Why did you enter the veterinary profession? Was it to help people and their pets, ensure a safe and humane food supply, or prevent the spread of zoonotic disease?
Perhaps it was something else entirely. However, was your reason to be of service in some way?
If we entered this profession to serve, when did the worry, stress and anxiety step into the picture? After all, that wasn’t part of the plan.
Scroll through your social media channels and you will easily find the stress and overwhelm plaguing the veterinary profession front and center. So, how do we change course to live happier, more fulfilling lives?
No matter where you find yourself today, I challenge you to raise your ambition for a better future. Ambition is not a four-letter word. Ambition is the motivation that drives us to serve more and live a more vibrant, fully-charged life. Isn’t it a good thing to be happier and more joyous around our family, friends, clients and patients?
Here are a few science-based ideas on how you can easily hack your brain and start living that vibrant life of purpose you desire and deserve. If you are reading this thinking, “Nah, I’m good,” these are also easy ways to kick the happiness, joy, life satisfaction and career impact up a notch, too.
1. Let go of perfection and change perspective.
There is a reason it’s called the practice of medicine; mistakes will happen. That’s why it’s essential to take time and ask yourself each day, “What might trip me up and how would my best self handle that situation?”
We can never know what will go wrong, but if we constantly worry about what might happen, that’s a clue. If that big scary worry monster did happen, how would you adapt and overcome that situation? Who can help you navigate that situation more effectively?
I learned this the hard way while running for office. I pressed myself to do every interview, even though I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to support a local high school newsroom and agreed to an on-camera interview, during which, I forgot a very simple and basic term in the middle of my sentence. It just flew out of my head. A total deer-in-the-headlights look was caught on camera, and it’s still up on YouTube to this day. It was one of my most embarrassing moments.
A few years later, I worked a veterinary relief shift and met a young man who shared with me that he had googled my name when he saw I was the doctor on the schedule. He watched that embarrassing interview and shared that he didn’t even really notice my mistake, loved the message that I shared and wished he had lived closer to help me during the campaign.
Wow! My most embarrassing moment was one of his most inspiring moments.
If you do your very best in every moment, you should be proud of your efforts and keep working to improve your skillsets. Simply asking, “How might others view this more positively?” can help you see things from another perspective and flip that situation on its head. Or perhaps you can remember a time when you were in a similar situation—reminding yourself of how you overcame obstacles in the past can set you on a more positive trajectory for the future.
Do you want to feel more motivated each day to tackle that difficult task? Having a growth mindset and learning from setbacks could be related to intrinsic motivation and help you do just that.1
2. Keep positive thoughts at the forefront of your mental dashboard.
The research is clear on this one. Bryan Sexton’s research out of Duke University revealed that a mere 14 consecutive days of identifying three things each day that went well and how you were involved in each favorable outcome had long-lasting, positive results.2 This intervention may be more effective than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat provider burnout and depression.3
It seems crazy that something so simple can have such profound results; but hey, who are we to argue with science? The brain is amazing and has neuroplasticity so we can retrain and hack our brains to feel more positive emotions, even on the most challenging days. Having a more positive mindset enables us to make better decisions for the clients and patients we serve.
3. Stop Comparing.
Social media can be a great tool to connect with friends and promote our businesses; however, it can also be detrimental to our wellbeing when we see photos of everyone’s vacations and impeccably clean homes. But really, who is going to take a picture of their foyer after a week or month’s worth of mail and Amazon packages have piled up?
You have a unique voice and perspective that the world needs right now more than ever. When you feel like you don’t fit in or aren’t like everyone else, remind yourself that you offer an important perspective and are a valuable team member. After all, if you weren’t there, your unique voice and perspective wouldn’t be there to advocate for your patients’ wellbeing either.
Often, uncertainty and stress can arise from simply not living in alignment with our values or trying too hard to be like everyone else to fit into any given situation. Others don’t need to appreciate or like you for you to appreciate you. The three good things (3GT) practice described above can help here, too.
When we focus and pay attention to all of the good we are creating in the world, there’s less time for stress, worry or playing the comparison game. Researchers found that limiting social media use, across all platforms, to 30 minutes or less per day resulted in an improved sense of wellbeing.4
Spending just ten minutes a day thinking or journaling about the three good things that happened today and how we were a part of that can have long-lasting and positive effects on our mental health for up to a year after only two weeks of this daily practice.
If you can’t find ten more minutes in your day, here’s a time-neutral way to fit these hacks into your busy day: Trade ten minutes of social media consumption to find time for this activity and see how good it feels to recognize yourself for a job well done. +
- Ng, B. (2018, January 26). The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836039/
- Roth, B. (n.d.). Three Easy Ways to Find Your Resilience. Duke Today. https://today.duke.edu/2016/02/resilience
- Sexton, J. B., & Adair, K. C. (2019, March 1). Forty-five Good Things. BMJ Open. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/3/e022695
- Holmes, L. (2018, November 14). This Is How Much Time You Should Spend On Social Media Per Day. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-much-time-on-social-media_n_5be9c148e4b0783e0a1a8281