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 Your Weekly Dose of Positive Medicine

 

  Helping Physicians Thrive

 

 

“The problem is not external to you; to understand it you have to understand yourself”

—Krishnamurti

 

I’ve been searching for something all of my life. Some would call it happiness, others call it success. No matter what I achieve, the goal posts seem to keep moving. 

 

Perhaps this sounds familiar.

Maybe you realize that it is all an endless chase. 

 

Maybe you are tired of:

 

Not being completely at peace. 

 

Being concerned with what others think. 

 

Having your sense of self-worth tied to your children’s “success”. 

 

Living life as a fireman putting out fires – each day differing only in the size of the inferno. 

 

Not being present no matter how much you meditate. 

 

Perhaps you are tired of having most of your moments not really being moments at all but rather, thoughts of something from the past or for the future.  

 

Most of us are searching for happiness. Everything we do is an attempt to be happy. Every single thing each day. But happiness is an illusion, a destination that doesn’t exist. A trick played on us by our minds. 

 

It gets worse.

We tend to view happiness as a transient emotional state that changes day to day. “Yesterday I was sad” or “I’ll be happy this weekend when I’m not on call”.

Much of this emotional state is governed by external circumstances largely out of our control. As we think about our own lives, that good feeling from getting what we wanted was quickly erased by the off handed comment by a coworker, the email response that never came, or something that our kids did or didn’t do. 

 

We can be “happy” one minute and upset or anxious in another. 

 

Our emotional state, and therefore our happiness, is a roller coaster of highs and lows.

Most of us live with a baseline of moderate anxiety, stress, and generalized discontent, no matter how much money we make or what we have achieved in life. We try to string together as many positive experiences as we can to relieve this suffering.

 

We find ourselves chasing something that always seems just out of reach. 

 

Why does it seem like we never quite get to where we want to be? 

 

Every stage of life’s goals is met with another goal.

We look forward to the next level in our lives only to remain unfulfilled upon arrival. We begin to question the significance of it all. We ask ourselves if this is all there is to life.

We double down on our chase to feel good. We drink, watch tv, scroll endlessly on our phones – anything to feel something other than what we feel –  stressed, anxious and unfulfilled. 

 

Here is what I have learned through years of exploration. 

 

We don’t need to chase more money, a better title, another life hack, or new side gig. We don’t need to meditate longer, find a new morning routine, or quit medicine. We don’t need to do anything except understand the source of our suffering. 

 

This is where ancient wisdom and modern science from Positive Psychology can help us. 

 

The real issue is this: the mind has evolved for survival of the human organism – the Divine core being inside each of us. 

 

At the most basic level, the brainstem and limbic system are concerned with autonomic function and hostile environments. The mind adapted to constantly search for threats and opportunities in the wild. Watch how a dog behaves – constantly on the lookout for dropped food (opportunity) and strangers (threats). 

 

As we evolved as a society, the mind grew the prefrontal cortex to be able to effectively deal with these societal interactions.  The mind has created this persona or identity that we see when we look in the mirror. We can call this Ego – not in the sense of bravado – but as this manufactured “self”. This Ego is still the mind and only concerned with survival. This Ego still constantly searches for threats and opportunities. It can never fully rest because resting would threaten its survival. 

 

The Ego can never be satiated no matter what it achieves. 

 

This is why we take for granted stimuli in our lives that are constant (hedonic adaptation) as we become enamored and focused on new stimuli (new relationship or next promotion). This hedonic treadmill keeps us locked firmly in the future chasing the next level. 

 

The thrill of getting into medical school is quickly replaced by the stress of matching into a good residency. The excitement of making partner is quickly replaced by dreams of retirement. 

 

This is also why we overestimate the positive or negative impact of an event on our future emotional reactions (impact bias). This bias motivates us to keep searching for the next opportunity or avoiding a potential threat. We work hard to achieve the next goal in our life only to find that it does not make us any happier. 

 

The mind is clever. 

 

It keeps us toiling away looking forward to the fruits of our labor. But in the end, the fruit is not as sweet (impact bias) or as lasting (hedonic adaptation) as we thought it would be. 

 

The truth is this: the mind does not care about our peace, happiness, or contentment – it only cares about survival. 

 

It cares about building up our Ego, making our manufactured self strong, always looking to the future to make sure it is still around. 

 

But deep inside, our core being – our unique potential – remains unexpressed and held hostage by this protective shell of our mind. 

 

This tension between our core being’s unfulfilled potential and our mind’s demand for survival is why we often feel irritable, anxious, depressed, and discontent. We look for relief from this pain no matter how brief. 

 

This insight allows us to finally understand the futility of the chase.

The endless quests, constant worries, and unshakeable feeling of restlessness that are so conditioned within all of us that we think they are a “normal part of life”. 

 

With inner exploration and understanding, we can stop searching. We can move beyond the emotional roller coaster of stress and anxiety to access a deeper level of flourishing – through the realization and fulfillment of our unique potential.  

So how do we do this? 

 

What has been the most effective for the hundreds of physicians who have learned these principles is having a comprehensive framework that allows us to cultivate attention to things that matter in life.

This is vital and largely missing from much of the fragmented advice found in the self-improvement/well-being space.

Where we spend our attention is how we spend our life and most of us give this away too freely. 

 

Positive Psychology, along with ancient wisdom, can provide the foundation for this framework by exposing the evolutionary trappings of our minds and pointing us toward the right mountain to climb…The rest of the framework focuses on cultivating and focusing our attention on this journey.

In a world filled with noise, this is how we uncover the true signal to fully realize our unique potential.

[Editor Note: Please excuse the absence of this newsletter. The past few months have been busy collaborating with 4 other physicians to create the course that we wish we had taken 20 years ago. Take a look below and let us know what you think please.]

Don’t miss this week’s physician spotlight with Ketan Kulkarni, MD, a pediatric oncologist in Canada who is the founder of the very popular Facebook group The Savy Physician!

 …..

Thrive Rx: A Practical Guide to Flourishing for Physicians. 

 

Thrive Rx is a collaboration with 4 physician experts to bring you “the course that we wish we had taken in medical school”. It condenses decades of research, training, wisdom, and experience into just a few weeks. Each module covers key components of flourishing: personal well-being (heal the healer), professional fulfillment (reclaim joy in medicine), success (get what you want), and financial independence (work on your own terms). With weekly office hours, 1 on 1 sessions, and evidence-based exercises, Thrive Rx is the only comprehensive course that you need to create the life you want!

 

We are so confident in the value and effectiveness of Thrive Rx that we offer both 7.5 hours of CME along with a money-back guarantee! 

 

Check out the curriculum here!

 

This week we are featuring Ketan Kulkarni, MD, a pediatric oncologist in Canada who is the founder of the very popular Facebook group The Savy Physician! 

1.  Can you tell us a little about your career path and what led you to your current role?

 

I am a physician, a clinician researcher, a scientist, a passionate entrepreneur, an ardent advocate of financial literacy and independence with alternative income streams, an avid learner, a traveler, a photographer, an artist (and art enthusiast and antique collector) and a music buff. I am also interested in entrepreneurship, business, leadership and investments while balancing sustainability and social responsibility. I live and work in Halifax, Canada

While I worked extremely hard for the last 6 some years (after 14 years of training) to establish my academic program and got my first academic promotion in 5 years, I also realized that a range of limitations and challenges including red tape, system issues and politics exist in traditional pathways of medicine that may not be by itself enough fulfilling in the long run. I saw that people, colleagues and experts from all walks of life, regardless of their stage of career and their titles faced similar issues and were often burnt out. They were unhappy.

 

2.  Given the state of mental health in medicine, how can physicians (trained as lone wolves in a culture that often pits us against each other) form a cohesive community that can help to support each other? 

While I had put most of my passions on the back burner during the long training years, over the last few years, I had the opportunity to rekindle my interests and passions. As well, I realized that physicians aren’t usually well versed in business and finance and often shy away from excellent money management. I learnt that I was hoping to expand far beyond traditional parameters of academic medicine. Meantime I started training myself to better understand investments, did DIY investing for few years. Also expanded to some real estate and run an online art gallery called Atlantic fine art. I still felt that I needed to find and connect with “my own tribe”. I also had the opportunity to develop my leadership and communication skills and participate in a number of national and international societies, committees and opportunities.

Thus, evolved my vision to connect with, network, and collaborate with like-minded individuals who are interested in mastering their own lives and destiny. I wanted to learn as well as share my knowledge and experience and develop models that support a balanced, successful lifestyle, promote career longevity and satisfaction. I am also interested in learning, speaking, and sharing about leadership and entrepreneurship. I envision a world where everyone is empowered with financial literacy and is able to achieve their financial aims and dreams with the best possible financial advice while following their passions.

I really wanted to see if others faced similar questions such as below:

Are you a physician who despite working very hard feels stuck?

Are you not making progress as fast as you would like?

Are you finances not fully under your control?

Are you unsure how to build alternative income streams?

Are you unable to pursue your passions?

Are you someone who wants to take next steps in your career?

Are you interested in leadership and business?

Are you interested in being financially independent?

The Savvy physician was conceived with the realization that these and such other questions are rampant. We aren’t able to find a clear way out and live the life of our dreams. However, we can join a network of like-minded colleagues and progress collectively and much faster.

Our mission is to help each of us to be a “Savvy” Physician who understands and takes control of their finances to achieve financial independence, walks every day towards their chosen dreams/passions, and to advance knowledge about leadership, optimize financial/investment knowledge, share/understand good investment opportunities, assist each other with fiduciary advice and ultimately aim towards career longevity and good work-life balance. I personally want to become my vision and support others do the same. 

You can join savvy physician group on Facebook. Let’s connect and grow together. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/thesavvyphysician/

More about me at www.savvyphysician.ca

Contact: ketanpkulkarni@gmail.com 

Thanks to our editorial board!

Jordyn Feingold, MAPP
David Fessell, MD FACR
Michael Fishman, MD
Harry Karydes, DO
Sanj Katyal, MD FACR
Rajiv Kinkhabwala, MD

If you are interested in submitting an article for publication or joining our editorial team, please simply reply to this email! 

 

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Two Quick Things Before You Go…

As physicians, now more than ever, we desperately need to do a better job of supporting each other.  If you are struggling with the current demands of medicine, please know that a FREE confidential formalized peer support for physicians by physicians is finally in place. Contact Physicians Confidential

 

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