Do what you do, with the knowledge that you, and only you, can create your satisfying day. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Focus on your own actions. — SOS Classics are reprints of Shot’s of Satisfaction that Dr. Frank Gabrin shared as he wrote his works Back from Burnout, Care 101 and Booster Shots. Each shot contains a glimpse of Dr. Franks personal journey back from burnout.
Each Shot of Satisfaction is related to one of the seven steps in the process of REFLECT. My hope is that, by sharing with you how I apply these steps in my daily life, it will help you on your journey to a fulfilling life of caregiving.
Step 1 – REMEMBER what you came here for. Reconnect with your desire to care. Remember what you want from your work: the feeling good that comes from truly caring for others.
Originally published May 25th, 2011
In the way of our happiness
Seriously, we all just wanna be happy, but it seems someone always gets in our way!
Have you ever been supremely irritated at work because one of your co-workers was dogging the workload, skating by, or even hiding? The other day, I worked with who I thought was the laziest excuse for a doctor I have come across in my entire career. The ER was extremely busy and, every time I looked up at the tracking board, I could see that I was caring for roughly 20 patients and he was caring for but two.
I felt victimized. I had to work 10 times harder for the same pay as this lazy guy. I thought he was arrogant, selfish and he took advantage of people, especially me. I had every right to be angry. I was full of righteous indignation.
The problem is never the problem
I resisted the urge to lash out at him or trash talk about him to the staff. But my boiling resentment was preventing me from having a fulfilling day at work. I was in a horrible quantum space. I had to do something. I was allowing my thoughts of him to create negative internal emotions.
I made it through the shift and I did my job satisfactorily, but my experience could have been so much better if I had been able to let go of my resentment. As I was leaving work that morning, I was full of venom, anger and bitterness. I caught a glimpse of the schedule – damn it! – I would have to work with him again the next day.
As I made my way home, I began to realize that the “awful” doctor was not the problem. In the quantum world of satisfaction, the problem is never the problem. The problem was my reaction to the situation. So what was inside me that prevented me from lifting myself out of my reactive thoughts? How could I escape the clutches of my own beast within?
I felt like I was justified in my righteous indignation of this doctor and his laziness. But what good was being right if it still made me miserable? I tried to let go and dig a little deeper. I realized that I expected more from that doctor and because he did not deliver more to me, I stood in judgment of him.
Recognizing the cause
The problem with that thinking is when we judge others, it is really a reflection of our own insecurity. Although it was extremely difficult to admit, if I judged him as bad, I could see myself as good. There are 2 obvious problems with this approach. First, when I make him the bad guy, I become a victim of his behavior – I become an effect. If I hope to be happy at work and in life, I must always be the cause.
Second, when I stand in judgment of another, I project my thoughts and opinions on them, even when I know nothing about them, what their understanding of life may be, what baggage they carry with them. I know that judging them just so that I can feel better about me never works. My judgment only creates a distance between me and others and dooms me to an unpleasant reality.
It was from this perspective that I asked myself, “Who is the worst doctor: him or me?” The answer was me! I know better, I have tools, I have perspective. But I’d stubbornly refused to use my tools or follow my own roadmap to happiness.
I thought to myself, “I am so sick of this!” I am so tired of playing this game with the beast within, hurting myself, blocking my own joy with these stupid attachments and baggage. I am so sick and tired of being the effect. I desperately want to be the cause, but as long as I play this game, I am doomed to be stuck in the mud.
That was all it took for me to step out of the game. I wasn’t playing with my personal beast within any longer. Forget it. No more expectations from others. No more waiting for that doctor to change for me to feel good. I realized that he was just doing what he does. There is nothing wrong with him and nothing right with me. I cannot change my environment. I can never control someone else’s behavior. As long as my happiness depends on someone else, it will always elude me.
The only thing I have the power to change is me.
I believe that if we do not have what we want, we simply have not worked hard enough to create it. We came to health care because we have a simple corruptible desire to care for others and make them feel better. Because of this, if we want to feel happy and satisfied, we have no choice but to give our care. Caring is in our DNA. Care giving is what ignites our passion. Care giving is what makes us feel alive. Remembering this hard won lesson set me free.
Armed with my new quantum thoughts and emotions, I prepared myself to go back to work. I was free of my resentment, my judgment, my anger and my self-righteousness. I was prepared to go in there and do more, because I wanted to do more, because I know for me the only way I can have more is to work harder, to work smarter, and play a new game where I win each and every time.
Creating a new reality
I walked into the department with these new realizations, excited to create a new and satisfying experience for myself. To my surprise, that doctor, the “bad guy,” the one I’d stood in judgment of the night before, wasn’t there. Instead, there was a man who looked just like him, wearing his lab coat and name badge. It was him, but to me, he seemed totally transformed. He was seeing a lot of patients, he was reaching out to me, and it was clear that he was even trying to befriend me.
This shift was busier than the last one, but things just seemed to flow. Even the rest of the staff seemed more energetic. We experienced a day of flawless teamwork. The charge nurse who normally blames my ADD for the fact that there are so many patients in the department was working hard, expediting things, supporting her nurses and techs in a way I’d never seen before. The staff seemed genuinely happy to be working and – better yet – happy to be working with each other. The space between us was gone. We were one.
As the hours passed, I wondered, “Am I dreaming?” But I knew I wasn’t. This is our power as health care heroes. We all have the superhuman ability to change the world and save the day when we look within and take charge.
At the end of the shift, that “awful” doctor and I smiled at each other, shook hands, and left as friends. By closing the gap I’d felt between us and eliminating that negative space, everything transformed and we were able to create a unity that powered us to create miracles.
Today look for where your judgments or expectations of others are affecting your happiness and let them go.
Do what you do, with the knowledge that you, and only you, can create your satisfying day. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Focus on your own actions. Recognize that if you want more happiness, joy, fulfillment and satisfaction, its up to you to do more and be more. Then work to remove the negative gap that your judgements have created between you and others by taking responsibility for lifting those you work, live, and struggle with to higher ground.
This is how we can create a new reality where we are all Clear to Care!
All the best,
Frank D. Gabrin, D.O
Get your copy of “Back from Burnout: Seven Steps to Healing from Compassion Fatigue and Rediscovering (Y)our Heart of Care” at amazon.com