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During her keynote address at the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference, Patricia White, DVM, MS, DACVD, CPC helped attendees not only rediscover their passion for their jobs, but also how to regain their purpose.
It seems to be an all too common situation lately that veterinarians feel overworked, are not valued, and are considering leaving the profession. Patricia White, DVM, MS, DACVD, CPC and certified professional coach, discussed in her keynote address on the Atlantic coast what it means to be a heart-centered veterinarian and how you can regain your sense and passion for your profession at the Veterinary Conference (ACVC) in Atlantic City.
White began by stating that being a heart centered veterinarian is a state of mind in which what we do matches who we are. It occurs when we take responsibility to create and live in accordance with our values, desires, goals and passion. She reminded us that this is not an easy task and it takes work. The success of a practice, whether as an owner or partner, depends on relationships and communication. All people, whether those who run the business or are served by it, have a need to be valued, seen, heard and cared for. One component of this need requires a keen awareness and expression of oneself.
To better define who we are, what we want, why we want it, and why we chose a particular path, White talked about listening to our internal control system (IGS). Our IGS is like a GPS that tells us whether something we are doing or a decision we are making is consistent with us or not. She also talked about how our feelings are not good or bad, but rather information that helps guide us whether or not we are still moving in the direction of fulfilling a need. We are destined to pay attention to this information and be guided by it.
It is also important to be clear about our core values as they have a powerful influence on our behavior. Our core values represent who we are and form the basis of our personal code of conduct. They are shown in how we serve others and are a crucial factor in our morale and motivation. White pointed out that if our core values and those of our employer do not match, we are unlikely to be happy. If you are a practice owner, then your core values likely form the basis of the practice culture and set the tone for what you expect from your employees. Respect for our core values leads to feelings of fulfillment. If we rate our work negatively, we should consider whether our work environment (either as an employer or as an employee) corresponds to our core values, as this is sometimes not clear without careful thought.
“Values are used to set the tone and quality of what you want from your boss and, as a boss, from your employees,” said White. “[Your values] serve as a compass, a blueprint that can actually attract people with similar values. “
White then elaborated on the importance of identifying our passion and purpose, emphasizing that these need not be veterinary in nature. If you’re not sure what this is for you, she suggests that you first think about a topic or activity that you enjoy, that you take for granted, that energizes you, that gets you flowing, and the time lets pass quickly. These things are your passion.
“Your passions can change over time, but it’s important to know what they are,” she added. “Notice those things that illuminate you, and then move in that direction [them]. “
Your purpose is related to passion and your core values. White explained that your purpose is the “big why,” the blend of your passions and skills that align with your values and the answer to the deeper meaning of why you do what you do, that moves you in the direction To live your passions and that the path in that direction coincides with your core values. When all of these things are coordinated, you will feel happy and productive. So, White told us, let’s live with purpose.
Purpose is fundamental to the concept of Ikigai, which embodies words such as living, purpose in life, value and refers to broader actions such as serving, creating, teaching, delighting, nourishing, providing, healing, connecting and to build up. Overall, the concept of Ikigai is to do the things that fill you, excite you, make you happy, and anticipate the next opportunity to do those things again.
When we are not focused on our passion and purpose, our body sends signals of discomfort. Common psychological and physical manifestations of this misalignment are lack of energy, tiredness, being locked in, digestive problems, forgetfulness and poor concentration, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia and others. When we follow our goal, we should feel ease, freedom and energy. We should feel less stress, sleep well, and feel healthier overall.
That is not to say that this is easy to achieve. White reminded us that this takes work. There are hurdles to be overcome. In a survey she conducted, veterinarians said the three most common challenges that keep them from living meaningfully include limited time and money. There are only a limited number of hours in the day, and often we place others ahead of ourselves on this priority scale to provide for others, families, and ourselves. We may feel that we don’t have the financial wealth or the extra time to change that order.
“Put what you love on your calendar … and take time that you honor like any appointment – don’t apologize, don’t cross it out and write something else there … even [with] In this small step, you will see that things will change, ”advised White.
Another challenge was fear. In some cases it has been fear of success, failure, judgment, disappointment – we have all experienced the concept that we don’t feel ready to do something and that it may be better if we have more time, money, or experience to ensure success. Those reasons we use to determine readiness, White explained, are actually a mask for our fear. This fear prevents us from achieving our goals. It pays to really examine these feelings and determine if we really want to do something and are held back by fear, or if we may not have such a strong desire to do it (in which case it may not fit our passion and purpose). The third challenge highlighted in the survey was the lack of clarity about what one’s core values are or how those values can be put into practice.
Ultimately, as we determine our work environment and our life decisions, White advises consciously focusing on our core values, our passion and our purpose. This is where the spirit of our work or business develops and this may differ from the vision we think others should have for our work or business. Following these principles will give us the energy to leave our comfort zone and ensure sustainability in our work.
White concluded with a quote from Joseph Campbell: “The privilege of your life is who you are.”
Dr. Rebecca Packer is certified in Neurology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and is an assistant veterinarian at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Lafayette, Colorado. She is also the founder and owner of Pre-Veterinary Mentoring Group, LLC, through which she mentors pre-veterinary medicine students on their way to veterinary school, and is the founder and owner of The Pocket Neurologist, LLC, a veterinarian. Teleconsultation service to the veterinarian.