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Embracing Change: The Path to Transformation

Unlocking your potential for personal and professional growth.

Key points

  • Changing your career path can be a stressful, liberating, and rewarding experience.
  • Key factors for success include financial awareness, proof of concept, humility, and authenticity.
  • Expect a unique and exciting journey of self-discovery with new connections and opportunities.
Source: Caleb Jones/Unsplash
Source: Caleb Jones/Unsplash

Recently I made some drastic changes to my surgical practice to make more room for my passion project, Docs in Leadership, an organization I established to deliver emotionally intelligent leadership education to medical professionals and trainees. Over years of treating patients, educating medical students and surgical residents, and working in several leadership roles in collaboration with fellow health care leaders, I wanted to contribute to the wellness and effectiveness of my colleagues through providing education on how to enhance culture in health care with positive workplace and learning environments.

In a time when health care is in crisis with shortages of nurses, physicians, fellow health care providers, and infrastructure capacities, it is essential that we evolve and develop ways to preserve, restore and enhance our health care systems.

Deciding to take a step back and significantly restructuring my career path challenged my identity as a surgeon. I always recognized that being a surgeon is only part of who I am in addition to being a daughter, sibling, spouse, bonus mom, and an individual. However, with direct patient care being so many waking hours each day, shifting my focus to primarily education led to a journey of self-discovery and transformation that was both stressful and liberating.

I firmly believe that things happen for a reason and that the experiences we face lead us to our correct path, so long as we are sincere in our efforts with healthy persistence, and honest in our intentions and self-reflections. Pursuing one option for balancing my goals for work, my passion project, home, and family life, I was met with resistance from some colleagues that was surprising and disappointing. As I persevered and looked at alternatives, however, new opportunities with greater scope and potential emerged and I felt grateful for the resistance. As I committed to a different option with my clear vision, new connections that supported my mission came into my world and together, new paths are being forged.

Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Worry

Committing to restructuring my career was not without anxiety, stress, and worry. Here are five things I learned that made this transition successful for me:

  1. Financial awareness. Many of us have passions that may or may not relate to our work. While fulfilling, unless our day-to-day financial responsibilities are met, it can be risky to commit to an untested idea that can negatively impact your livelihood, responsibilities, commitments, and your future financial goals if the idea does not work out. Having financial security in one form or another through your own savings or trusted investors is extremely important, not only to support your daily living and future plans, but also to help you maintain a clear and level mindset to support good decision-making moving forward.
  2. Proof of concept. Having a new idea is excellent, however, understanding the need, demand, and impact of your idea is necessary to mitigate your risk. As you run pilot programs and pre-launch experiences to share your skills and expertise, you gain clarity and insight on how best to proceed moving forward while others learn about your work. Your concept received well helps to build your confidence, and others’ confidence in you, as you fill a need and confirm that your work transforms those who engage with it. This confidence helps you deliver your message clearly and informs your decision-making in positive ways.
  3. Adaptability. Change often requires pivoting and adjusting your course with a flexible mindset. New information, circumstances, and insights shape your future direction as you gain more knowledge. Engaging over time, your understanding of your new context deepens and begins to mature. You can recognize what has worked and what can be done better, and forge your path forward accordingly. Remember that “perfection” is a moving target with change being a constant reality. A flexible mindset that focuses on progress over perfection enables you to ebb and flow as needed to achieve your goals.
  4. Humility in outlook. When you are used to excelling and are recognized as a leader in your field, it can be challenging to find yourself unsure of how best to proceed to maintain the same level of excellence you have come to expect from yourself, and others expect from you. New ideas bring different ways of doing things, often with new skills to learn and excel in. Some of these may feel uncomfortable and at the outset not align with your personality. As an example, advertising and promotion—a foreign concept to me as a surgeon and educator with a busy practice for over two decades in a publicly funded health care system. Expect a journey to understand and develop your relationship with new skills to help your idea grow and thrive. Your proof of concept, expertise, humility, and growth mindset will enable you to persevere and learn lessons in ways that align with who you are.
  5. Authenticity. Perhaps the greatest challenge in changing one’s path is staying connected with your true self through the transition. Change does not only alter your observable course. New lessons, experiences, and insights change you how you think, receive, and perceive from within. Bumps on the road evoke questions that lead to soul-searching and discovery; how your core values and beliefs align with a new way, as an example. You may engage professional coaches who guide you along paths that push you completely out of your comfort zone. By taking your time, being open to new ideas, and maintaining alignment with your vision, mission, values, and purpose, you will find your way and an evolved version of you with new knowledge, skills, and insights. Allowing and trusting the process with mindfulness enables you to transform while maintaining your authenticity.

A Rewarding Challenge

My decision to make significant changes in my career path to pursue my passion project has been challenging and liberating. While the transition brought financial considerations, the need for proof of concept, adaptability, humility, and authenticity, these experiences have shaped me for the better. With my experiences, expertise, vision, mission, and purpose that align with my core values and principles, I look forward to continuing on this path of self-discovery, forging new connections, and contributing to the evolution and enhancement of our health care systems.

More from Nina Ahuja BScHons, MD, FRCSC, CHE
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