I can (‘t)

I’m not one for reading many books on self-development. The last book I read of this genre was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which was about a year ago. Recently however, I purchased a book called Confidence-How to overcome your limiting beliefs and achieve your goals, by best selling author Martin Meadows. I wouldn’t say I have a particular confidence issue as such, but I think it could be better. I thought it would be useful to summarise what I learnt from reading the book, just so I could reflect upon it when I need it most. Please note, how I’ve divided it below really is just a summary of some take home messages I picked up from reading. I encourage you to have a read of the book if you want, and develop your own understanding. So here goes…

It turns out that while we can identify goals we want to accomplish, there are reasons why we don’t see them through. One of them is low self-efficacy, i.e deep down, we don’t believe we can achieve our goals. Martin Meadows defines self efficacy as:

‘the strength of your beliefs in your ability to complete tasks successfully’. 

So what can decrease self-efficacy?

Failure: If you fail at something, self-efficacy decreases and you enter an ongoing cycle that leads to even more failure. Your mind becomes fixed that you can’t achieve your goal, as it’s now perceived from a self-limited point of view. Those with high self-efficacy don’t approach failures in the same way as people with less belief in their ability. This book revealed that successful people are more likely to achieve big goals, because they built powerful self efficacy. By starting off with small, achievable wins (by identifying the main priority in their plans and focusing on the big picture), they developed confidence in their abilities and believed they could go onto bigger things. Martin Meadows reminds us that failure is ‘not a testament to your lack of abilities’. Obstacles are there for a reason-to remind people why they need to keep going, and to show us how badly we want something. As quoted by Professor Randy Pausch in this book ‘brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough’.

Stress: Self-efficacy decreases if you believe stress is associated with an inability to perform. Those with a strong sense of self-efficacy don’t associate stress with a lack of ability, but instead interpret it as the normal body’s ‘heightened awareness’, before performing a task.

Psychological influences: Discouragement has a more powerful negative impact than a positive impact from encouragement, because we naturally pay more attention to the negative feedback. Self-expectations tend to determine our performance. If you doubt your ability to achieve success, you won’t do your best (what’s the point?). Avoid the negative thoughts which can affect your performance and implement positive self talk if you have to…no matter how corny it may sound!

Lack of responsibility: Those with a high self-efficacy believe that they can control the events that affect them, and therefore take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. Those who don’t believe in their own abilities tend to blame the world for their failures, and in reality that’s never the case.

I know a lot of the stuff I’ve probably mentioned might come across as quite obvious. However, I like to be ‘reminded’ of the obvious stuff. It generally makes me feel a little bit better about things. Until next time 🙂

Handbags and Gladrags

Having worked in this psychiatry post for almost a month now (seriously, where does the time go?), I realised that I’m still trying to adapt to the things and to the people around me. I’m very slowly getting used to the idea that in this job,  you run your own diary, and your own show. As sad as this sounds, I got very excited when I created my own list of patients(!). This maybe the first time in four years, that I feel like a ‘grown up’ doctor.

I tried to think why it is that all of a sudden, I feel this grown up. Two ideas came to mind:-

-Working in a community orientated environment does mean you’re basically in charge. In previous hospital jobs, particularly A&E and stroke, you’re definitely not in charge.

-I’m surrounded by older psychiatrists!

So now that I realised this, I pictured myself amongst the others. I definitely didn’t look grown up. I noticed that my colleagues owned things I didn’t have, such as:-

  1. A diary (not your personal day-to-day diary, but one for home visits etc)
  2. A flask  (there’s a lot of tea drinking!)
  3. A bag

In point 3. I actually mean a proper work bag, one that makes you feel mature  and sophisticated. I’m afraid my rucksack doesn’t quite cut it..I look like a twelve year old with it!

I therefore decided to do a little shopping. In addition to my weekly grocery shopping, I also purchased these extra things. Funnily enough, when I treat myself to something (which is rather rare!), I subconsciously tend to spend less on my other shopping. Halfway through purchasing however, I thought to myself-am I doing the thing that I told myself not to do, am I conforming to the others’ expectations?  I couldn’t tell which was worse, conforming or realising that I might just be getting a little bit older.

The Edutainer

This maybe my first time uploading a post, in tribute of somebody I admire. I recently found out that one of my heroes passed away. His name was Hans Rosling, and he was a Swedish doctor, statistician and public speaker in international health. He was also the chairman of Gapminder and did several TED talks.

One of my favourite TED talks from Hans Rosling, the ‘Edutainer’

I first came across Dr Rosling whilst studying public health at university. I found his presentations mindblowing, and this was most probably where my interest in public health first developed. Just over a year ago, I decided to make the bold step of trying to get in touch with him. I managed to get in touch with his assistant at Gapminder (which for me was a massive breakthrough!), but despite this I couldn’t reach him. He was naturally busy and on his travels, and I was just about to start my A&E job.

I can’t help but think to myself that I missed a golden opportunity. I regret not trying harder, sending more emails, maybe writing letters etc. I’ll never get to hear his comical lectures again, and there’s no chance now that I’ll meet him, that makes me sad. All I can do is learn from all this. Life’s too short, and I’ll never miss an opportunity like this again.

Express Yourself

I officially started working in community psychiatry this week. It’s VERY different from any ward I’ve ever worked in, because you’re basically your own boss. You review the patients that are allocated to you-and that’s it! You choose when you want to run your own clinic to see them, and plan your own home visits-there’s no fixed times!

I share a nice large office with one of the senior psychiatrists. I thought about making my area a little bit homely.


I always stick a little post-it note just in front of me, with my personalised list of important numbers. So far it only has the IT number! Do you like the background picture I chose? I like clouds! 


Now compare this photo to the one above-unfortunately THIS is what my computer looks like. The first photo shows just an enlarged picture of what I wanted displayed as my desktop background.

Yes, whilst I tried to personalise my work station a little bit, I found that the system actually wouldn’t let me change my desktop background, it was forbidden! I’ve had to shade bits in white in the second picture for confidentiality reasons, but it’s not exactly pretty still.

It made me realise that there’s a limitation in how people are allowed to express themselves, or just be themselves, especially while they’re at work. For one reason or another, they’re expected to conform to the look of the job. This probably doesn’t apply to a lot of organisations, but regardless it happens. I don’t think there’s any harm in expressing yourself, be at work or elsewhere-because it’s just who you are. As Gandhi states:-

“I want freedom for the full expression of my personality”.

Nicest Kids in Town

A few days ago, I went out for dinner and drinks with some work friends from the stroke job. Due to oncall or family commitments, not everybody could make it-but despite this it was a very eventful night!

I decided to bring my boyfriend along, whilst one of my friends brought her partner too. This was probably my second time I think where I brought him along to a work-social event this year (you can see how often we meet up!). We had our fair share of pizzas, a few beers and glasses of prosecco between us. I was made to ask the bartender for “their sweetest beer”, on behalf of my boyfriend. That’s right, I had to ask the bartender for this drink, and yes he gave me strange look! (Seeing as I purchased a Cherry Beer!)

All in all it was a very enjoyable night, but the main reason I decided to write about this is because it somewhat relates to my last blog post. Compared to the previous discussions I told you about, the things we talked about here were definitely more interesting, lively and entertaining. I thought why this might be, and I came up with some reasons:-maybe it was because we had worked together for much longer, and the next time we would meet wouldn’t be because of work. This was also a social event, where we were free to talk about more varied things. Or maybe I could relate to these friends more than the others I spoke about-none of us were married!

Towards the end of the evening, I made my way to the toilet and when I came back, all my friends seemed to look amazed at me. I couldn’t really think why at first, until they told me…my boyfriend had apparently updated them about my plans to Uganda. I was pleasantly surprised and didn’t know how to react, only a handful of people know about it!  It made me realise that I like to keep my work life separate from my personal life, but in my mind there wasn’t anything wrong with some overlay. We probably wouldn’t be working together in the future,so I could be more relaxed about things. I was reminded about something Paul Graham, venture capitalist and co-founder of Y Combinator wrote in one of this essays:

Friends offer moral support, but secrecy also has its advantages. There’s something pleasing about a secret project. And you can take more risks, because no one will know if you fail. 

So no turning back!

I’m Listening

Having worked in the stroke wards for 6 months, this was the week where we moved onto our next rotation in the training programme. As of now, I’m working in community psychiatry, a somewhat different specialty!

Over the past few days, we’ve been having induction. This mainly consists of lectures, IT training and something called ‘Breakaway Training’ i.e) how to safely defend yourself, when confronted with a patient who poses a threat.


I’m afraid we’re not working in psychiatry of this nature, but I do love Frasier -‘I’m Listening’

I met the other 15 or so doctors who also joined, mainly consisting of GP trainees and new psychiatry trainees. They all seemed friendly and approachable, all with varied experience. In my mind, I was trying to categorise where they came from and what their backgrounds were, just out of pure curiosity. It turned out that I was one of two people from the group, who hadn’t done a training programme prior to GP (or was married!). Coincidentally, that made me the youngest of the newbies (which I hope is a good thing!).

By incorporating all of the above, I found that the trainees had almost formed their own social groups (I mean, how many can you form in a group of 15?!). However, they were able to do this by relating to their backgrounds-previous training programmes, previous career options,  marriage, kids, not wanting kids. I heard someone say ‘we didn’t know whether we wanted a dog or a child first..so we went for the dog!’ Talk then switched onto psychiatry, in particular from a psychiatry trainee.

I suppose the whole time through these conversations I thought to myself, why is it that we always talk about the same thing? It’s either about work or about life’s expectations we’re supposed to conform to (dare I say so myself…the wishes of my mother, who wants me to ‘settle down’, like others she knows). Maybe I am inexperienced in these things still, but at the same time I wonder…why the same chit chat? Was it because we’re all new to eachother? Was it because of such similarities in the older trainees, it was all that was spoken about? Or was it because there isn’t anything else to talk about?