Stop Physician Burnout: The Three Laws of Personal and Practice Transformation

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

The Three Laws of Personal and Practice TransformationAs a professional coach, I help physicians create personal and practice Transformation.


- a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
- or a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal.
==> that orients an individual/organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness

Evolution, recasting, reorganization, rearrangement, renewal, rejigging, reworking, renovation, overhaul, revolution

There are patterns, success factors and even laws that cover this work.

Over the course of my personal life and in my experience as a coach to hundreds of physician clients - often suffering from physician burnout - I have noticed several obvious patterns in what works and what does not when it comes to this concept of transformation.

In this blog post let me show you some of the major transformation success patterns. I will call them "laws" here because they behave similar to the laws of nature - universal, immutable, inviolable ... like gravity.

These three laws are mandatory checkpoints on the way to any transformation in your life or practice.

If YOU are in a situation where you would like something significant in your life or your practice to be different than it is ... you are perhaps at the threshold of a transformation ... notice where you currently sit within the progression of these three laws. As a coach, my job is to help physicians and physician leaders move through these stages as quickly as possible ... often in a single phone call

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1) The Law of Awakening

I do my best to help people wake all the way up. They come to me with a desire for change; from a stirring of discontent with the current state of affairs all the way to desperation to escape their current reality.

I help them wake up to the true cost of their version of Einstein's Insanity Trap.

Then help them see they have the power to change - that positive change is always possible. You always hold the keys and the power. Your whirlwind and results that are just good enough keep you busy, overwhelmed and asleep to your power to change. 

The Law of Awakening is simple. You must be awake before you can change. Here is a quote that will help.

You don't get what you want in life,
You get what you tolerate.

You wake up when you stop tolerating your current reality or your current practice. You raise your standards. 

  • Wow, this really sucks (AHA Moment)
  • I am NOT going to tolerate this any more (Determination)
  • I can change this situation for the better (Belief in Efficacy)

When a person is awake and ready to change,
when you have "made up your mind"
-- the next question is often, "How".

That brings us to the second law.


stop physician burnout precise desire physician coaching2) The Law of Precise Desire

In the instant you come wide awake and recognize you are ready for change --  you collide with ancient wiring, deep in your nervous system that gets in your way. Here's what I mean.

We are hard wired, deep down at the level of the Reticular Activating System, to be on the lookout for pain and danger.

Living organisms have two prime motivations.

  • Move towards pleasure.
  • Move away from pain.

Which one is more powerful would you say?

Avoiding pain and danger is the most powerful of this dyad by several orders of magnitude. What this means is your initial desires for change will almost always focus on stopping the things you don't want. You will naturally and automatically focus on the crap you want to avoid and the things you want to run away from. That is bass ackwards to way transformation works. 

Here is a saying that will help.

You can avoid everything you don't want
and you still won't get what you want
because the only way to get what you really want 
is to figure out what that is
and go get it.

Avoiding pain will make a difference for sure. It will remove a few of the thousands of daily paper cuts. My questions are not about what do you want to run away from. My question is what would you run toward.

What would IDEAL look and feel like for you in this situation. Let's get clear and precise and detailed here. Precision and focus are POWER  in your transformation process.

For true transformation you must always start with an Ideal Practice or Ideal Life Description as the bulls eye of your change process. 

einsteins insanity definition baby steps physician coaching dike drummond the happy md3) The Law of Action - Baby Steps

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over
and expecting a different result.

There is no change without NEW ACTIONS. 

What got you here
won't get you there.

You must take new actions to get new results. Here again we run into a fundamental feature of a physician's psyche that will get in your way.

We are trained to diagnose and treat - to find the unifying diagnosis and treat the cause of the patient's symptoms. So when you build your Ideal Job Description and a Master Plan of the changes you want to make ... your natural tendency is to pick the biggest action step on the list ... cut to the chase, try to hit a home run. 

Remember you are flirting with overwhelm already. Big action steps are more likely to fail and also more likely to drive you over the edge into overt burnout.

The law here is simple, "You Must Take New Actions AND Smaller is Better"

Take Baby Steps

Once you have chosen the change you desire, what is the smallest step you can take in that direction - so small that it is a no brainer to accomplish?

Once you are done with that one ...
What is the next baby step
and the next baby step
and the next baby step

You will be shocked at the major difference a short series of accurately aimed baby steps can make in your practice. 


What do you want to transform?

If you want something to be different about your practice or your larger life.

  • Have you made up your mind to change - are you awake?
  • Do you have a precise target for your desire - a clear definition of what you would run towards?
  • Are you planning and taking baby steps in that direction.

Here is a video training on this three step process

Alter the Velocity of Transformation

The main advantage of working this process with a professional coach is the velocity of your transformation. A coach will help you work the steps and create the change you seek more quickly than you can by yourself .

Learn about our six certified physician coaches here - your first Discovery Call is always no cost, no obligation and completely confidential.

Coaching and Discovery Frequently Asked Questions are here.



What are your thoughts about these three laws?
When you look back on transformation episodes in your life, were these three laws in play?
What other laws would you recommend be added to the script?
If you recognize there is something about your life or practice you would like to change, when will you get started?




Tags: Physician Coaching, Physician Job Search, stop physician burnout