Seek a New Perspective of what is right for YOU
My journey to where I am today started with a new perspective. Growing up in the segregated south, my options seemed limited early on. Was I only capable of being a part of The Help like my great-grandmothers, or a teacher of Negro kids like my great-aunt or a mother? For years, my perspective on my life was one of despair.
Then, at the age of 9, my new perspective came to me in the form of a new TV medical drama called Ben Casey.
Ben Casey, a fictional physician, inspired me to think BIGGER. Watching him serve his patients gave me hope. Why couldn’t I become a physician just like him? What stood in my way? That spark of inspiration was all it took. Suddenly, my action steps became clear: get into college and attend medical school.
Spoiler: I did it. No matter who said I couldn’t. No matter the obstacles that stood in my way. In 1978, I graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA.
Another spoiler: If I can do it, so can you.
Getting out of your comfort zone
To seek and find a new perspective, you have to step out of your comfort zone. No new knowledge is gained with your status quo. Sometimes, this new knowledge comes from unexpected places. I gained a new perspective when I had my first colonoscopy!
For years I had provided anesthesia for these procedures and wondered why something that appeared so simple to me, seemed so difficult for some of my patients. Drink the gallon of solution, sit on the toilet until there is no solid stool; come in and have someone stick a camera up your butt looking for polyps. Easy!
When I entered my forties, the tables were turned. “Dr. Charity, your colonoscopy was incomplete.” That’s right, I failed my first colonoscopy. I did not follow the instructions properly and thus I was full of shit, literally! It gave me a new perspective!
I never again chastised another patient when they admitted, “the prep was awful!” In fact, I would share my own story of Colonoscopy Calamity. And I always got a laugh.
Getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t always have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as getting an exam. The only requirement is that you’re doing something you haven’t done before…and that you’re willing to learn along the way.
Jumping into a new perspective
It’s possible to find new perspectives in your day-to-day life, but if you’re itching to get a a new experience, improv can help you do that! Let me tell you, improvisation is not easy. But it can be exhilarating. The challenge of creating in the moment is most rewarding, from my perspective.
There is a technique in Improv called “Yes, And”. It’s used to promote the continual flow of an idea. So many times a person in a meeting or even in casual conversation will throw out an idea such as “I think we should bring back Physicians’ Lounges in our hospitals.”
The response is usually a “Yes, But!” Sometimes, it’s a “Absolutely NOT! No budget for that!”
The idea is shut down before it is allowed to germinate.
Using the “Yes, And” improv philosophy, the better response might be “Yes, And let’s put it on the top floor of the hospital by the open solarium so we have great sunlight during the day and stars at night!” The idea – though not necessarily feasible because of budget constraints or the fact your hospital doesn’t have a solarium or the present hospital C-suite mentality negates any suggestion that might help physician well being – is allowed to move forward and opens the possibility that someone might come up with a solution that benefits physicians and the bean-counters. A new perspective.
I teach a workshop on Medical Improv; essentially Improv for Healthcare Providers. Besides the CME-required statistics and set presentation objectives, I was able to introduce many techniques to cope with burnout and depression based on improvisation.
Medical Improv helps physicians break out of the white coat persona. It’s most enjoyable to observe the physical changes among attendees who sit, arms crossed in defiance at the beginning of the workshop. One particular physician in the workshop said with his body language, “What a waste of time”. During a role-playing exercise, he freed himself to just BE in the moment, without judgment.
By the end, he was smiling from ear to ear. He had discovered the secret that should be a part of all physicians’ wellness tool boxes, HUMOR.
How you can find your new perspective
To seek and find a new perspective may mean you need to, as Nike says, “Just Do It!”
Here are some steps to seek your new perspective:
- Get inspired. by a person, a place or perhaps talks or books
- Look at your worst case scenario. What would happen if you moved out of your way, identified your overwhelm, navigated away from naysayers and discovered your true authentic self? Allow that question to marinate in its own juices for a minute or so and then write down your thoughts. Is the worst case scenario that bad? In the words of Doc Vader, “Did you die?”
- Search for new perspectives in your day to day. Think about something from another person’s perspective or notice how you feel when doing something that is common, but new to you.
- Finally, jump into new situations with some humor. Let yourself have fun!