Welcome to Mindfulness in Medicine, a monthly column by best-selling author Anne Bruce designed to cultivate leadership and collaborative relationships among hospital leaders, nurses, providers and ancillary staff. Mindfulness is a powerful leadership tool that enhances emotional intelligence in medicine. It is a tool that, when practiced, can help us develop and implement relational coaching skills and illuminate various ways to improve hospital operations and cross-departmental performance. Mindfulness also improves our capacity for decision-making and participatory medicine, all while enhancing our own health and well-being. Your comments and insights on these postings are greatly valued.
When we are mindful, we live by design, not by default. By being mindful, we also become essentialists. We become more present and don't allow distractions to rule the day.
Essentialism is about being in control of our choices (like where to spend our precious time and energy) instead of giving others permission to choose for us. And given the job demands and pace of change of in the healthcare industry, it's an important consideration for providers.
Just the general concept of responding to life's situations versus reacting to them gives most of us a feeling of calm and inner control.
Let's say you don't feel well. You visit your primary care provider and she gives you a prescription to take that will hopefully make you feel better. But it doesn't, and instead you break out in a rash. You return to her office and you are told that you are having a "reaction" to the medicine. Not a good thing.
A new prescription is written. You begin to feel better, and when you return for a follow-up visit, you are told how well you are doing and that you are "responding" to treatment. That sounds a lot better, right?
Responding to what happens in our lives — discerning critical elements of the day and choosing the best way to move forward, vs. reacting to others' perceived needs — almost always results in a better, healthier outcome, both on the job and at home.
In the healthcare industry, providers are often pressed to do the impossible and stress levels are high. Being mindful and thinking like an essentialist (rather than making choices reactively) can help healthcare professionals to distinguish the vital few from the trivial many.
Essentialist thinking makes us mindful of what we are consciously choosing in the moment. By doing this, we remove annoying obstacles and inconveniences so that we can focus on essential matters with greater clarity. Essentialism and mindfulness allow us to redesign old ways of thinking and discard old habits developed over a lifetime.
In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Crown Business), author Greg McKeown emphasizes that essentialism married with mindfulness is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies. Knowing this makes the execution of our ideas, solutions, patient care and other processes easier and more effortless.
In other words, mindfulness and essentialism work in tandem. They both provide paths to new levels of success and meaning in both our professional and personal lives.
Do you think like an essentialist? To find out, answer "agree" or "disagree" to the following:
If you agreed with most of these statements, you may be practicing what is called "non-essentialism." Fortunately, as we'll discuss later, it's possible to replace these thoughts and behaviors with more constructive ones.
None of us can truly manage time — there are only 24 hours in every day. However, we can definitely choose to manage what we do with the time we are allotted.
Essentialism is much more than time management, or a way to improve productivity on the job. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is truly essential and then eliminating what is not so we can give the best of ourselves to our work and family.
When we get mindful about what really matters -- patients and healthcare's overall benefit -- we become laser-focused on the essentials, not the non-essentials that can consume us and dilute our effectiveness.
When we start to focus on what really matters — what's absolutely essential — we begin to apply more selective criteria for how we spend our time, money and energy in the healthcare arena.
The model below explains how essentialism looks and sounds — and how you can replace problem thoughts and behaviors with more constructive ones.
The non-essentialist is thinking …
The mindful essentialist is thinking …
The non-essentialist is in pursuit of doing more (not better) and says …
The mindful essentialist is in pursuit of less (but at higher quality) and says …
In both work and personal life, the non-essentialist is …
In work and personal life, the mindful essentialist is …
Thanks in large part to the Internet, almost all of us have observed the exponential increase in choices over the last decade. As a result, many of us have lost sight of the most important ones. This is why a return to mindfulness and essentialism is critical, especially in healthcare.
For the first time, the preponderance of choice has overwhelmed our ability to manage it. Psychologists call this "decision fatigue." The more choices we are forced to make under extreme life pressures, the more the quality of our ultimate decisions deteriorates.
Simply put, we can't have it all. Or can we?
Check back to read Part 2 of this article on mindful essentialism by Anne Bruce next month.
Anne Bruce has provided training and performance coaching for Vituity. She also serves as MBSI's Employee Development Coach and Leadership Facilitator. Anne is a bestselling author with more than 20 books published by McGraw-Hill Publishing, New York. She considers her award-winning life-coaching book, Discover True North: A 4-Week Approach to Ignite Passion and Activate Potential (McGraw-Hill Publishing) to be one of her most "mindful" books to date. She also leads a popular Discover True North Expedition group on LinkedIn. Anne can be reached at 214-507-8242 or by writing to her at Anne@AnneBruce.com.