Welcome to Episode #63. What's it actually like to get coaching? What does it entail? And what are the impacts of it? I'm Kristi Angevine, your host. Today, you get to hear directly from one of my clients. Dr. Margaret Baum is a gynecologist working in family planning, who joins me to share what she learned and what's changed in her life since going through group and private coaching with me. Ready? Let's get started.
Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician, and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.
Hello, hello, everyone. If you've ever wondered what coaching is, and what it entails, you're in for a treat today as you get to hear the inside scoop from one of my clients, Dr. Margaret Baum. Margaret was a client in HOPP, Habits On Purpose for Physicians, the small group coaching program for women physicians only. And she then became a private client of mine.
After medical school at Johns Hopkins residency and OB-GYN at Washington University School of Medicine, she did general practice and OB-GYN for about 15 years and is currently the medical director at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region in southwest Missouri.
Today, you'll hear what she thought of coaching before she started doing it, why she decided to invest time and money into it, and what shifted in her life as a result. I know you're going to find it really valuable. So, let's dive in, shall we?
Kristi Angevine: I'm here with a lovely Dr. Margaret Baum, whose name, hopefully, I didn't butcher too much. But she will correct me if I did. And Margaret, can you introduce yourself to the listeners?
Margaret: Certainly, I am a gynecologist in the St. Louis metropolitan and Illinois area. I work in the specific field of family planning. And I am a client of Kristi’s.
Kristi: Which is why it's so fun to get to chat here. So, right now they can't see this, but for the listeners I will describe; there's these beautiful green walls behind Margaret now. So, can you share why your walls are green, and the hobby that's related to this, and then maybe something that you're passionate about, in addition to your amazing work and family planning?
Margaret: Absolutely. I am coming to you live from my sewing room/office. I definitely have the sewing room part first. And yes, you're right, the walls are a bright, vibrant green. The rest of my house is very colorful as well. I like a lot of color in my hair, my clothes, my wall paint.
And as much as I love my career and work in family planning and working with reproductive health, getting folks to the reproductive health choices that they want and need for their families, which is my passion. My other passion is sewing, and creativity. I am a quilter and knitter, and all of those things are things that I think actually complement my career.
I think medicine and surgery specifically is very creative, and this is just another outlet for my creativity. Something I've done really, ever since I was very little and something that I do spend a lot of time on. It really nurtures me and really in a lot of the same ways that work does, as well.
Kristi: And you've used the word whimsical to describe some of your creations sometimes. And I think that's such a perfect choice because I've seen some of the outfits you've made. I imagine that many people, when they think of family planning, they don't think of this passion that's quite creative and vibrant, like you just described.
Margaret: We think, oh, yes, there are strict protocols, and this is the way you do things, this is the right antibiotic to treat this condition. And of course, there are those things. And there are very set guidelines for things. But also, we're taking care of people, right? And we're not just taking care of, or not at all, just taking care of diseases or conditions. We're taking care of people, and people are unbelievably complex, which I think is beautiful and wonderful.
I can definitely come up with a quilting patchwork analogy here, of all the little pieces that go together. But I actually really do love that. I mean, I think my other passion is I'm also a really avid reader. I was an English major many years ago and I like to write and read. And I think all of these things really fit together.
I really like to think about, when I meet new patients, even if I'm meeting them for a three-minute procedure, I really like to try and get to know their story because I think we are all made up of stories. And I think, again, that all goes together with patchwork and creativity and creating something beautiful out of lots of, sometimes, messy little parts.
Kristi: I just can't express in words how much I love that, and how much I love all these probably unspoken sewing and quilt analogies, in terms of how life goes and how being a physician goes. So, the question that I have for you… As you know, the way that we met was through coaching, not through gynecology. Even though I, every now and then, think that I do have a parallel life in which I worked in family planning and did all the things that I know that you do.
What I'm curious about is, before you entered coaching, what did you think of when somebody said, “life coaching”?
Margaret: I think it was really a new concept. I think maybe I had some very vague thoughts about executive coaching. Like, folks that are in these high power, big, financial responsibility, big responsibilities for companies. I thought maybe those folks might have some coaches. Or people that were taking on very new positions. So, maybe moving from a clinical to a leadership position, might get some coaching. I thought about it in terms of mentoring.
So, if you were going from becoming a practicing physician to a medical director or a CMO, you would get mentoring from other medical directors, other CMOS. And I, myself, have gone through some of that. And I think there is a component of that, but I think it is so much more.
And I think the other distinction that I was not really clear about is the difference between coaching and therapy. Because we think about therapy, as well. I, myself, have had some experiences with therapy in the past, which had been very, very helpful. I do think it's different. I think the training from the coaches versus a therapist, that background is different and certainly informs the process going forward.
Kristi: Absolutely. And this makes me just want to say that it'd be amazing if we all came out of the womb and we had a team of mentors, coaches, our crew of therapists, that were going to always be there with us through medical school, middle school, marriage, all the things that are challenges.
But each of those are very different roles. And there are overlaps between those very distinct roles. But there's something amazing about mentoring, and some mentors are amazing coaches. There's something really amazing about therapy, and some therapists act in the capacity of a coach. And there's so much overlap between therapy, mentoring, and coaching, but they are still quite distinct.
Margaret: Right. I think so, too. And I do love that idea, right? I think we all need a community. And we all need all these sorts of different aspects. I think at one point, I remember you talking about coaching. And talking about how, in some ways, it's a little bit like talking to a friend, but they're not your friend. And not in a bad way, of course. But I think about that a lot.
Because I'm somebody that, I feel very fortunate, I have a really great group of women friends, most of whom are physicians, just because that's how life works, right? Who really understand me and understand my work and understand where I am in parenting and marriage and everything else.
But coaching is very different. And in that, yes, my friends will always support me, but a coach will actually, and you do this so well, will point out ways that I'm thinking and ways that I could potentially be thinking differently, that I would not have seen and that a friend, I think, would not point out. I think that's it's all extremely valuable, and what I have realized is we really need all of these things.
Kristi: You touched on a really important idea that, just in general, when people think of coaching many times they don't quite know the difference between an executive coach, a mentor, or a strategist to help you to update your CV, to find a different job, or a therapist. And then, sometimes the next connotation is, well, it's just like an accountability cheerleader friend that you pay. And it's definitely for the elite. Right? It's not just for all the people.
But the difference is, and lest anyone think that I'm not very friendly, and I joke, because the idea that coaches and friends are different is such an important one. Because our friends are there to let us vent to them, to say, Oh, my gosh, absolutely. Let's go over there and kick their ass. I totally have got your back.” And to be that support crew to help us feel heard and also commiserate with us.
And then when you cross over into coaching, there's the, “And what are we going to do about this? And how are your thoughts totally shaping your experience? And are they something you want to question?” And that's a totally different line, right?
Margaret: Right. And I think, again, you need both.
Kristi: 100%. Also, on that note, given what you thought about coaching, what was it that made you join The Habits On Purpose for Physicians small group coaching?
Margaret: Yeah, so I first learned about coaching and about your coaching from your podcast. And that was actually from, which is probably a whole nother component of community and support, was from the OB-GYN moms Facebook group. Which has also, I think, been a really valuable resource for myself and lots of other moms in gynecology.
And so, that's how I started listening to your podcast. I listened from the very beginning, which I think was really fortunate. And the beginning first episodes were about thought work and how thoughts create feelings. And this was a completely new concept to me. Obviously, I've been having thoughts for 40-something years and lots of feelings during all of that time.
And it just, I mean, it really floored me how I had not drawn the connection between the thoughts that I was having, millions and millions of thoughts every day, and how I was feeling. And then, how those feelings were impacting my action, my relationships, my work, how I use my time, all of those things. It was a completely new concept and fascinating.
Most of us in medicine, who have been in academia are pretty cerebral. And so, thinking about thinking is also pleasurable, and very attractive, I think. I was just really drawn to these ideas, and so I wanted to learn more. And when the opportunity came up for the small group coaching session, that really seemed ideal.
I remember actually sitting with my husband on a Sunday afternoon, and I believe the deadline was the next day to sign up. And I'd been thinking about it for a while. And it is a big commitment in terms of time and money. I was reading through the list that you had. At the end, you would send an email on the list. At the end of the email, it was, do you think you're not a perfectionist, but you have these tendencies and want to change being reactionary? And a number of things that I was like, “Oh, check, check, check, check, yes, all of these things.”
And so, it seemed like a really a good idea and a good investment. I think of things in terms of investments a lot, just because maybe reaching the middle of my life, I know that there's a finite amount of time. And I know, time with patients is finite, time with my husband, time with my children, all of these things are finite. And so, I really do like to think about where I spend my time and my energy and my money. And this seemed worthwhile.
And the small group experience was really, really valuable to me. It worked out, I was really fortunate. I have some flexibility in my schedule, and so it worked out really well that I was able to attend, I think almost all of the meetings. Occasionally you get called away for something or have to run do something in the middle, but it's very flexible. And that's great for busy physicians.
It was really helpful to me to have such a structured program as an introduction to thought work. The program, as I'm sure you've explained, there are different modules with recorded lectures, and then some worksheets, and then a meeting once a week with whoever can attend.
Sometimes it was going over what had been presented in the lectures. And then sometimes it was just coaching, myself being coached or observing other folks being coached. And this, again, was my real introduction to coaching. I really had no experience with it before. Both, experiencing some coaching with bringing some things to the group. And then, really observing and listening and watching other people being coached. really helped me realize, yes, this is actually very valuable.
And then I began. It was a six-month program. And as the six months progressed, I became very aware that I was using the things that I was learning in my daily life. So, I was much more aware of my thoughts, and then my feelings, and much more connected to my body. And your approach of having some component of semantics in with this coaching, again, that was something really new and different to me.
And also, something that I've found very, very valuable and have continued to use. And so, I saw changes in the way I was thinking and the way I was feeling. I was feeling less anxious. I was enjoying my work more. I felt more connected with my spouse and my children. Which are all amazing positive things and everything that I want.
I felt hooked and felt that, yes, this is something, in endless depths, to explore in our brains, in our minds, and in our thoughts and thought work. And so when the group ended, I thought, “This is something I really want to continue. I want to continue work on my own, but I also think having someone that has this training to guide me to, to meet regularly, to hold some accountability, makes a lot of sense.” That was really long.
Kristi: That was really amazing. I was thinking, as you're going along, I was like, “And I was really curious about this aspect, and she answered it for me.” It's so perfect. I love it. So, in mentioning that, talking about the structure with the meetings and how we have that program structured, I think it's nice for people to know that when they come in that's what they can expect. And it's so nice to hear your experience of it.
I'm curious, a couple of things that you mentioned, that I just want to ask about. That people do have a lot of questions about when you're coming into a group, and you're coming to a group that you may not know any of the people, and you're new to coaching, and you even just have certain preconceptions about what it what it is.
One of the most common things I hear people ask about is, how is it useful to just watch someone else be coached? So, I'm curious, what was your experience when you were observing others?
Margaret: While coaching and thought work, obviously, is applicable to everyone, I do think having a specific group for physicians and for folks who identify as women, at least as an introduction, was very, very helpful to me.
So, there was not a time when someone brought up an issue with coaching, and it may have been very specific to her practice, like ‘this thing happened in my radiology practice’, which is different, very different than my practice.
But once the actual coaching started, and the examination of, what were the thoughts and feelings about what was going on, I realized, “I'm not doing breast biopsies, but the thoughts and feelings and circumstances that are creating what this person is dealing with, I can see that when I'm stressed, when patients aren't in the O.R. on time,” or whatever.
I think medicine is a very special and specific field, not that things aren't applicable to all folks, but I do think being in that environment with folks that really understand what a lot of the day-to-day life is, and also understand what the background is. So, what the history of getting to where we are entails. I think medical school and residency, even though it's different for different fields, there is a lot of similarity and a lot of the same things that we all went through that, for better or worse, got us where we are today.
That environment in which everybody is starting at the same place and has that same background and understands, really made watching other people be coached very easy to apply to myself. I would sit and listen and take notes and things, like “Oh, I want to think more about that. I want to read more about that. Think about how I'm feeling in these situations, and how it applies.” And so, that happened, I would say, routinely, when I was listening to other people being coached.
Kristi: I love how you describe that, that there's that foundational base that you shared with the other women in the group. And you could see all the circumstances were wildly different. That we all share very similar mindset patterns and emotional responses. And how when we can be out of the hot seat watching somebody else describe things, we sometimes have so much more clarity. Noticing their thoughts and feelings, and then go, “Oh, my gosh, that can apply so much to me.”
You mentioned being more aware of your thoughts and feelings and feeling less anxious. What were some of your main takeaways or insights that you got from going through that process?
Margaret: I think a couple of things. The first was the connection to my body. This, in some ways, it seems wild that at 47 I'm thinking about connecting to my body, and where that did not happen before. But I also think it makes sense.
You've explained this as well when we think about residency training, right? I'm at the age where I trained before the 80-hour work week. I remember being in the hospital for three days at a time not getting able to go home, not being able to sleep an entire night, having to work the next day and be in the operating room, be on my feet, and not knowing when I was going to eat, drink, pee, next.
So, it made sense that you needed to dissociate so you could function and get through all of that. It's the same, as you know, having little kids, newborns, infants. You have to learn to get up every 45 minutes and then go to work the next day and be on call and everything else. And so, it makes sense that you do some of that dissociation in order to just survive through some of that. Some of that is really survival.
So, prior to doing coaching, I would have feelings that I think I can probably describe as anxiety. They were literally physical feelings, but I wasn't necessarily experiencing them as physical feelings. So, one of the things I really learned was to actually sit with these feelings. And my go-to response in the past was, “This feels yucky. I don't want to feel like this. What else can I do instead? Can I work? Can I have a glass of wine? Can I go exercise? Can I watch some TV or eat some food, so I won't feel this way?”
And turns out, that doesn't work very well, because those feelings keep coming back. And what I learned is actually sitting, acknowledging, and feeling them in my body, which is something I had never done before, and never really taken the time to actually experience where things were. And I've become so much more comfortable and skilled with that. And it is uncomfortable at first, right? Feeling these, they're not necessarily comfortable feelings, but they're legitimate.
And so, actually having that connection, and there were all kinds of tips and tricks and very concrete things you could do. I think that's another part of this, they are very concrete suggestions; sit here with your feet on the floor, turn this way, turn this way.
I have continued to do those things and write myself little reminders from time to time that this is a good activity when you're feeling different feelings. So that connection, the connection with my body, has been a huge shift for me. And something that I have found extremely valuable in, again, feeling feelings, and maybe moving away from continually trying to suppress uncomfortable feelings. So, that's really the first thing.
And then the second thing is being aware of thoughts. So, always, I've had a gazillion thoughts running through my head. And sometimes, from time to time, I journal more or write down lists or things. And they can be things from, “Oh, I should buy this from my sister for her birthday in six months,” versus, “I'm not a good surgeon, and I shouldn't be doing this case today. I'm not taking care of this patient appropriately.” The whole gamut of things.
But I wasn't actually recognizing that those thoughts were running through my mind. And so now, when I am in a situation, a circumstance that generates thoughts and feelings, I am much more likely to be able to take a step back, the thoughts still come, but to be able to take a step back and say, “My husband made an offhand comment about my pajamas last night.”
And instead of just all of a sudden feeling like, I'm going to cry because he doesn't love me and this is the end of our marriage, to be able to step back and say, “Hmm, he made a comment about my pajamas that's really fairly neutral. But my thought about that is, he doesn't find me attractive, and our marriage is in trouble.”
And then to look at that thought, and say, “Hmm, that's coming from this and this and this; past insecurities.” And again, to be able to look more objectively at that. And what I have found is that I'm then able to pivot from falling into feeling terrible, and not wanting to talk to him, and losing the rest of our weekend together.
To being able to examine that plot and say, “Yeah, that is something.” And a lot of times, I'll think that's something I probably would like to work on in coaching later on, or that I'd like to do some more thought work about. But I'm able to recognize it as a thought and that there's choice there as well, right? That I can choose to think about his comment in a bunch of different ways.
And I found that really helpful in coaching, too. I will sometimes get in this monolithic thinking, like, “This is what the truth is.” And sometimes you specifically will say, “Think about it this way. Oh, my goodness.” And so, I think that's really helpful.
And I found, I mean, just like you exercise a muscle, right? I found that that's a skill that has grown and that I am able to come up with some alternate thoughts oftentimes, about circumstances and then able to look through them and think, “I think I'd rather choose that one right now.”
And again, they're not truths, they're mutable, and things change. But that skill itself. So, being much more observant of thoughts and recognizing them as thoughts versus truths, has really just changed my day-to-day thinking.
Kristi: I just want to highlight to everybody listening to this, I think it would be worthwhile just to rewind and listen to that again, because you dropped so many important pieces there. The classic disconnection from our physical experience, that many of us walk around a head without much of a body, in order to cope and get through our training.
And just as a nice shout out to anybody who's listening to what Margaret is saying and thinking, “What do you mean feel my feelings? I don't have time to sit on my meditation pillow and feel…” we get that. And both of us have been experts in the past with compartmentalizing, pushing our emotions to the side, so that you can go from one room to the next, one surgery to the next.
It's a really resourceful approach, and yet when you don't need that, when you aren't waking up every 45 minutes to attend to a baby and then get going, you also don't need to not feel things. And that reconnection with your physical experience is something that takes time, but it's very doable once you know how to do it.
Like you said, there's very concrete ways to do it. So, in case anyone out there is thinking, “Yes, I'm completely disconnected from my intuition, my physical experience of emotions,” it's so common, and it makes perfect sense based on most of our histories. And then you pointed out that even once you become aware of your thoughts, the thoughts don't just stop the automatic default narratives.
And refrains that come up, I like to think of them as the radio stations that we maybe try to unsubscribe from, but they keep playing, they do come up. But once you can recognize them, you get a little perspective from them. Like stepping away from a pane of glass where you realize, “There’s glass there, I can see that.”
Once you can step away, then you can be like you said, you can notice them, recognize there may be other ways of thinking about things. If you wanted, you can question why you might have those thoughts, what deep seated beliefs might be feeling them.
And then you can tap into the beautiful place that coaching can help us get to, which is a sense of choice. How do I want to think? How do I make sense and yet, what do I now want to do?
Margaret: Right, and this brings me up to another part that has been very positive for me. Is to think about that we do have some control about our thoughts and feelings, because there's so much in our world, we absolutely have no control over, right? I have no control over if my marriage ends tomorrow, or my children get sick, or my parents get sick, or whatever, my career may end, all of those things.
I don't have control. And that's hard, I think, for a lot of us. That's really, really hard. And so, to at least feel like I do have control about what thoughts and subsequently, what feelings. Again, it's not perfect, and it's not a rigid control. But then I have some choice there.
Because so much of our world is so chaotic and unpredictable, and that's the way it is. I think that's very reassuring. And that certainly really helps with day-to-day anxiety and about all the things that I can't control.
Kristi: Yeah, it's such a great point. Because there's what we can control, and there's what we cannot. Sometimes we don't realize which is in which bucket. And sometimes just recognizing, yeah, I cannot control the weather, and I can control my thoughts about the weather. I mean, I wouldn't be able to control what thoughts percolate up for me, but I can think about how I want to think about the fact that I have those thoughts about all the things I can't control.
And that is part of the fun of it, is recognizing that there is that ability to notice and to feel differently and then to choose on purpose, even when things are difficult. Because this teaching isn't about getting to the place of just 100% feeling like bliss, serenity, contentment, and peace. That's another misnomer, that coaching is just about positivity, appreciation, and gratitude. Those things are part of our experience, but that's not the goal.
Margaret: And I think all of that is right. Or you want the full, I want the full human experience, right? And I want to be able to feel all of the things. And it's not about not ever feeling anxious or sad or upset or overwhelmed. I mean, I will continue to feel all those things, but I'm actually feeling them versus just feeling them briefly and saying, “I don't want to feel that.”
I think it's actually a much more fully human experience to feel them. And then to have some reflection and some thought and be able to process thoughts and feelings, versus really trying to push them aside in search of this and that. I think it actually comes through the processing and through feeling the feelings, not through getting rid of them and moving to something else. Does that make sense?
Kristi: Oh my gosh, 100%. We can't whitewash the human experience. unless we want to. And we can survive there but thriving means opening up to all of it. And it's sometimes hard to do if you nobody's taught us how to do that. So, most of us were not sat down in elementary school, and somebody said, “Oh, these are some things you can do, and you have big feelings.” Thank goodness it's a different world out there now. Our children are learning things differently than we learned. But it's all learnable. Right?
Margaret: Right. I think it is. And I think it's also valuable to look at, not only were we not taught those things, but I also think a lot of our experiences taught us the opposite. That other ways to deal with things, which, again, as you point out have been helpful. Yet, you had to push through when you were nursing babies, and being on call, and everything else. There was no choice.
But I think it taught you things that now don't serve anymore. I really do appreciate being able to look back at experiences and say, “Yeah, it makes sense that I feel this way, because I had to survive being on call for three days.” But now I don't have to do that anymore. I can look at that as “Yeah, thank you, you served me well. You got me to where I am today. You got me into this position with this family and these children, in this career. And I'm so grateful for all of that. But now I can do things a different way.”
Kristi: Yeah, I think that's such a key piece is to be able to look back. And instead of mourning and being upset or angry about coping habits and patterns that we learned, that may not serve us now, to be like, “How resourceful of me. How crafty. How amazing was I being really scrappy, and doing things that work?”
And recognizing some of those same techniques, they work great if you're in the last mile of your marathon and you want to push through and be like, “Okay, how can I…?” It’s amazing. And sometimes there's an underbelly. And when you can do, as you so nicely alluded to, when you can unlearn the things that we were taught, and then piece them back together in a way that really does serve you, that’s good.
If we're going to have any zen in coaching, that's where it is. It’s, how do I offer my experience in a way that feels really great to me and authentic to this, big, messy, finite human life?
Margaret: Yeah, and that's, again, where I think some of the connections that I have with coaching, with medicine, with selling, all of the things. It's this idea of all these pieces and all this complexity, and I wouldn't want it any other way, but how that all pieces together to create this very specific to me human experience that has all these parts, all these other folks and other experiences and other lives.
But ultimately, it's the pieces and the stories that have created my life. And again, there's my quilting, my patchwork metaphor. But I mean, I do love that. And I think seeing lots of disparate parts come together into something beautiful is really a great metaphor for sewing and for our lives and our thoughts.
Kristi: Yeah. So, when you think about your journey through this and the things that you've learned about emotions, about noticing thoughts, about unlearning, and piecing together something differently. I can't say the quilt analogy as nicely as you just did, but when you think about that, what are your thoughts about how it's impacted your life, your work, your relationships, your friendships?
Margaret: When I started the small group coaching session, you suggested writing down some goals. I thought that was really helpful to take the time to look at where I was, and where I hoped to be. And very specifically, I wanted to feel less intense anxiety. Anxiety about family things about… Really, I felt like, again, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. I have noticed over the six months of the program, and then another couple of months of coaching, that yes, I still certainly do experience anxiety. I think anxiety is part of our human experience.
But that I am able to, number one, sometimes anticipate situations in which I think anxiety is going to occur, then prepare for what I think is going to come, and then specifically choose some thoughts to practice that may result in overall less anxiety. So, I have noticed that very specifically.
And then to make this thought work and the coaching part of the routine. I think we're all creatures of habit and doing things routinely, like we talked about, patterns of thought, you actually then think them. So, the small group was really helpful in that. It was a set meeting, once a week, and then some homework.
And so now in coaching, and you've helped me do this too, I have some time that I set aside every day to look at the thoughts that I had during the day and do some reflection on them. And then I got some of your reflection back. And so, it feels organized. And even though it doesn't feel like it's finite, that this isn't work that you're done with it, right? In December I'll be done with a thought work and then I don't have to do anymore.
I wish, right? You wish exercise was like that, too. Right? I've exercised, I’m done forever. But I think having a routine and a pattern worked. I have played around with different things that have worked well, better, or not worked well. And I like what I'm doing now, and so having that routine gives me, again, a very hopeful outlook that this work is valuable, and that I will continue doing it. And that I will continue to grow more and learn more about myself.
Which really, again, enriches my experience, and allows me to be more fully present with all of the things in my life and feeling all of the thoughts and emotions, experiencing them. But actually, experiencing them, and stepping back and observing them as well. Which again, I think, ultimately for me, I can be very present with wherever I need to be.
So, if that's present with a learner at work, to actually teach. And that's something I found really frustrating in the past, is when you're busy and you've got somebody that you've got to teach, that can seem really like an extra burden. And then you feel bad that you're not doing a good job teaching and etc.
And so, when I'm able to actually be present with someone that I'm teaching versus present with a patient versus present with my husband or present with my work, I feel like this has given me a lot of clarity to be able to do that. And also, to think, “Yep, there's thoughts going on. I'm going to look at those later tonight. And right now, I'm going to be with this person, and be present.” It just feels a lot more organic and full. And that presence really does feel like being able to actually be present with myself, but also present with others.
Kristi: And that sense of presence, I think it's so much easier once you basically know where you want to go. And then you can get some basic tools like okay, thoughts cause feelings, this is how I [inaudible] my thoughts, this is how I feel my feelings. And then you can get the perspective, not only perspective for me… In Habits On Purpose for Physicians, we have that Slack channel where you can go and share things, and people can get perspective.
But you get perspective from other physicians, so that you can just recognize, “Oh, these are all things that are patterns in my mind. These are emotional responses.” And then with that perspective, then you can go to that place where you have much more presence, because you're not either ruminating or catastrophizing or resisting feelings.
And then you referenced having feedback from me. We have our private Slack space where you're able to share things and develop your routine to get that perspective and doing it with someone else is basically the segue to just doing it with yourself.
Margaret: It feels that way. It feels like the six-month program really gave me a lot of tools to start, again, to think about things that I had never thought about in this way. And so, then that's what I find, is that I'm not so maybe reactionary, to say, a patient being in pain. Which can be a very triggering event. Or a patient responding in a negative way to what's happening.
In the past, it would have been really easy for me to… The thoughts are running, but to skip forward to my feelings, anger, whatever action, and then, later regretting how I behaved. And so now, I really find that I am able to just take that very small step back and think, “Okay, this is a person having a feeling and a reaction. And I am a person having that circumstance. And here are some of my thoughts. And here's how I want to think and respond.”
Again, it's not perfect, and I certainly do react to things we all do. I have really noticed feeling less reactionary to all kinds of experiences has been a very concrete result of this work.
Kristi: I mean, that alone is so powerful. Being able to step back from feelings. I think that happens so rapidly in the moment, and being able to learn the skills that help you slow that down, and then get back into the driver's seat of your own experience.
Or even if you are reactionary in the moment, in the aftermath, be able to look back on that with so much compassion and kindness and like, “Oh, I get why I did that. Makes so much sense. And this is what I want to do instead.” So, one of the things that we talked about a little bit… This is our shout-out to the amazing OBGYN Mom group.
That's where many of us found so much community, so much support, so much camaraderie. And when I think about community, I always think that it's so easy to connect and to grow and learn and heal in community. So, I'm curious, when we think about the community aspect of your coaching experience, what was it like to go through coaching with other women physicians, and to have the container that you had there?
Margaret: I think that was really the ideal introduction, to me, for coaching. Because it felt very comfortable knowing everyone had basically the same background, the same background of medical school and training and experience, as an attending physician. So, I didn't feel like I had to explain, why X, Y and Z is such a difficult thing; people totally get it.
I also think there was a lot of support in the community. So, when someone would be bringing something up, or coaching in a Zoom meeting, there would be chats like, “Oh my gosh, yes, that happened to me. That's amazing. What you're doing is right on.” I think having a community in which, again, you don't always have to explain why things are the way they are.
And again, whether that's in a Facebook group, or most of my friends are physicians, and my husband is a physician, I think that's a really valuable place and safe place. I think it feels very safe, that your experience will be validated and acknowledged, because it's a shared experience.
I wonder if friends that are not in medicine, who are great, and I don't at all discount those friendships, but I think, for me very specifically, having a group of physicians and having a coach that is a physician, and very luckily, a gynecologist, has really made the introduction to all of this work smooth.
And has made things very applicable to my situation. The things that I am dealing with it's very helpful to be able to go over specific interactions, with patients or surgical complications or stress with mid-levels or stressful schedules. To have somebody that you don't have to do all of that explanation with, allows you to then see the bigger picture and apply those tools to those situations, without all that background.
Kristi: It gives you that ability to just to have a sense of shorthand with people around you, which sometimes can be a fast track to a sense of psychological safety. And safety being absolutely key if you're coming into a group and you're being vulnerable, sharing your goals, working on things, in a rather public way on Zoom meetings. It's different than just in a quiet room with no one else there.
So, I think you speak to a really important point that if there isn't that sense of shared experience, sometimes it can take a little bit extra effort to have that sense of safety; totally doable. You don't have to just walk around with a bunch of people who have the same vocation as you. And we all know, lots of people who have the same vocation who have completely different experiences. But the safety piece being key, so I'm really glad that you brought that up.,
Margaret: It felt very much like that was established right away, in the small group. I mean, people were able to be vulnerable, emotions came out. And to know that there was a very supportive community, I think that was very, very helpful. I mean, I remember starting and thinking like, “Oh, my gosh, will I be able to be coached in front of these folks?” And feeling some anxiety about that.
And then when it happens, afterwards, thinking like, “Oh, yeah, that was actually an amazing experience.” I think the one-on-one coaching that I've been doing is very valuable. But I think also being vulnerable and being able to express your thoughts and feelings in front of other folks, where again, that safety is there.
I think that vulnerability really does help you grow and helps you be even more able to explore in that environment, to really plumb the depths of what you're thinking, because you do have that safety net underneath you.
Kristi: Yeah, it's kind of like a meta skill, where when you can practice the skill of articulating what you're noticing, and you do it in a way with the goal of making sure that I understand, that the other people are there get what you're saying. You're practicing the very same skill that you can then go do with yourself. Where you can be vulnerable with yourself. You can notice things and explain things to yourself.
And notice how might I be talking to myself in ways that I think are so much easier, when you've practiced it with others. So, my question for you as we wrap up is, do you have any advice or tips or ideas for people who are considering getting a one-on-one coach? Or they're considering doing coaching through their work, or executive coaching or anything? Or who are considering Habits On Purpose for Physicians? Any things that you would share with them?
Margaret: Yeah, I think that this is the right thing if you have the time to invest. I think that I got a lot out of starting this program, because I committed to it. I committed to being able to get to the Zoom meetings, which wasn't always easy. And I did sometimes need some shuffling around.
I'm really fortunate to be in a position which I have some flexibility to my schedule, and I was able to do that. So, I think something like this might be really difficult for somebody at the beginning of their career or with little kids or who has a very fixed schedule that they don't have a lot of flexibility with.
I don't think that the program wouldn't be valuable, I think it is. But I think also, I set aside time every week prior to the meetings, sometimes early in the morning, sometimes at night, sometimes in the middle of the day, when I had a little bit of time to be able to listen to the lectures and do the worksheets.
And I felt like I was gaining these tools to then apply to the skills that we were learning. I mean, I learned listening to the podcast. I learned listening to other podcasts. But I felt like I was really at this point in my career when I have flexibility, my kids are a little bit older, they have a lot of independence at this point, I have administrative time.
So, I found that really committing to putting the time in. And anything, it takes time, right? Like exercise or learning a new skill, anything, there's no way to do it without time. And so, if this is a point in your life in which you really do want to make these changes, then setting aside a way to invest the time is going to help you get the most out of this experience, feel committed, and then feel eager to continue.
Kristi: I just love that you brought this up, because what it speaks to is that there are people who do group coaching programs, my group coaching program in particular, I can only speak to that. But I know friends and colleagues who have done other programs, and they make none of the calls live. And it's the most transformative experience for them.
But it's not because they signed up and they haphazardly maybe read something here and there, or they have the same degree of commitment that you just described; what I want to work on is worth it. It matters. I matter, and therefore, I'm going to actually invest in me. And so, I'm carving out… These are my two hours to attend the call, or listen to the replay, do some work before and after.
Whatever works for them, it's that desire to actually do something about your experience. And then the willingness to follow through, which isn't always easy. I mean, you mentioned early career, little kids, and there's limited time. Maybe you're not sleeping because your baby's been colicky for a year. That's going to be a really challenging time to take on training for your marathon or entering a coaching program. Right?
But when you can practice that habit of saying, “I'm worth it. This actually matters, and I want to do something for myself, not just for others.” That's a really radical act. And so, I love that you put that to words.
Margaret: It is. And I think we're really very fortunate, all of us, in these professional careers. That as a professional, you do have a little bit more control sometimes over things in your life, than folks not in these roles, right? Like, not everybody, but I mean making choices, right? Like, my choice may be that if I'm going to spend this hour, this evening, before we eat dinner as a family, to spend time on thought work, then I am able to.
Right now, I have teenagers who can put dinner in the oven, but I may have somebody prepare my meals for me for the week. And that's a real privilege, but also, it's a choice, right? I decided that my resources go to that so that I can invest this time in myself. I'm pretty far away from little kids and beginning of career.
And I do remember, even during those times, making choices like, I am going to spend this amount of time preparing. I remember preparing for oral boards when my kids were little. I had to make some choices. My kids had to be with their nanny, so I could study, prepare, and pass this important exam for me.
And so, I think there are really creative ways to carve out that time when this is what you're ready to do. Right at the time when I was preparing for oral boards and had little kids, this would not have been okay. I would not have been able to do a program like this. But now, having flexibility in my career and bigger kids and more resources, I am.
And I think it was really fortuitous, a really fortuitous time in my life that this worked out. And I think we're super resourceful. You made it through residency, medical school, and residency, right? You're a resourceful person.
I think there are really creative ways to figure out which way works for you. Listening to recorded programs later versus joining live meetings versus doing work early in the morning. I think there are really creative ways to do the work that you want to do. And I feel like this has really helped me figure that out. And I know, again via investment and commitment, deciding that this is what I'm going to do. This is important to me. I'm going to make this time.
Kristi: Yeah, I think everybody listening, this is my plug to just remind everybody you're all so resourceful. They're masters at making choices. And sometimes we do forget where we have choice, about the things we do control. It's just so easy. And at the same time, anybody listening whose life is full; your kids are not sleeping through the night, you take obstetric calls…
This is in no way suggesting that you should just make better choices. That's not what either of us are saying, no, no, no. But it is a nice reminder that when you do have that, be clear about what it is you do have; the privilege, the flexibility, the luxury; that if you decide you're ready for coaching, that all the things Margaret talked about, those are absolutely available. And that's kind of just fun to think about.
So, is there anything else that we've missed? As we’re reflecting on coaching and your coaching journey? Anything else you'd want to share?
Margaret: I think that the analogy with exercise is what I keep coming back to; that this is a practice. That, again, I so wish I could exercise once and be done forever, but I can't. And I accepted that. And so, I really, really like to think the thought work is exactly the same as developing new thoughts and patterns, which then results in how I feel and how I act. And that that is a lifelong practice.
And that I will continue to be able to work on these things. That there's not some ultimate goal in the end. That, yes, I have goals along the way, and me and those goals change, but that it is a pattern and a practice. And that again, is so valuable that I want to continue. You get stronger, you want to continue to exercise, it feels good. And so, you want to continue to think about thoughts, observe them, feel the feelings, and continue.
It feels really much like a program of growth. And I think that's maybe right. Again, I'm 47, so I do think about things, about being at midlife. I think it's really wonderful to think that… no, I'm not growing taller. But there's still all of this growth left in my life that potential goes on forever. And I think that's a really positive thing and a really, really inspiring way to think about this work.
Kristi: It's so gorgeous, I love that. I just want to tell you, thank you so much for coming on, spending an hour, and your morning on your day off to come share about your experience. It really fleshes out and makes coaching and thinking about your thoughts and working on your habits, so much more relatable when somebody here, a real person, shares about their real lived experience. So, thank you so much.
Margaret: You’re welcome. I really wanted to do this actually. I think it's been a really transformative experience for me. And probably, my husband's sick of hearing about it, which is fine. But I did want to share because I…
I've talked to lots and lots of friends about… “Wow, this is actually what I'm doing.” And it's new for them as well, and people are interested. And so, I did just really want to share that it has been extremely helpful. Again, it feels transformative and feels like I'm making habits that will continue on in the future.
Kristi: I feel like those commercials where they say, “This is a paid customer, endorsement.” Margaret is not paid to say these amazing things. But this really does speak to a kind of very common experience that many of us have when we find a beautiful fit with coaching. With something that matches our view that this is how it turns out. So, thank you for telling everybody about your experience. And I hope everybody listening enjoyed listening to Margaret’s story.
Margaret: Have a great day.
Are you ready to start your own coaching journey? If what you heard this week resonated, why wait? To get started with private coaching, where you get my expert guidance to understand why you think, feel, and act as you do. So, that you can exit that hamster wheel of anxiety, self-criticism, guilt over not doing enough. So, you can start being intentional. You can schedule an appointment to chat directly with me at HabitsOnPurpose.com/consult.
Or, if Internal Family Systems and the idea of the mind as a multiplicity of distinct parts that interact, kind of like an external family interacts, if this is intriguing you can better understand your own different parts with an Internal Family Systems session. You can still sign up for a single session using Internal Family Systems informed coaching at HabitsOnPurpose.com/IFS.
Finally, if having a community and working alongside other women physicians lights you up. You want to get on the waitlist for my group coaching program. You can learn all the details at HabitsOnPurpose.com/HOPP. I'll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.