as often as possible. Try to incorporate gratitude into your daily practice, journaling, or nighttime routine.
Question 2 – What am I looking forward to?
In even the darkest season, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel that *isn’t* an oncoming train is so important. Taking time to look forward and say – what am I looking forward to does several things:
Future pacing – it gets your eyes up from the everyday tasks around you and encourages you to raise your sights to what is to come. It helps you to create a plan for where you are going and get excited about your destination.
Temporary – it reminds you that they way things are right now is, in fact, temporary.
Humans are naturally forward thinking and it’s pretty fun to get hyped up for what is coming next in your career and your life.
Answering the question What am I looking forward to is an important tool if you’ve been feeling stuck, lost or like you’ve plateaued in your life or career.
Question 3 – What is going well right now?
We get so caught up in complaining that we often drive right to the opportunity to focus on the good.
Let’s face it, we don’t voice text or call our best friend or colleagues and say “today was just a really great day, things ran smoothly, the systems worked and nothing went wrong.” We are much more likely to get on the phone and rant when things didn’t go well, when our shift was a dumpster fire and everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.
Identifying what’s working well is an opportunity to celebrate what is good and to shine a light on the positives.
What is going well for you or your team right now is particularly powerful when used in community. When you are connecting with others, these ideas can spark inspiration within you to make improvements in your own team or practice.
These can be small things like a new tactic to communicate effectively and connect with patients or big things like process improvement projects that just went live, but they often spark motivation in you.
When was the last time you thought about, I mean really thought about, what’s going well in your life and work? The areas where you are really confident you are practicing evidence-based medicine? The conversations that you just feel like you’re super comfortable with?
The systems and habits that you’ve put in place that are working and well? These things need to be celebrated and highlighted. Asking what’s going well gives you the opportunity to acknowledge the work that led to the winning in that way.
Question 4 – Where are you struggling currently?
Sounds a little bit like that interview question we all dread about weaknesses, right? We love to talk about our strengths, especially to potential employers, and all too often we don’t want to admit that we struggle with anything or even have any weaknesses.
It’s not a mind-blowing or earth shattering question but truly, when is the last time that you took time to ask yourself what specifically you are struggling with?
Medicine is a challenging field and juggling a job that is a calling and a life that you love and wish you could spend more time doing can lead to lots of struggles. You could be struggling to connect with your patients in the allotted length of your appointments. Or you might be struggling to deal with the mounting stress that comes along with working in medicine.
Maybe your relationships have started to suffer because of the way things are at work or, conversely, maybe something challenging has cropped up in your life that is negatively impacting your ability to focus and be present at work.
Another great question to ask in a community with providers and people in your network, there is something affirming about hearing that you’re not the only one struggling with a certain thing. Or even that others that you perceive a certain way, to be strong and unflappable, are in fact, human just like you.
You may be surprised and encouraged to be vulnerable to share your answer and ask those who are existing alongside you in healthcare how they are doing with this question.
When we share the struggles, the hard things, our real truths, this is when that network and those relationships reach another level. Connections deepen and stronger bonds are forged when we are vulnerable in sharing our imperfect selves with each other.
Question 5 – What do you need help with?
It’s a humbling experience in a room of achievement minded healthcare professionals, or in a text chain of the best and brightest from your graduating class, to say “I need help”.
Ironic that a profession that feels called to help and heal others has a hard time admitting that we, occasionally, need help ourselves.
Here’s the magical part of asking for help: the more specific you can be about how you need help, what needs to be done, and even if you can identify who is best to lend a hand, the better the results are.
When you can identify exactly what you need and directly communicate those needs, it’s easier for those in your life to meet that need specifically.
Everyone is stressed, overcommitted and overscheduled. Don’t be discouraged if you mention needing help with something, get nods and yes’s in agreement and you have to circle back with a reminder or another ask of those who could help you.
Don’t forget to be your own advocate, just as you would do for a patient, when it comes to getting support in your life.
Our lives are not meant to be lived in isolation. Community and collaboration are part of this human condition.
Connection & Community
In healthcare our culture needs a facelift and I believe that, by asking ourselves these questions… by checking in with those around us. By genuinely caring about the humans – ourselves and others – who are delivering healthcare – that is how we are going to change the culture.
Healthcare needs this connection and community. We need to feel seen and heard and valuable. If you are a part of the wide world of healthcare, you are welcome here. I’m glad we connected and that you are a part of this community. If you’d like to stay in touch, hop on the list of my Unicorn PAs (and aspiring Unicorn PAs) who I email about connection and community on the regular.