In this episode, Coaches Jill Farmer and Victoria Silas MD get together to discuss the real meaning of contentment, techniques you can use to feel joy and how to recognize joy in the moment every day.
“I think experiencing contentment is really about savoring the moment of joy or happiness when you’re in it.” -Victoria Silas MD
Lead Coach at DocWorking, Jill Farmer and Coach Victoria Silas MD get together to discuss the real meaning of contentment and techniques you can use to feel joy in your life every day. What is contentment? How does contentment differ from complacency? These questions and more are answered in this wonderfully meaningful episode. Do you ever find yourself avoiding feelings of joy because you are afraid it won’t last? Have you ever felt suspicious working that shift when someone says, “The night is quiet so far!” or thought to yourself “These cases come in threes” when you’ve seen two… As humans we can be a superstitious lot sometimes, and that’s not wasted in healthcare! We hope this episode will help you to recognize and claim joy multiple times each day, and feel the freedom in contentment.
Victoria Silas, MD is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and certified coach with 21 years experience in practicing medicine and 10 years experience in coaching. Now retired from practicing medicine, Victoria helps other physicians cultivate a sense of calm and control in their personal and professional lives, as they regain their love for medicine and rekindle their sense of purpose and professional excitement. She is one of our phenomenal coaches at DocWorking.com and you can also find her at medicalmindsconsulting.com.
To find out more about Coaches Victoria Silas MD and Lead Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer, go to https://docworking.com/docworking-thrive-physician-coaching/
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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Please enjoy the full transcript below
Victoria: I think experiencing contentment is really about savoring the moment of joy or happiness when you’re in it.
Jill: Hi, everyone. We’re so glad you’re here on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of the cohosts of the podcast, as well as a lead coach at DocWorking. And as always, this podcast is brought to you by DocWorking THRIVE. Go to docworking.com today to find out how you can earn CME credits, and learn how to be less stressed and happier in your life and work. Go to docworking.com today to find out more about DocWorking THRIVE.
Thanks to you all for joining us today. I’m really excited to talk with one of my favorite purveyors of wisdom on the podcast and that is Victoria Silas, MD. Victoria for much of her career was a pediatric orthopedic surgeon now turned coach and one of my favorite humans. We love having conversations about coaching and how we can support you as physicians. She’s part of our team here at DocWorking and helps support our physicians in our THRIVE program among other places as well. So, Victoria, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Victoria: Oh, I’m glad to be here, Jill. Always a pleasure.
Jill: This conversation that we’re going to have today was sparked by many of my individual physician clients conversations that seemed to be coming up there, as well as a lot of times when things are coming through in those individual coaching sessions, I’ll bring it to our group coaching sessions for physicians that Victoria and I lead together to talk about it, because I find that if it’s coming up with one, two, three, or four individual physicians, often it’s something that can make for a really meaningful conversation. And that is the subject of contentment. When we had, I think, a really rich conversation about this in our group coaching session, Victoria and I decided that we wanted to bring part of that conversation to you guys as well through our podcast today. So, Victoria, what, if anything, stood out to you in that conversation when we talked about this idea of contentment, and fulfillment, and what that means in our lives and work?
Victoria: Well, what stood out to me was the concept of savoring. I think experiencing contentment is really about savoring the moment of joy or happiness when you’re in it. We had talked in that call about how sometimes, people and physicians think that contentment would equal complacency, and therefore, is not of value to them. I’ve been thinking about the dichotomy between the two and here’s the analogy I came up with. Let me know what you think. To me, complacency is when you’re driving around doing errands and you hear a song on the radio. It’s a song that’s really popular now, so you hear it all the time. You do like it, but you also hear it all the time. You’re not really paying much attention to it, just going about your day, keeping on task for the things that you need to do. Versus when a song comes on the radio and it is a song that you love, but you haven’t heard it in a while, and you haven’t thought about it in awhile, and it comes on the radio, and you just have this moment, in the middle of all your errands and to do lists, of contentment as you listen to the song that you haven’t thought about, but really love. So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about. How about you, Jill?
Jill: I love that metaphor, to think about it that way, because that is the biggest thing that I think came up and why I started having these conversations is, so many of my physician clients and others in the healthcare profession who I was having these conversations with, I think conflated the two terms complacency and contentment. It came out in two forms that they’re like, “Well, I’m content, but they said it with that tone of voice.
Jill: [laughs] I was like, “But are you really? Are you really just listening to this song that is not really your favorite?” What I discovered is that complacency, when you look at the very definition, has to do with settling. It’s just allowing yourself to settle. It’s not evil, but it often is a cover story for some form of avoidance to do something that we’re afraid of. So, I’m just going to let myself be complacent. And complacency isn’t really even associated with satisfaction. Contentment by its very nature in its description. I love looking up the definition of words to reclaim a definition that is empowering versus letting some of those imprints or old records that play in our head that have somehow messed with or morphed the definitions of things in a way that’s not meaningful.
Contentment, by definition, means a sense of satisfaction and happiness. Complacency has to do with settling or being willing to put up with. The reason I like to help clients and I like to think about this for myself is, claiming contentment has a much richer experience to it. It’s got a lot, as I like to say, deeper roots and stronger legs than complacency. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times in life when we need to just settle and get by. But when we can challenge ourselves to say, “Huh, what might make that sense of satisfaction or happiness deeper? How might I let myself be a little more fulfilled and let that inform my sense of contentment?” I think it’s just a richer and more vibrant way to live. What comes up for you as you hear me say that?
Victoria: What comes up for me when you say that is, this sense that part of contentment is noticing that you are in fact content in this moment and really sinking into that experience of, “Wow, everything in this moment in my life is just as I would want it to be.” I think we can have a lot of experiences, where that sense of contentment is possible, but if we are all up in our heads and worrying about what we have to do tomorrow, or what happened today in the office, or the operating room, then we’re going to miss that near perfect moment. Because I don’t think contentment is really ever going to be a steady state for humans. I think there are times in your life when you can spend more time in contentment than out of contentment. But I think it’s the nature of living for us humans that contentment is never going to be what life always is. And so, it’s allowing it to blossom in those moments when it’s potentially present, and noticing it, and treasuring it.
Jill: Yeah. I love that. I think that it was back to your first point, which is around savoring, when we slow down and pay attention to. We know from just a lot of psychological research that savoring is something that humans forget to do, but it actually has a powerful impact on our mindset and our experience of living. I think that one way that we can bring more contentment into our life is to be willing to pay attention to it and savor the present moment when it’s there. I love that. Also, I find with a lot of physician clients and I know you and I’ve talked about this as well, Victoria, that claiming contentment can actually be a little scary, because in the high pressure, high-achieving nature of a lot of physicians, which has really worked well to get them where they are, there can be some fear around claiming contentment, because they feel that means that they’re not ambitious or that they’ve stopped caring.
Again, I think that’s where we get into the conflation of complacency and contentment, but what that does is that, it robs people of a sense of being happy and satisfied because they feel that would only come at the cost of ambition. My way of thinking about it that I’ve really worked on in myself and love to be able to share with physicians is, those two things are not mutually exclusive at all. You can feel wildly content and fulfilled, and still have desires, longings, ambitions to enrich that even further, it’s not one or the other. It’s not that all or nothing thinking that we slip into. What are your thoughts on that?
Victoria: Yeah, I agree completely. It also means what’s the point of experiencing contentment if you’re not enjoying it when it happens? Why chase a goal if as soon as you reach the goal, you’re like, “Oh, well, that’s done. Move on to the next goal.” You need to stop and experience what that actually feels like. Otherwise, there’s no point to any of it. It’s just constantly being on the hamster wheel and keeping moving.
Jill: Yeah. And that’s the thing that I think is a little bit of a nuanced way of thinking of it. Because a lot of people, again, back to that tendency that we all have in our brains, it’s not because we’re flawed, necessarily, it’s just one of the things that humans do, is that all or nothing or black or white thinking. We know that people that experience higher levels of success tend to be people who have a greater capacity for more open-minded thinking. It’s not so much all or nothing, or that black or white thinking.
In this form, I don’t often think it’s either I’m content or I’m not. It’s what is the degree of contentment. And if we will begin to think of it that way, we can say, “Yeah, I have a little contentment, I have a little sense of happiness and satisfaction, and I’m feeling frustrated, even angry, irritated about XYZ or I’d like this factor to change.” But those aren’t mutually exclusive. They can be happening at the same time and recognizing that, even though it might be a lower level of contentment, there is some of it there. To me, it’s a powerful way to help us shape our thinking towards success, because it will transmute some of the tendency to let some of those things that aren’t so great take over in a way that feels “ugh”. Does that make any sense?
Victoria: Yeah, well, I think it’s going to the negativity bias that a lot of us have, where we’re constantly looking for things to go wrong, and we’re constantly looking for what’s not right in my life, and not spending enough time thinking, “Well, what is right.” You can just stop for a moment and think, “Yeah, I have a lot of things on my to-do list today, but right now, I’m just going to enjoy walking my dog in the morning.” And just really sinking into that experience, instead of letting your concerns about other things kind of bleed into this moment, where your task right now is really to walk the dog. That’s one of your things on the to-do list. So, you might as well really sink into it and enjoy it as an experience rather than making it cloudy with all of the things that you have to get done on that particular day.
Jill: That is such a great point. I wanted to practice this even today. I’m getting ready to travel out of state with a lot of different balls in the air tomorrow. This morning, I found myself waking up with that clenched-pinched feeling of so much to do, and this person didn’t do that on the timeline that I wanted him to, and that’s going to throw off my schedule. I was just kind of feeling overwhelmed, and a little bit irritated, and a little bit exhausted. It’s not that I’m trying to pretend that I don’t feel irritated, a little bit exhausted, and overwhelmed. It’s that I wanted to understand that even though I have those feelings, I could find that part of me that is still quite content, and still feeling fulfilled, and still feeling happy and satisfied about the fact that I get to take a trip tomorrow. When I could find that part of me, it helped me to decide what’s the next best step that I can take now and it was just a reframing that happened without having to think harder, try harder, wrestle with my thoughts, there was some alchemy there that could change the way that I was experiencing those challenges.
Victoria: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean, because I have—this is not work related—but I have an older dog, who is having more trouble with mobility. I could spend all of my time thinking about how she is not going to live forever and what that’ll be like when I lose her. Or, I can focus on the fact that she’s here now, and we’re still enjoying our life together, and she loves being petted, and she loves going on walks. So, I could focus on the potential negative that is going to come my way one day or I could focus on what’s right, right now.
Jill: Yeah, that’s beautifully said. One of the things also that came up in our conversation that we had in our group coach setting with the physicians is, again, back to that claiming contentment. Sometimes, when I feel content, it makes me scared, because I’m like, “Oh, this is going to go away.” On the one hand, we can look back to recognize, it’s going to ebb and flow, but we don’t have to think about it going away or not. And you brought up a beautiful point, because it reminded you of a lot of the work of Brene Brown and what she calls foreboding joy, which is this idea that I don’t really want to sink in and savor the things that are happening that are good right now, because I’m afraid they’re going to go away and so, therefore, you put this sense of foreboding around the joy you’re experiencing. What are your thoughts on that?
Victoria: Well, I agree completely that this idea that we can blunt pain by not enjoying joy now is simply untrue. All we do is wreck our joy now. The thing that comes to my mind is, I do have, as a physician, I’ve got a little bit of superstition. If I’m having a good call night, that is definitely a place where it’s okay, if I say in my head, “I’m having a good call night.” But God forbid, my mom should text me and say, “I hope it’s quiet tonight.” I’m like, “No, not the “q” word. It’s a bad word.” To me, that’s a little bit of that foreboding joy or being superstitious about, “Wow, if I named this as a good day, then something will happen. The other shoe will drop and it’ll stop being this experience that I’m currently maybe not enjoying, but at least not hating.”
Jill: When somebody’s expressing that to me in a coaching session, I’m like, “Sounds like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.” And guess what? You are an incredibly brilliant person and physician, who is going to be able to handle whatever shows up if the other shoe drops, but by looking around for the shoe to drop, you’re missing out on the experience of living and thriving now.
Jill: And so, that’s I guess the final thought that I wanted to share about this today, when it comes to thinking about contentment, and being content, and being willing to claim contentment, I’m going to invite all of you to just, you don’t have to think about it really deeply, but to notice the parts of your life where you’re experiencing some happiness, and some satisfaction, and to notice whether you’re willing to claim it. If claiming some satisfaction doesn’t invite you to take some inspired action, so that you can claim it, and experience it, and let yourself enjoy it, one of the ways to do that, circling back around to the beginning of the conversation, is to pick a song that lights you up and play it in the morning when you’re on your commute or getting ready for the day to remind you what that felt sense of being happy and satisfied is. It’s looking at a beautiful sunrise or your favorite tree and just owning the sense of peace and calm that you have. As you begin to practice that more, I think you’ll be really impressed with how much more space and real estate contentment is willing to take up in your life when you pay attention to it.
Victoria: Yeah. I love the way you brought it back to the beginning and of course, to music, because I always like to bring things back to music whenever possible. The other thing I’d say is that, when we are afraid of being disappointed or when we are in fear of losing what we have, all that does is create a barrier between our current state and what could be contentment.
Jill: Wow, what fantastic and powerful words to end on. Victoria Silas MD, as always, thank you for joining me for a rich and insightful conversation. I always learn a lot when we talk together. So, thanks so much for being here.
Victoria: Thanks for having me, Jill. It’s always so fun to talk with you.
Jill: And for the rest of you, I hope you’ll go to docworking.com now and check out DocWorking THRIVE. As part of DocWorking THRIVE, you can get CME credits taking a StressPal course that will teach you how to process stressors in your life and help you live with more ease and joy. But you also will join a peer-to-peer platform where Victoria and I, the two of us, who you got to know even better today, will be your coaches on that digital platform to support you as you begin to look for ways that you can find more contentment and to thrive in your life. So, go to docworking.com today to find out more. Until next time on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, I’m Jill Farmer.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe, and head over to docworking.com to see all we have to offer.
Coach Jill Farmer
Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.
She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.
She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.
Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.
Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.