Heart space


Yesterday I had the opportunity and privilege to experience a live life planning coaching session with the amazing Dr. Weili Gray. She needed a volunteer for her workshop, reached out, and me being an extroverted extrovert, of course I said yes! Win – Win!

As I sit outside in the morning sunshine, sipping coffee, and listening to the birds chirping, I find myself reflecting on our session.

I’m realizing I am a person that actively accesses my heart-space. I’m able to live in the moment. Focus on what’s right in front of me, and live in the present. It’s one of the qualities that makes me a great physician. I focus on the patient in the room as my top priority and am able to listen – really listen and hear what they are saying to me, and ask follow up questions to gain further information – which often leads to me discovering important pieces of information others have missed.

I’m good at letting go, forgetting, forgiving, and not dwelling on the past or what could have been. Freeing myself of unpleasant feelings, and finding the positive in situations. Coming to terms with what is, and finding a path forward – although not always immediately. I’m good at acting impulsively to do what’s needed at the time/in the moment, suppressing my feelings and doing what needs to be done. Pushing myself into action. It’s later on when the full impact of the experience will hit me.

I react. I do. I let go. I move on. (Sometimes it takes days, months, or years, but I usually get there.)

Yet, I have trouble dreaming. Imaging what could be. Envisioning wants, needs, true possibilities. Planning. I’m a master of the moment, I can access how I might want my life to be different, yet have difficulty imaging it actually coming to fruition. I accept and can live for today, yet have trouble planning, wishing, envisioning what could be years from now.

I believe in what’s possible. I believe in myself. I believe I can accomplish anything I set my mind to and decide I want to do. Yet I have trouble painting an actual picture of my future reality.

To this day, I remember my friends and I in grade school having a discussion about the kinds of houses we wanted to live in as adults. It took me days to come up with something – and it was still really vague. Their’s were detailed, immediate, readily available in their brains. I found the exercise to be really difficult.

Same with becoming a physician. I have colleagues that will share they know exactly when they decided to become a physician – specifying an age or event. In high school I told everyone I “didn’t want to take care of sick people for the rest of my life”. Yet junior year of college I took the MCAT (twice), applied, interviewed, was accepted, matriculated, and graduated 4 years later, matching into a 5 year categorical general surgery spot. I loved surgery, loved pediatrics, and decided I’d combine the two and become a pediatric surgeon. I figured it was harder to match into general surgery, so I went for it, and did.

Interestingly, this brings up another memory. I was scrubbed in with a general surgeon at a community hospital during a medical school rotation. We were discussing my future plans and I was bringing up “what if surgery doesn’t work out, or I don’t like it?” His response: “That’s ok. Think of all the people you’ve helped along the way.” He gave me permission to try, to chose, and to pivot and make a change if I decided it was needed or I wanted to do so. His insightful comment has stuck with me and has helped guide me to this day. (If anyone here is in contact with Dr. Dan Dahlinghaus, MD, a fellow Loyola Stritch alum, please share with him my thanks and gratitude!)

“That’s ok. Think of all the people you’ve helped along the way.”

~ Dr. Dan Dahlinghaus, MD

While interviewing for surgical residency, I remember being asked, “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” Of course it was question I’d, perhaps purposefully or subconsciously, avoided thinking about/preparing an answer. I remember rambling on about wanting to get married and own a house & have kids, to which the surgeon interviewer interrupted & responded, “I don’t need to know your street address”. Needless to say, I didn’t match at that program.

Which brings me back to yesterday’s session.

As part of Life Planning, Dr. Gray asks 3 questions:

As we discussed my answers, and I likely overshared my past & present goings on in my life, Dr. Gray was able to take in all I told her, listening intently. Then, using her magical gift, she talked me through creating a believable imagined reality – allowing me to actually picture & feel what my life could be like – done in such a way that I palpably experienced my stress draining away, felt lighter, and for the first time could truly envision – with both my heart and my mind – how I could actually be living this truth 2 months from now. Dr. Gray made the possible into probable.

It. Was. Incredible.

A gift.

A precious present.

A way to help me move through & past my fears, unknowns, and obstacles – whatever has been holding me back – from truly living a life of my dreams.

I’ve been caught up in the how, indecision, overwhelm, taking steps toward something – but unsure exactly what. Caught up in trying to chose the perfect dream/life/wish, which in turn, paralyzed me into a never ending, revolving stasis.

I’m really good at making the best decision possible with only a few scenarios presented to me in the moment, which in turn leads me to taking the next steps of a formulated path or plan. Give me infinite possibilities, and I get stuck.

In the past when I’ve been asked to dream, I’m now realizing I’ve held back, my head space rationalizing & questioning. Why? What’s the point? Why does it matter? Why spend time thinking about something that might never happen/come to fruition? Why set yourself up for disappointment, failure? Why dream about a potential future when I’ve worked so hard to live for today?

I’ve spent so much time trying to live in the now – that I’ve forgotten how to use and exercise the creative muscle that allows those dream filled imaginative thoughts. The what ifs? The could be’s. The imagine ifs. The free thinking that ignites creativity and innovation. The FREE thoughts that solve problems, help discover solutions, and lend towards accessing one’s full potential, and ability to lead a thriving, vitality filled life. To find peace. Calm in the midst of chaos.

When presented with limitlessness potential & possibility, I tend to strategize down to a few choices that will affect the now & my immediate next steps, rather than imaging what my future could look like. I’ve limited my reality to “in the moment”, and have failed to truly and freely creatively imagine what could be my future reality. I saw hints. But I’ve never been able to fully embrace and believe I could get there.

Yesterday something clicked, was accessed and drawn out of me. I’m now able to acknowledge and recognize what my heart has been telling me, yet my brain was having difficulty bringing into focus. The path forward is more clear because I’ve been encouraged to allow myself time to pause, gain perspective, and actually experience & feel a live imagined painted reality, a dream of what could be, a feeling of can. A real life scenario of what my day could be like, the how, what, when, and where. The enlightened feeling of accomplishment.

Dr. Weili Gray, thank you for helping me paint an actual detailed picture allowing me to feel how I could be living my future days.

Thank you for showing me how I might encompass and lean into what my heart is telling me I truly want, and how to connect my heart space with my head space, turning imagination into reality.

I’ve been given the gift of clarity. Followed by increased intention, and the ability to strategize a stepwise approach to creating my CAN reality.

I’ve untapped my true potential, unleashed my imagination, and can finally see a true path forward, a clear picture of where I want to go and be – at least for the two months from today!

Thank you for teaching me to be more free.

At the end of her workshop Dr. Weili Gray shared one of her favorite quotes by the pioneer of life planning, George Kinder: “Life planning is the most efficient method of delivering freedom to an individual.”

Profound. True. And now a quote with which I wholeheartedly agree.

“Life planning is the most efficient method of delivering freedom to an individual.”

~ George Kinder

To learn more about, and to work with the incredible Dr. Weili Gray, please visit her website, follow her on Instagram, and listen to her wisdom filled podcast Dare to Dream Physician.

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