Physician career change undertaken one small step at a time

8-4-2015OneSmallStepMaurerThinking about a physician career change or a job change is overwhelming, isn’t it? Physicians have used words like “intimidating” and “uncertain” when communicating with me.

It’s no wonder most give up before even starting, settling instead and trudging on to “lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them“, to quote Thoreau.

What if there WERE a way to inch towards change without succumbing to overwhelm, and more often, fear?

I came across a small but pack-a-punch book a few days ago that stopped me in my tracks. It’s titled “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way” (A) and was written (as I discovered, to my delight) by the clinical psychologist Robert (Bob to us) Maurer PhD who took care of our biopsychosocial training in the Family Medicine program in Santa Monica where I did my residency. Lucky me!

At its heart, this book’s message is that change can be made simple if done in a way so as not to arouse and alarm our emotional powerhouse, the amygdala. The only way to accomplish this sneaky bypass is to make the step in the direction of the desired change sooooo small that we barely notice it in our daily lives.

For example: let’s imagine that the idea of networking is so unnerving that you can’t bring yourself to attend an event that you know would be a good place to meet valuable future job or career change connections. So you are tempted to skip it.

If you use Maurer’s Kaizen small step approach to keep your amygdala snoozing, you could tell yourself that you’ll go, but that you’ll talk to only one person … the most approachable-looking person in the room. You’ll get the conversation going by how he got into his line of business, or what she likes best about what she does. You’ll let them tell their story, and all you’ll do is listen. Give them your full undivided, unselfconscious attention. That’s it. You won’t even try to make anything happen afterwards. No card exchanges unless that feels comfortable, no follow-up, nothing!

And then you might repeat the behavior several times … slowly building those neural pathways that lead to greater self-confidence.

The book is filled with excellent relevant examples. I can think of a thousand ways in which I can use this Kaizen way in my own life. How about in yours?

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