Published in American Urological Association News - January 2017
reprinted with permission in AAOS Now - January 2017
Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 1, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.
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Less Balance! More Focus!
The other day I was reminded of a very important idea while I was at my yoga class:
The value is in focus, not balance.
Much of what is required in yoga and a surgical career takes balance. And on many days, I find myself pushing for more and more of that balance. Sometimes I waiver, sometimes I fall, but I am always striving for that balance.
The benefits of balance are real, and I see them in so many ways which, is why I constantly strive for it, whether I’m at home, at the office, or in the yoga studio.
Unfortunately, any time I struggle with balance, my mind has a tendency to see that struggle as failure. When I am unable to hold a pose, or my career starts to take up too much of my time, I see that absence of balance as a personal shortcoming.
But that’s not how it should be because battles with balance are really opportunities for focus which leads to rhythm which leads to good things.
One of the key practices of highly successful surgeons is rhythm.
In my experience, getting into YOUR rhythm depends upon where you feel you’re functioning.
· Burned Out? – Learn to triage your time, especially time for yourself
· Surviving? – Learn to adjust your priorities consistent with your values
· Succeeding? – Learn to increase efficiency and return on investment
· Thriving? – Enjoy the journey!
When surgeons are in rhythm, they can go from one role to the next and one patient to the other, with the focus and mindfulness that leads to quality treatment and care.
And how do we define quality?
When our patients say we seem to “really care” or that we “listen well,” those moments are a reflection of quality derived from focus.
When our kids or spouse feels we are less distracted by work or enjoying our time with them, then we are injecting quality drawn directly from the purposeful focus of our attention into these relationships.
Are you battling for balance?
How can you use that battle as an opportunity to channel focus?
Remember--focus will bring you to rhythm, and rhythm will bring you to some fantastic spaces.
Published in American Urological Association News - October 2016
reprinted with permission in AAOS Now - September 2016
Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 21, issue 10, 2016; © American Urological Association 2016.
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The Need for Surgeons to Have Flexibility
As surgeons, we know the importance of precision.
We are exact.
We are meticulous.
And we are this way because a misstep could cause serious, irreversible injury.
But that obsessive compulsiveness does not need to permeate every aspect of our world.
By learning to master the art of mental and emotional flexibility, we can receive more happiness and joy from our normally rigid practices and lives.
The palm tree and the surgeon
I live in San Diego, your host city for the Annual Meeting AUA 2016, where the streets are littered with palm trees—a universal beacon of ocean-side tranquility. Most of the time, these trees stand firm and tall, unwilling to waiver to light breezes coming in off the Pacific.
However, when a storm hits, the palm tree ceases being rigid—it flexes in strong winds to avoid being uprooted or splintered. After the storm, the palm stands tall again.
Surgeons are rooted in rigid principles that allow them to stand tall in the operating room. But like the palm tree, we must learn to practice flexibility when the situation calls for it in order to avoid becoming uprooted or damaged.
Surgeons thrive in the routine, in the regimented.
But life is neither routine nor regimented, and when something challenges our routine, it’s easy for us to become angry or frustrated.
That’s what makes flexibility so important.
Flexibility is the mechanism that allows us to weather storms of the unexpected, whether they arise in the workplace or elsewhere. Flexibility lets us bend with the wind like a palm tree, instead of standing rigidly and dangerously in opposition to it.
To help you become more comfortable with mental and emotional flexibility, try practicing some of these strategies:
Stray from your daily routine on your downtime
If you always go to Starbucks on the way to the hospital, take yourself to a different java house. Always go to the gym on your way home? – skip the treadmill and go see a movie.
Is your workout routine perhaps boring? Change it up. Start intentionally injecting variety into your life and see how good it feels to stray from the norm.
Practice an open mind
Start being more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Avoid a rigid, one-sided thought process.
Embrace the random
When something unexpected emerges in your day, don’t stew over it. Embrace it as a unique opportunity.
Incorporate movement and exercise
Feeling stressed or worn out? – get out of the office and go for a brief walk. Doing so will help you cultivate clearer, more positive thought patterns.
Learn to embrace and practice flexibility. You’ll bend rather than break beneath the pressure that is a surgeon’s life.
 Bartels, L.: “10 Brain Tips to Teach and Learn.” SharpBrains. Web. Accessed 4 June 2016. Available at http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2010/12/08/10-brain-tips-to-teach-and-learn-ideas-for-new-year-resolutions/.