Amanda: Hi guys. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm Amanda.
Laura: I'm Laura.
Kendra: And I'm Kendra.
Amanda: And today we are going to talk about something that we are going to call the prescription. It's also known in the coaching world as the manual. And we'll explain a little bit more about it. But before we do that, I do want you to know that you can get on our Weekly Well Check. It's like a newsletter. If you go to www.thewholephysician.com, we send out coaching tips each week and every once in a while we run unadvertised sales through this email blast. And so that may be something that you're interested in. But back to the prescription. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could control everyone around us?
Laura: That would be just amazing. Except, maybe not.
Amanda: If people would just do what I thought that they should do, this place. I mean, I'm telling you I could get this entire earth just running, just humming along perfectly. Right. But it doesn't. That's the problem. And so we're going to talk about this concept of the prescription, where we have thoughts about how everyone else around us should act. And the reason why we have this is because we believe that if they acted in that way, we would get to feel happy. Like all of our happiness is hinging on how they are acting and they're not following our instructions. They're not following our prescription. And so that leads to frustration. So have you ever been at work and you think, this guy isn't picking up his fair share and it just puts you over it, you know, puts you into a bad frame of mind because he's not acting how he should. Again, every time you say “should” in your mind, think about “that is could with shame on it”. It is just bringing into judgment something that's possible. And it, anytime you say should about how somebody should be, it makes it…just watch that because usually you're bringing something into it that doesn't need to be there. A lot of people think that their kids should be different than how they are. Maybe they should be less emotional. Maybe they should be more excited to do the chores that you've outlined for them. Right. Like, “Yes, mom, I would love to do this!” Right. But the reason why you want them to do that is because then you would be like, see what a good job I'm doing. So a lot of our projections on how people should act is because we, on some level, believe we get to feel a certain way and it's wrong. That's changing a circumstance for us to get to feel differently. That's an error. It's always, the circumstance is neutral. It's our thoughts about it that give us our feelings. So, when we realize that it takes a whole lot of the control issues that we have with people, we don't have to control them anymore because they get to be who they want to. Our work partners get to maybe not always pick up every other one. That's an issue that a lot of our clients have. Our spouses get to act as they always have and we keep trying to wish that they show up in a different way. Maybe this day, when I wake up, I'll be married to a completely different person. Wrong. They get to show up in the same way that they always have.
Maybe you continue to expect your parents to behave in a different way. It's this whole idea. This prescription we have for other people. And here's the curious thing is that most of the time, we've never told these people that we have this prescription for them. They don't even know. We just think that they should somehow be able to read our minds and respond in the way that we want to. That doesn't work, but just becoming aware of this idea that we have prescriptions for other people lets us start to notice our responses and see why we have some of the control issues that some of us do. Well, that's my introduction.
Laura: Yeah. It's so interesting. What our brains do too, is that so many times when we have a “should” for someone else, there may be something in that that we really feel like we should be doing ourselves. That the judgment that we're putting out on other people really is coming up from self judgment.
Amanda: Well, and it's also a curious thing in coaching, whenever you are judging somebody else, like they should have more control over and they shouldn't be so critical. Okay, well, what is that? What did you just do? You're criticizing, right? It is the most fascinating thing that when you're bringing in these “should'' statements about other people, you frequently show up in a very similar way to what you're judging them for.
Laura: It's crazy. Yeah. It's super interesting. The biggest bottom line of everything that we're gonna try to teach you is that we are in control of our own experience. We're in control of ourselves. We are not in control of anyone else. We, if we have children or employees, we might have a level of control over those situations, but other adults get to be themselves. We can make requests. We can try to influence, but when we hinge our happiness and our satisfaction with our life on other people's behavior, we are going to be disappointed. And it's gonna be our own fault.
Amanda: Well, the other thing too is I don't like anyone trying to control me. I don't love that. So then how would, how would, when I'm doing that to other people, how would that be a welcomed experience? What if I get to be me? You get to be you, they get to be them. This is the package they came in and now what do we wanna do with it? That's kind of the gist of being aware of your prescription and letting go of your prescription for other people. Even in organizations. I used to get, that used to be, I had a prescription for how my hospital system should work. And shockingly…
Laura: I'm impressed you had that much energy.
Amanda: Like, well, every time I would show up and be like, I can't believe this system is exactly the same as it always has, as it always has been. Like every day, I would show up at work and it was so futile. I would be in a rage about it too. There shouldn't be this many people in the waiting room. Patients shouldn't go to the ER that don't have emergency problems.Oh really? Because they have forever. So, I can either let it go and like, come up with some sort of other strategy. But me showing up at the same job, every day, expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity, right?
Laura: Yes. Yeah. I used to fantasize about public service announcements about “This is an emergency. This is not an emergency”. But yeah, let's face it. Yeah.
Amanda: Processes can improve. I'm not saying like, you just are like, okay, we never work on processes. But me, I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't advocating to change. I was just steaming and storming around all day. You know, that's what I'm talking about is the complete futility of getting enraged about something that is, as it always has been. And not doing a thing about it.
Laura: So let's go back to, we were talking about the colleague who you've labeled as lazy. For those of you working in emergency medicine, you probably have had this experience, at least once, where you are on shift with someone who you feel like doesn't have the same work ethic that you do. And we can get really bent outta shape about this. We can sit there and fume and just keep picking up all the extra patients and overwhelm ourselves. Or we can just fume and stonewall and not pick up patients that actually need our help. But, the bottom line is that person gets to show up the way they wanna show up. And if we allow them into our head space and allow them to create negative emotion for us, we're only punishing ourselves. It does not do anything to them. It's like taking a poison pill and expecting another person to die. Like really, it's just, it's not useful at all.
Amanda: Now, maybe you talk with whoever runs the department, maybe it's not saying that you can't address it. Maybe you even ask him like, “Hey, what's going on with you today?'' But that's not what most of us do. We have this prescription, they should be different. We do nothing about it.
Kendra: And most of these “shoulds” end up, like we just talked about, so many hosts of negative emotions, like, every example you guys just said was definitely no positive emotions. It was discontent, anxiety, frustration, annoyance, anger, rage. All of the things. So, so just stepping back even, and looking at the “shoulds” and seeing, most of the time it's a negative experience. It's a negative thought that causes a negative emotion, which causes, not probably the desired result we want shift after shift after shift. Especially those who have chosen a life career in emergency medicine. It's gonna be a short career cuz you'll definitely burn out.
Amanda: So all of the specialties that have very little control over their surroundings, that'd be it. Didn't stop me from trying. Yeah. Or wishing. I wasn't trying. I was wishing really hard.
Kendra: So when we can step back and have that perspective, though, we can also realize that our happiness is not hinged on how other people act. We have to accept that people come in a package and that is them. That is on them, their choices to act how they're acting comes from their thoughts, which causes their feelings, which causes their action, which gives them their result. None of that has anything to do with our happiness or our desired result. And so, when we can get a perspective of stepping back and seeing that actually we can choose to have a thought that, maybe they're going through a tough time. Or maybe, they just bounced from a night shift and now they only had like 12 hours off and now they have to bounce to days. And so, we all know how important sleep, eating and self care is. Maybe the turnaround time was so short like I experienced many times for many years in my career. I just was not mentally ready for another shift, but you have to show up. Emergency medicine docs are some of the most resilient people. I know we have a demand on us that is high just based on our simply our shift work and that the ER never closes. And it's 24/7. And so, how much of that self care, you know, projects into just not being ready for that next shift. But you have to show up anyway. And so, I know that there was many a time I did not show up as the best version of myself, but that was my choice based on things that had happened. And so likewise, it can be part of what our partners experience too. So taking that into perspective that our emotional wellbeing is not affected by anybody else unless we allow it. So, it's giving permission for that partner who is not holding up their end of the bargain or, they are not following their prescription that we have for them, is something that we actually give them permission to do. When we give our power away is when we start that downward spiral into just a negative vortex. And then just continue to propagate negativity after negativity and day after day. So, there was another perspective or an example that Laura had come up with in one of the articles for EMN that we blog for. She gave the example that if you're on your way to work and say, someone cut you off. It's so close that it literally almost clips the front end of your car and it's taken you off guard. You weren't ready for that. In the unexpected, you immediately choose anger. Anger's easy. Why wouldn't you be angry? This jerk just almost hit the front end of your car. And by the way, you're going to a shift you're not ready for. And you're crabby about that. Because you're human and you're crabby about who you're gonna work with and all the things. And it's your third shift in a row and you're just about done with the ER. But anyways, as you pull into the parking lot, you see him pull into the emergency bay where the ambulances usually are and he is frantic as he runs around to the passenger side and he's pulling out a near-unresponsive wife. She's pale, diaphoretic and not very responsive. And as you walk in, you're seeing all this unfold, the same guy that cut you off in traffic, but now you're looking at him like, “Oh my gosh, I gotta get in there. I gotta help this guy. His wife is in a bad way. She is sick”. And now the thought process becomes a little more compassion and maybe a little more empathy. And now you kind of start to understand why he may not have been paying attention to any other car on the road because he was so distracted by just getting his wife to help as quick as possible. And now you are equipped and have the abilities as their physician to care for her and to turn things around. Save her life. Get her to the right, you know, the OB wherever. But just make things happen quickly. And now it's just a different perspective. Now, instead of just concentrating on how that judgment called by him by swerving in and out of traffic made you feel angry. Now you can see actually he was super panicked and probably didn't realize any other car on the road, except for I gotta get to the hospital now. So now you can see. The circumstance was he cut you off. That's not gonna change. That happened. That's a fact. But now you can have a thought about the circumstance that's more from compassion and empathy. And now you're hustling in there to make it happen and resuscitate her. Do whatever it is to help him and not be like, “You jerk. You almost crumpled my quarter panel”. So, it's just all about perspective and it's all about recognizing what's a circumstance, what you cannot change or cannot control. And then take action on the things that you can control, that’s your thoughts, your feelings, your action, and the desired result.
Amanda: Right. So, it's never your prescription for the person. It's never what the person's doing. It's that you think that they should be acting in a different way that makes you upset when other people don't behave how you think they should. Right. Never actually is the thing.
Laura: No. And if you think about even just like traffic, like that traffic example, we encounter that all the time and we can always choose to get angry or we can always choose a thought that's gonna not create negative emotion in us, you know? That's very simple. The circumstances aren't gonna change just because we get angry. It's not gonna make that person a better driver. Even if they are a bad driver.
Amanda: To me, an easy one usually is being curious, like I wonder what's going on there. You know, that one helps me a lot because it also seems accessible too. I can't always go from anger to, you know, the silver lining. But getting curious is something that's usually available to me. Like I wonder what they're thinking, or I wonder why they said that or I wonder…That one is one that I can usually go to that helps me get from rage and fury. I sound like a crazy person at work.
Kendra: Well, and another thing is, another thing that kind of shapes what we feel like. This actually did happen to me on the way to my shift. I'm just driving down the road, trying to get to the hospital. Third shift in row. I'm already grumbling that I'm tired and this is like the third or fourth shift in a row. A crazy lady makes a U-turn in the middle of the road and she swerves behind me, bounces off three or four cars before cutting me off, and takes out my quarter panel. And I was like, what is going on? And her passenger door flings off. So she's now driving like a doorless Jeep Cherokee and speeds off. And everyone's frantically trying to get like some tags or follow her, whatever. And of course, later when everybody's report in, she's got multiple bench warrants out. She’s like a known ER clientele with the positive methamphetamine screen, you know? So all these things that were like fitting exactly what I thought was happening there. So now my past experiences are playing into the fact that if that ever happened again, I'm like, who's the crazy meth lady? You know, that's immediately where I go, because I'm like this happened before. People driving erratically and taking out people four and five cars at a time and maybe causing a huge pile up are all positive for meth and they're crazy. And they don't care. So that's now my thought I have and that's where I go moving forward until I choose…
Amanda: No overgeneralization there!
Kendra: Yeah, no overgeneralization there. It's just the thought that I choose until I choose to change it. Until I choose to be like, Ok, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so many factors played into the fact that I felt so negatively about that situation. And now I gotta have a couple thousand dollars worth of damage fixed on my car, out of my pocket, whatever. So, it also has to do with what we've dealt with in the past.
Laura: Oh yeah! Absolutely. And learning to observe our thoughts and recognize them and recognize where we're being triggered. It is a process to get to where we can do that, but it's so, so useful in terms of helping us create the lives that we want. Create the emotions that we want.
I love what Amanda said about curiosity, and I swear if the world could go from judgment to curiosity, everything would be solved. I mean, it is so interesting how we all so naturally go to judgment. That was something we had to do. And our primitive ancestors had to be very quick to know what was dangerous, what was going to kill them, what was good and protective behavior to engage in. But now judging does generally not serve us, especially when we're judging harshly, like we often do. Becoming curious about why people do things, what their thoughts are, and curious about our own thoughts and behavior and what is creating the negative emotion we experience. Those things are just so super useful. And you can go, once you master the overcoming judgment, going to curiosity, you can move even further into a space of love. Which is pretty cool when you can realize you're in a situation where previously you would've judged someone super harshly and instead are able to fill a love for them.
Amanda: Well, and a special thing with physicians, the things that make us great ER doctors are snap judgments and catastrophizing. Like what's the worst that could happen and we are really good at this. But what a lot of our clients are realizing is that, what serves us so well in the hospital building, many times is the same thing that is ruining our experience outside of the hospital building. So that was just kind of some insights.
Laura: Oh yeah! Absolutely. So you can make snap judgments, but if you think about it, when we are diagnosing our patients, we're also doing it with curiosity. And if we come up with an anchoring diagnosis and don't get curious about other alternatives, we get ourselves in trouble. So, while we need to be able to get a good gestalt and have a quick differential, it's always helpful for us to still be curious. The thing that we want you guys to remember is that each of our thoughts is optional. We can, if we're having a thought like our dude who is not picking up charts. I'm not even gonna say when, but, at some point in my career, I have had experience with a person who just was openly lazy. Like he was unapologetic about it. He would come in and be like, “Hey, sorry, there's some patience for you to see. Like, sorry, guy”. And you can have a thought, like how can someone be so lazy, or you can try some alternative thoughts. Like, man, I wonder what happened to let that guy get to that level of burnout and he's still working. Or even just not think about it at all, because we find sometimes that if we devote too much time thinking about the motivations of other people, it just takes away our own energy and emotional power. We don't even have to think about those people at all. We can just realize that our own experience is up to us and we can have a good experience whenever we choose to. That's always available to us. We can always be at peace. We can always feel gratitude. We can always feel some excitement. Sometimes it's harder than others, but these things are all available to us because they're just coming from our thoughts. We are adults able to watch and monitor our thoughts and we can change them if they aren't serving us.
Amanda: So, yeah. I mean, a lot of times what others do is completely irrelevant. Like their motivations, whatever. It's irrelevant. My experience of today is not going to be affected by lazy guy.
Laura: Right, lazy guy. So, it's very interesting. So many of these coaching principles that we're teaching you guys actually have roots in ancient philosophy and there's this one philosopher, Epectetus. I read a lot of his quotes and I'm like, wow, that sounds a lot like coaching. But this one he says, and it sounds a lot like Eleanor Roosevelt too. “No man can steal your peace of mind unless you let them”. And Eleanor Roosevelt says loosely quoted, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”, but same kind of principle. It's up to you to allow other people to get in your head or to not allow them to. Just some take home thoughts. These were found on Nancy Beard's coaching site and she says, “We can't control another person's behavior with a manual. We can't control another person at all. Consider letting go of all of your manuals for people in your life”. That doesn't mean you don't make requests and have expectations. I think my husband knows that I have the expectation that he will maintain strict, perfect fidelity to me. He knows that and it's not an issue. We can have that boundary and know our consequence if that boundary is violated. But the reality is we cannot control somebody else. So if we have an expectation, we wanna make sure it's communicated and mutually agreed upon. If we don't wanna hinder happiness on unspoken manuals that we try to enforce passive aggressively. That's not gonna result in our happiness. And lastly, we wanna focus on controlling ourselves and our responses to how other people behave. That's where our power lies. And that's where our ability to create a life of happiness and peace begins.
Amanda: Yeah. I love that because if you consider all of the energy that you are using and your attempts to control other people. And all of a sudden all of that energy is taken back because they're allowed to be how they are. Then you can use all of that in a much more productive way for here is the human package that is before me. And now I get to decide, do I wanna leave? Do I wanna change something? Do I wanna change my thoughts? If you are using your energy, instead of just trying to control people, which doesn't work. If it worked, I guarantee you I would be all over it. Because I would love that to work out for me, but it doesn't. It's a much better use of my time to focus on what I can do instead of trying to change others. Cuz I don't want them to try to control me either.
Laura: No, and really, it would not be fun if we could control them. It really wouldn't. Because part of life is getting other people's perspectives and learning from them. And we can't learn from them if we’re controlling them. So the last little thought was that without a manual for how others should behave, we're free to get their perspective from a place of curiosity, rather than taking it personally or making their behavior mean something. It doesn't. Do you know who talked about being curious and not judgemental? Walt Whitman. I was just so surprised. That's one of his quotes, “Be curious, not judgmental”.
Kendra: Yeah. I love that last point that you said too, Laura, that focus on trying to control yourself and your response to how others behave. And I think we talked about this earlier, that's a sign of emotional adulthood. That's the sign that we've moved from the childlike emotional, reactive and constrictive, to that emotional adulthood where we have full control of how we respond and then take it as a perspective from, I'll take this in, I'll internalize this, or I won't. Taking your power back and everything is that cardinal sign that we've kind of grown up and now we're like fully mature adults emotionally.
Laura: Yep. That's a good place to be.That's what we're all striving for.
Kendra: That's a good message to rear our kids into.
Laura: Oh gosh. Can you imagine, like, can you imagine what it would have been like to be raised with this information? I'm so excited that I can give it to my kids. It's already mind blowing how good it is for them.
Kendra: So this was such a good time, a good topic. So timely. That we show up to a job that we love to do, and we can continue to love it from the place and power of not having a prescription for everybody in every situation. Taking our power back. Knowing our happiness depends on us and knowing that we actually control how the day goes, how the shift goes, how your drive goes. So, until next time you are whole, you are a gift to medicine and the work you do matters.