Dr. Weili Gray is a board-certified sleep and lifestyle medicine physician who practices in the Northeast. She is also the founder of Dare to Dream Physician, where she hosts a weekly podcast and offers life planning to help physicians figure out what they really want out of life and how to live their dream life sooner than they ever imagined.
In this Thanksgiving episode, Dr. Gray shares:
Tune in and hear how one physician started pursuing her dream life...
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Note this document may have human or computer-generated errors in transcription. Refer to the audio file for the actual conversation.
Dr. Weili Gray, Host 00:00
This is the Dare to Dream Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Weili Gray. Many physicians today are feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled living a busy life based on someone else's terms and expectations. My mission is to help physicians figure out what they really want out of life, and how to make their dream life come true sooner than they ever imagined. My fellow physicians, your time to live your only life now. Become a dare to dream physician. Great things are going to happen. Make sure you hit subscribe and share this podcast with another physician you care about.
[00:00:48] Welcome back to another episode of the Dare To Dream Physician podcast. I'm so excited today to share our Thanksgiving episode. And thank you for listening in. I know this is a busy week for everybody, I'm also celebrating the six month anniversary of the podcast.
[00:01:06] The podcast launched six months ago and we are on episode 29. I'm so grateful for our listeners. And umm, especially grateful for those of you who are regular listeners, who took the time to write a review for the podcast. When you take the time to rate and review us on a platform like Apple Podcasts, you are really helping spread the message of the Dare To Dream Physician. So this review was written by Chyrxhk4556, and the person wrote inspiring, I love Weilli’s style and elegant interviews. As she reminds us to look within and find what we really want to create for ourselves without the limits we've acquired, as we, “do what we're supposed to”, she interviews others who have done just that. Love it! Thank you again for writing that review, and it's not too late for you to rate and review us. I would love to share your review on the podcast. So today, I am going to do a solo episode.
[00:02:04] I've been so grateful for the guests that have come on the show and I've learned so much from them and I absolutely plan to continue bringing more guests on the podcast, as well as do more solo episodes.
[00:02:17] Today I wanted to talk about a topic that's near and dear to my heart. My five-year-old daughter has been playing this game lately.
[00:02:28] And at first I didn't even realize that it was a game and that there was a script that she had a script for me, I had to figure it out as she played along. But this is usually how the game goes. She'll hide in the corner of her room, either using a sheet, covering herself or hiding behind furniture. and as she hears me walking into the room, she'll say,” Mommy do you know where I am?” Do you know where I am?” And then I say,” I don't know, I don't know where you are. Where are you?” And then she pops out of her blanket or pops up behind the furniture and says,” boo, I'm here.” Then she waits for me to call her name. And if I happen to be in the middle of doing something, I can't pay attention to her right away. She'll keep waiting and waiting until I finally give her my undivided attention. And tell her,” I see you. I see you.” And she laughs and laughs and laughs. She actually recently started doing this several times a day in different rooms, in the bedroom, the living room and the upstairs room. and I've learned to just play along with it, 'cause, I could tell she really enjoys it. Then in the last couple of days, I've been reflecting on why she does this. And I realize that the reason why my five-year-old does this is because she wants to be seen and she wants acknowledgement that she is seen.
[00:03:54] And that helped me realize that. It's not just five-year-olds or other kids that want to be seen. All human beings want to be seen, kids and adults. And we may just express that desire, in different ways. And we may not even know we have that desire.
[00:04:14] And I think that applies to our personal lives and to our professional lives. In our personal lives, we are often seeking connection with our friends, with our spouses, with our children, with those who we socialize with. When we have friendships and relationships that bring deep connection, that's when someone intently listens to us and we do the same for them, and we feel safe to share our wins, our struggles, our obstacles. We feel like that person gets us, that person is seeing us for who we are.
[00:04:54] Another way. That we feel seen is when we are able to make an impact and I think of impact as a result that we can create that affects something outside of ourselves, something that's often bigger than ourselves, and that could be saving a patient's life. That could be just helping patients and their families walk through a difficult diagnosis that could be mentoring the next generation of physicians, the next generation of students.
[00:05:28] And that could also be for parents when you see the fruit of your parenting, as your children go out and do something that you're really proud of and part of that is we see a reflection of our values and other things that we deeply care about reflected back at us. And so when we are able to make an impact, that is also another way that we can feel seen
[00:05:55] I can't really talk about being seen without sharing my experiences growing up as immigrants. Part of the reason why I have such high respect for my parents is that in their thirties and forties, They chose to leave their home country, go halfway across the world to pursue the American dream.
[00:06:16] They chose to go to a country where they looked different. They didn't know the culture, they didn't speak the language. And as a result of that, they were often not seen. And even if they were seen, they weren't seen for who they really are. They were often seen as someone who was less intelligent than who they really were. They were seen as being less communicative, less expressive than they would be if they were speaking their native language. And they were seen as somebody who speaks with an accent, not fluently.
[00:06:54] And, I immigrated with my parents as a young child. And as you know, kids can pick up languages much faster than adults. And so starting at around age 10. I would facilitate communication with other adults, for my parents. And I would translate for them. And translating for them, I could really see how the people that we were interacting with didn't really see my parents for who they were. That experience I had as a child growing up, even until my adulthood. I, I think that experience shaped me and it gave me the eyes to see people who are perhaps not seen as who they really are and gave me the heart and the skills to advocate for them.
[00:07:37] So it's not just in our personal lives that we want to be seen. It is also very true in our professional lives. One of the big problems right now, Is that physicians as a group we don't feel like we're being seen.
[00:07:51] The Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report comes out every year. And the one, the most recent one in 2021 showed that 40% of physicians they serve reported being burned out. Now this statistic has actually been relatively consistent even before COVID. So while COVID absolutely exacerbated the intensity and the incidence of physician burnout, a lot of these factors and problems actually existed before COVID.
[00:08:20] We talked, in the show before about, what is burnout? One of my favorite quotes about burnout was written by Maslach, a pioneering burnout researcher. And this is how he described burnout. When energy turns into exhaustion. When involvement or you can think of it as engagement turns into cynicism. And efficacy turns into ineffectiveness. So we couldn't think of who we were when we applied to medical school, who was that person who was crazy enough to apply for medical school and committed to a 10-year journey to become a physician.
[00:08:54] That applicant was probably very energetic, very involved, very engaged, and very effective at what they do. And so at some point in the training, whether it's in medical school or in residency or in our years as an attending. Many physicians gradually start to experience burnout.
[00:09:16] When asked what contributed the most to their burnout. This is what the physicians answered. Too many bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, lack of respect from administrators and employers. Lack of respect from colleagues, lack of respect from staff, insufficient compensation, insufficient reimbursement, lack of control, lack of autonomy in their jobs. Lack of respect from patients and governmental regulations.
[00:09:43] So many of those elements that are cited are related to not being seen as physicians, not being seen for our value, not being seen for expertise, not being seen for the time that we've spent on the work, that's becoming more and more demanding.
[00:10:01] And so no wonder more and more physicians are not feeling like they're physicians, but that they're just a cog in the wheel in this bigger complex of healthcare.
[00:10:12] And I will add that as a physician, as a human being, I really enjoy connecting with people from all walks of life. And I will tell you that nobody wants to feel like a cog in the wheel. Nobody, we're humans, we're not robots even an assembly line worker. They're humans too.
[00:10:31] So if you ever show up to a meeting, or a negotiation and you feel that. You're being treated like a cog in the wheel. Don't accept that. Don't accept that. And don't let, and don't let that perception of how you're being treated affect your self identity. Because you're not a cog in the wheel. You're a physician. And your value matters. And society needs you. So even if you feel increasingly like that's how you're being treated. You don't have to buy into that. And the less you buy into it, the more you take internal stock of your value, your expertise, the more you'll show up differently in the world and how you engage at work, in your life. And that is one of the first steps to become a Dare To Dream Physician.
[00:11:25] Another report that I really enjoyed reading is the 2016 Physician Wellness Survey. That's put out by Stanford. In there, they talk about a model of professional fulfillment, comprising of three elements: the culture of wellness, efficiency of practice and personal resilience.
[00:11:45] So as physicians, we absolutely can appreciate the importance of having an efficient practice. that includes support staff and that includes the workflows in your day-to-day environment. And these systems can make a huge difference in professional satisfaction in whether someone experiences burnout or not. And as physicians, we need to tune our eyes to see what are practices that help with the efficiency of practice and what are practices that are absolutely not working? And realize that it's not just us, I'll give you an example. I am a pretty fast typer and in the past, I've typed my notes and I try to type some of it, when the patient is in the room. Well, in the last few months, I started feeling very overwhelmed with, with documentation. and I was so busy and doing what I was doing. I didn't even quite catch what was going on. When I actually took time and reflected on why I was feeling overwhelmed, I realized that the laptop keyboard that the hospital has provided for me. Actually, it stopped working. There are a few keys that were stuck and, I would type fast, but then I have to go back and fix the missing letters. Once I realized that I called our IT Support Department and someone came and changed the laptop keyboard, and it got resolved within 24 hours. And now it's much easier for me to type and I don't feel that overwhelmed when I'm trying to type and finish my notes. There are many other examples that I can give for workflow efficiencies. Certain ones that are much harder to fix than just changing a keyboard. Uh, common ones include the support staff, is there an adequate number of support staff?
[00:13:35] As far as personal resilience, historically I think physicians have resented this category because. It felt like it was the only category that was affecting professional satisfaction. So if there were workplace inefficiencies, if there were workplace cultural issues, the solution when that happens is not to become more resilient. Is not to let things bounce off our back, it's to actually address those things. But we do know that personal resilience is an important determinants. and there is absolutely work that we can do on ourselves to improve this dimension of professional satisfaction and personal satisfaction. Report states the two strongest determinants of burnout in the personal resilience. Uh,realm was low self-compassion, so that makes sense. So somebody is really hard on themselves. If somebody who's always criticizing themselves for everything that they're doing. And trying to be a perfectionist too. to satisfy that inner critical voice, that makes a lot of sense that would lead to burnout. the other determined it was sleep related impairment.
[00:14:44] And that's, I think that also speaks for itself, right? If we don't get enough sleep, we're very cranky. We're not able to process information as efficiently, emotionally we're more reactive and,the sleep impairment can come from not having enough hours of sleep, so sleep deprivation and also disrupted sleep from the call schedule.
[00:15:05] So the last dimension of professional satisfaction is this, described in this report is one that I really like, because I don't think historically this has been addressed. This has been written about as much. And that is the cultural wellness. And so what is the cultural wellness? First of all, it starts from the leadership. So all the determinants in this category are associated with perceived support from the leadership or the organization. It's perceived appreciation. For what we do as physicians. Perceived, alignment of personal value. So individual values with the organization's values and this isn't just what the organization values are on a piece of paper, but how leadership decisions are being made. What is the direction the institution's going?
[00:15:54] And, the last one was peer supportiveness. So is there support from your colleagues, from your peers?
[00:16:02] I really love this category because for the longest time, I always felt like healthcare organizations are really behind the eight ball when you compare it to other corporate cultures.
[00:16:14] I think this is also important for us as physicians. Because I believe that all physicians are leaders and you don't necessarily need a title to be a leader, but how am I contributing to the culture of wellness in my sphere of influence professionally.
[00:16:32] And so what employees really want and what physicians really want is to be seen. They want to be seen by their leadership. They want to be seen by their peers. They want to be seen by their institution. And the result when we feel like we are being seen is that we can show appreciation. We can show support, we can show connection. With our colleagues, with our leadership and with our entire organization. And I really believe those elements are a two way street. And so the first step to building relationships and building that trust. professionally is to help everyone at work feel like they are being seen.
[00:17:15] I'm really grateful to my five-year-old daughter for teaching me that it is very important for us as human beings to be seen, to feel like we're being seen.
[00:17:28] It also occurred to me that at the beginning of this year, when I turned 40. I experienced what I now describe in retrospect, as a midlife crisis. And,there were a lot of different things that were contributing to this, but the biggest pain that I was experiencing then was not feeling like I was seeing, not feeling like I was heard. And this was mostly in relationship to my professional life, in my role as a physician. So I even started wondering that, despite making so many sacrifices and training for over 10 years to do what I do now and to be where I am, how can I possibly continue this for 25 more years? And in fact that led me to. Sign up for my first nonmedical conference. So I attended this life planning workshop and I was in this workshop with about 25 other financial planners. I was almost embarrassed to tell them that I am not a financial planner, but I'm a physician. I signed up for this workshop, mostly because I was curious about life planning and the work of the Kinder Institute. At that time, I really didn't know what my problem was. I just knew that I had to run away. I was telling myself stories about not feeling valued and not feeling appreciated as a physician. I was looking for places to run away from this pain. The workshop costs almost a thousand dollars and because it was nonmedical, I couldn't use my CME money for it. So I did things that were a little uncomfortable that I normally wouldn't do. And one of them was raising my hand to volunteer as the life planning clients for the group demonstration. So in front of the whole group of 25 plus strangers, I did get picked to be the client, to do the demonstration. And the only stipulation was that I would be completely honest. I would be completely myself and the life planner made it very clear we have to be authentic when we life plan and we cannot, this is not role-playing. We have to just speak the truth and be honest. And, and so I thought, okay, that, that's probably even easier. I don't have to role-play, I just have to answer honestly.
[00:19:41] So in this demonstration I shared with the life planner instructor the things that are really important to me in my life. not just professional goals, but personal goals, everything that was important to me. For the first time. In a long time if perhaps ever. I felt like when I revealed all of these things. Of what I really want out of life. That somebody was listening and somebody was seeing me. And I want to be perfectly clear. I've always felt blessed with having a wonderful husband who is a great listener. I have a group of close friends from high school and college and medical school who I feel comfortable confiding in. So it wasn't that I didn't have friends and I didn't have close relationships because I did, but this was different. Here, I not only felt seen and felt heard, I was really touched that here was someone who I didn't know before the workshop who was listening intently, but did not have an agenda for my life. In fact, he was only interested in one thing which is helping me pull out. Things that are most meaningful to me, to build a life of my dreams. And he listened with curiosity. He listened very intently and he also, I don't know if I really experienced this before, but he also listened with a lot of compassion and it wasn't so much what he said, but it was just the way that he was and the way that he listened. And so as a result, I really felt safe to explore out loud the things that, perhaps I didn't even know was important to me, things that came up. Because the life planning process creates a lot of space for that. More space than perhaps we've given ourselves. In the past, there is no judgment or there is no like I said before, there's no agenda. There's no leading, this is the right answer. they're really, the beautiful thing was there was no right answer that somebody in the room could have told me, but the goal of having someone listening, and facilitating the life planning, it was too help me discover what that right answer was based on the things I value, the things I cared about, the people I cared about and the life that I perhaps consciously or unconsciously dream of. And what I've also appreciated is not only was the life planner listening to me, but at the end reflected back to me, the vision that I painted.
[00:22:43] And he reflected it back in the form of what we in life planning call a torch statement, which is painting a scene almost like in a movie, but it's your own movie. maybe one month, six months, 12 months in the future. And in that scene, the life planner describes all the elements that you said are important to you. Including the people, the place, the feelings, the.. all the things so you get taken to the moment that you've been describing as your dream. And when someone reflects this vision back to you in a way that helps you feel like you're in it.
[00:23:25] Especially when we hit that dream, right? If they get all the elements, right, and that's okay. And sometimes we have to do this a few times in life planning to get that torch statement right. Because it's a process. Again, it's not the life planner's agenda for you. It's your dream life. It's your dream. But when we've hit that dream, right. You will feel it just like I did. I felt it. In fact, I felt it so strongly and I wanted it so badly that I started crying. I started crying, which is something that I don't do in front of strangers, certainly not twenty-five strangers. Who I had not met until that day.
[00:24:02] What I loved about the process of life planning was. I not only felt seen, but I was able to see myself. I was able to see myself in a more loving and compassionate way. Because the life planner reflected the elements that I felt are important to me, like you could almost touch the scene. And I was able to visualize my dream. visualize my dream, more so than I was ever able to before, when I saw myself, when I felt it in that light.
[00:24:39] All the pains that I previously had, all the pains that I was running away from, like the feelings of not being seen, not being heard, not being valued, not being respected. All of them became, not nearly as important. And the things that were important to me expanded in my mind and all the things that maybe were things I couldn't control, things external factors,these perceptions that I was having. Of not feeling, seen, not feeling heard, not feeling valued, not feeling respected. those feelings really shrunk and the perceptions that I have of my, of the importance of my dreams, the importance of all those things that I really cared about. All those things that, Hey, if I died in a year, what are the things that I want to work on? What are the, what is the impact? what are the connections that I want to make with my loved ones? And what is the impact I'm going to leave on the world? And so those. those answers and those goals, really grew and expanded in my mind. And it's such a, such a transformative process. And shortly after that, it was clear to me that I needed to bring life planning to physicians.
[00:26:00] Because if I was hurting, if I was wanting to run away at that point in my life. I can only imagine how many other physicians were feeling the same way. And in fact, when I dug deeper looking at the statistics that I cited previously there are lots of physicians who feel the same way that I did. And they're really wonderful thing is, personally, I just want what's best for every individual physician. but for me, I actually, those doubts that I had about whether I wanted to stay in medicine. They really shrunk as well because I was able to figure out and really feel that I did love being a physician. It was just the things, I was doing the things. as a physician that I, perhaps didn't feel like I was being seen for it at the time. but when I did that work of life planning, I was able to see it in myself. And so I didn't even need the external validation. I knew what I was doing as a physician was meaningful and powerful and impactful.
[00:27:03] So for me, life planning has saved my physician career. And,and not only that, it's, it just enriches so many different parts of my life. I started reading to my kids. I started being, coming more present with my husband and my kids. I started taking more time for self care. Because I realized that if I didn't take care of myself, my mental, spiritual, physical health that I wouldn't be able to live the dream life and make the impact and build the relationships that are important to me.
[00:27:31] And, I'm absolutely still a work in progress, but I'm so excited. I wake up with an optimism for the future, I cannot wait to see myself. Continually grow and continually live in alignment with the things that are most important to me, and to continue to build that dream life. And not waiting to live that dream life. to start living and to really find moments that have so grateful that I can find moments. regularly in my life now. Where I can say, Hey, I'm living the dream.
[00:28:09] Thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. And if you are curious about life planning or with the holidays coming up, you're sick and tired of being busy and overwhelmed, living a life that's based on someone else's terms and expectations. And you want to gift yourself that life transformation, you want to discover your own north star and start living in full alignment with your why?
[00:28:35] And I would love to help you. I would love to facilitate that for you and I can do a life plan with you. Sign up for a discovery call with me at www.daretodreamphysician.com. I cannot wait to help you discover and start living your dream life sooner than you ever imagined. Because as physicians, we all know that tomorrow is not guaranteed. DM me with any questions. I'm on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, you can even use a form to email me on my website.
[00:29:00] And we shall meet again next week when I have a new episode out.
Dr. Weili Gray, Host
Thanks for listening. Make sure you hit subscribe so you don't miss another episode. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend and give us a five star review so we can help more physicians dare to dream and create their most abundant lives. There's also exciting news at the Dare to Dream Physician. For those of you who wish to get clarity on your own why and get energized as you explore, envision and create your dream life. I'm so excited to announce that I'm taking on a limited number of one on one clients for life planning. To get the complete details and sign up for an exploration meeting. Go to my website, daretodreamphysician.com. I really look forward to working with you. And it would be such an honor and privilege for me to be able to help you create your life plan. I truly believe that life planning will transform your life and will give you that energy to pursue your dream life sooner than you ever imagine. See you next week