Author: Lisa Chu, M.D.
"One cannot alter a condition with the same mind set that created it in the first place." - Albert Einstein
I'm guessing you showed up on this website because things have reached a certain point in your life. The system of clinical medicine just isn't doing it for you anymore. Or maybe it's even more vague than that - just a feeling that you aren't living your right life.
I'm guessing that you've reached the end of your rope, and you feel like you have to find a way out of your current situation. Something MUST change. Now.
I love meeting people when they are at this kind of crossroads in their lives. I've found that only when the messages of pain - physical, emotional, or mental - get intense enough do some of us stop to really listen.
Normal, everyday suffering - the kind we willingly put up with just to get through our days - does not jolt us awake. Each of us has a different threshold for tolerating this kind of suffering. We may not even know that we are suffering.
That's not when change happens.
Change begins with a message or a signal that something isn't right, or feels uncomfortable, or hurts.
When we choose to acknowledge that message - even just turning towards it to look at it directly, instead of distracting ourselves with alternatives that drown out the signal - we begin the process of change.
If, like so many physicians, we have strongly conditioned rational minds and highly functioning abilities to get things done, we may leap immediately from the message of pain, or the need to change, into a "plan" of "action".
I used to be someone who relentless set goals, knew exactly what list of steps needed to get done - well in advance of the final goal - in order to get there. I held on with great tenacity to the goal, and I was praised, admired, respected, and rewarded for never, ever letting go.
This was not only the only way I knew how to achieve things in life, it was what worked for so many years, when I believed that the key to a happy life was making sure that I was in the "right" situation, the "right" set of circumstances. In other words, I unconsciously believed that my happiness was dependent on the external situation or circumstance I found myself in.
I paid very close attention to what success and happiness was "supposed to look like". I studied fashion, body shapes, car brands, hobbies, restaurants, ZIP codes, job titles - all the external manifestations I could lay my eyes on. I looked very closely for all the things embedded in these situations that I could imitate or go toward as I quested toward my own happiness.
I was capable enough on both the "planning" side and the "action" side of the equation to actually achieve many of the external situations my mind had attached to as being "necessary" for my happiness. I had the job title, the house, the hobbies, the money, the people approving of me, the clothes, the shoes, the body shape.
What I was missing I didn't even realize until pain arrived in my body.
I was on the steadily upward-sloping line of building my own business, living in my dream geography, doing what I had dreamed of doing since I was a child. And yet I wasn't *feeling* any happier. In fact, with each passing year, I was feeling more and more disconnected from everything I was building, and more exhausted in my body.
My plan, when I first noticed this, was to just grow the business to the next level. Maybe THEN it would get better. I tried hiring an assistant, whom I then micromanaged because I was so afraid of losing my own authority. I tried taking on a commercial lease, as a sole proprietor with no partnerships or other legal protection, because I thought a permanent space would help me with the physical fatigue of carting around a "portable" music studio in the back of my SUV, teaching in rented classrooms in a community center. I tried acquiring more clients, believing that a larger income might help me feel more free to design my own time allocation.
None of these made me feel any happier.
In fact, I was almost a year into my commercial lease when the pain really started to intensify. I would dread the beginning of each of my teaching weeks, knowing that by the end of the last day, I would be nearly immobilized by pain. I thought if I worked out more, it would get better. I went to yoga every day for one entire week (sometimes attending 2 or 3 classes a day) during spring break and really got in touch with the state of my body. My shoulders were completely asymmetrical from repetitive violin playing, teaching, and typing at a laptop computer.
The moment I really knew for sure that something MUST change was when I lay in bed at the end of a teaching week, and my entire body was pulsating with pain. I literally screamed out, unable to move, and was stunned by how I was feeling.
THIS was definitely not my childhood dream. I was not destined to become a pain patient.
I tell this story because that moment was such an important gift for me. I needed to feel that in order to be absolutely certain that my life must change. I needed to get to that point in order to know - without apology - that I had to take responsibility for the steps I would take to heal my life, to regain my own sense of well-being, and to create my own happiness.
The journey that began with that signal of pain is what ultimately brought me into coaching, but more importantly into a life of creativity, passion, joy, peace, and freedom. These are the ingredients of a life I consider worth living, and I know now that these qualities are always available to me, and are not dependent on any external situations or circumstances.
The biggest shift I have made in my mindset - and the one that I endeavor to share in my writing, my coaching, and even in my collaborative improvisational music making - is that we first change our minds, then we change our bodies, and then we watch our lives change.
Too many of us - myself included - have held the erroneous belief that we can change our lives on the outside - our job titles, our geographies, our clothing sizes, our relationships - without really looking at the inside - our thoughts, our feelings, our energy.
We want to jump right into the next plan of action. We want to just set another goal. We do this because we honestly believe that getting "there" will finally make us feel the way we want to feel in our bodies.
What I'm here to share with anyone who is ready to listen, anyone who has gotten to that point in your life when you KNOW something MUST change, is that you can look inside. You can learn to listen to your own life. You can create the life you want.
It just might happen in a way that surprises you.
So if you’re really just looking for a job, please continue looking. If you're open to the possibility that what you're *really* looking for is a life you love, a body that serves you, a mind that is clear, a spirit that is alive, and that the right job for you will emerge from your deeper connection to your own truth, then let's talk.
About the author:
As a life coach, musician, writer, teacher, and speaker, Lisa Chu, M.D., supports and encourages adults who are seeking to live more creatively and passionately. She completed medical school, but left medicine before doing a residency, in order to follow her dream of creating a life of passion, creativity, and authenticity. She has since been a partner-level investment professional in a venture capital firm, the founder of her own violin school, the creator of music improvisation workshops for personal growth, and the co-creator of an acoustic rock band. Learn more about Lisa Chu, M.D. here.