In June I attended the Canadian Women in Medicine meeting in Victoria, British Columbia.  I met amazing women physicians from all over Canada and was inspired by my sisters who are making tremendous contributions.

One of the small group exercises we were given was to share a “life hack” that we had found to be personally useful.

One woman at my table told us that if you’re not sure which side of the car your gas tank is on, there is a little arrow beside the gas gauge icon on the dashboard that points to the correct side.  I can’t believe that with all the cars I’ve owned and rented that I never noticed that!

Sometimes we need someone to point something out to us that may seem obvious, but that we haven’t figured out yet.

With this in mind, I decided to share with my new friends a piece of coaching wisdom that I have found to be a “small but mighty” concept that can be applied in all sorts of ways to make your life better.

Here it is: 

Human experiences are always 50% positive and 50% negative.

Not 80:20, not 70:30, but 50:50.

Take for example the question “What do you want from life?”  The 2 most common answers to this question are “I don’t know” and “I just want to be happy”.

We know that it isn’t realistic to be happy 100% of the time, but we think that it is reasonable to aim for being happy 80% of the time.  But the rule is:  everything is always 50:50.  So when we’re aiming to experience positive emotions 80% of the time, but 50% of the time we’re experiencing negative emotions, we end up judging ourselves.  We think that there’s something wrong with our life and that we need to change it.  Probably we just need a different job, different spouse, or different hair colour.  But what’s really wrong is the premise that we started with.

There is so much relief in this knowledge.  And here’s what it looks like in practice:    You have a really crappy day at work.  Your clinic was overbooked, and you had to stay late to finish your charts, so you missed dinner and your kid’s soccer game, again.  

Before you might have responded by running through the litany of reasons why it is impossible to have a balanced life and practice medicine.  However,  now that you understand that everything is always 50:50 you simply think to yourself “I had a bad day, but it is just part of the 50:50.”  Immediately you move into acceptance and free up your brain space for better questions such as “How can I use the rest of the day to rest and recover and spend time with my family?”

This might sound overly simplistic.  But don’t take my word for it.  Experiment with practicing the thought “This is just part of the 50:50” whenever appropriate.  Let me know in the comments if you find it helpful.

If you need more help figuring out how to live a balanced life in medicine, I invite you to try a free, no-obligation coaching session with me by clicking here.

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