I’ve observed many times over the years that senior doctors who are in leadership roles or in career difficulty often have one thing in common- somewhere along the way from school, university or postgraduate training, they have lost their love of learning. Something seems to happen to doctors during the process of medical education which socialises us to become fixed on goals (the next exam, the CCT, the GP/ Consultant job) and which causes us to lose sight of the values that drive us and our love of learning along the way.
In her book ‘Growth Mindset’, Professor Carol Dweck outlined that there are two main mindsets that people commonly have – a growth mindset (characterised by a love of learning, love of the process, life as a journey to be lived, failure as part of the journey and an opportunity for learning and growth), and a fixed mindset (goal orientated, only as good as your next success). Building on my background in psychology as well as medicine, I read about this ten years ago and realised that I had fallen into a fixed mindset, and set about learning how to change this.
Like most of the work that I do as a Medical Leadership Coach and Medical Careers Coach, developing a growth mindset is, at the end of the day, a skill to learn. We start off being unconsciously incompetent, with awareness and some time and effort we become consciously incompetent (ouch, this stage can really hurt), to eventually becoming consciously competent and then unconsciously competent.
In discussing growth mindset with a number of senior doctor clients recently, I have been wondering when a fixed mindset starts to take hold of people. ‘I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a young child’ is a not uncommon statement. Unpacking the goal ‘being a doctor’ from the process ‘developing and using specific clinical skills in order to relieve suffering and improve health’ and the associated professional values ‘taking a stand for empathy and integrity’ often needs a period of reflection – especially when things are not working out or a leadership role is feeling overwhelming.
The good news is that by developing a growth mindset and greater clarity around what really matters to us, we can flourish in our roles at work and rejuvenate our careers and working lives.
Dr Fiona Day (MBChB, FFPH, Dip Occ Med, ILM 7 Executive Coaching and Mentoring) is an expert Medical Leadership and Medical Careers Coach. Fiona helps Doctors and Healthcare Professionals to succeed as Leaders and to improve their careers and working lives, using evidence based psychological theory and behaviour change science. Download a free career planning workbook and find out more at www.fionadayconsulting.co.uk; to explore working with Fiona please book a confidential half hour Career Consultation here.