Are you working toward Average… or AWESOME?

Jen & I are very fortunate to spend a lot of time with with both current and future Veterinarians as we visit Vet Schools, Clinics, and Conferences around the country. What we have discovered is that there seems to be one underlying theme, no matter what stage of the career people are in. That theme? They are all just trying to survive. The big surprise it that none of these individuals were ever working just to be average — Most of them were working to be Awesome!

Students are stressed about their school work, their future, and their debt. Veterinary professionals are just trying to get through their days and weeks, trying to spend time with their families, holding their health (both mentally and physically) together by a thread, and maybe working to make a business viable. Retired veterinarians are trying to figure out “what now?” because their health is failing, maybe there’s not as much in their retirement plan as they are going to need, or worse that they can’t retire because there’s not enough to retire on. It’s a Survival mindset. I’m not sure about how you feel, but that’s not how we plan on living our lives, and hopefully not how you’re going to live yours. Here’s the thing, the difference between Survive and Thrive is a very subtle shift.

Every moment we are awake, we are governed by habits and rituals. These are the default programs that run in the background of our brain that gets us to do the things we do. They are not good or bad, they are just there because they’ve been programed to be there. Some of them are survival habits that have been there thousands of years to keep us safe. Others are there because we’ve repeated the same actions over and over that they are ingrained like they have been there for thousands of years. But when we try to change these habits (like what happens every New Year) we just can’t stick with them. There’s a brain physiology reason why changing habits is too hard, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Here are 7 steps that we can make to shift from Survive, to Strive, and ultimately to Thrive (or go from Average to Awesome).

  1. Pick one thing you are going to work on. JUST ONE! I know we want to jump in and do it all better, but we want to pick just one.
  2. Break that one thing down into the actual fragment that you most want to change. Let’s use Nutrition for a moment. Maybe you are determined to “eat healthier” but what does that mean? Are you only going to eat organic foods? There are such a wide variety of things that fall into that general habit. Maybe you’ll say “cut out sugar” that’s a good start, but leafy green veggies have carbs, are they included? Let’s hope not, so let’s dive a little deeper. How about eating less bread, that is a good one, but is that the worst nutrition habit you’ve got? Maybe it’s candy? Maybe it’s dessert, what’s the biggest offender to your health? That’s the one you need to focus on.
  3. So now that we have our one thing, we are going to make it easier to NOT DO that than it is to follow the old habit.
  4. Then next step? Most people are going to say remove that thing from my life. Is that realistic? What if you are somewhere else (vacation, friend’s house) and all of a sudden it’s in front of you again, do you think you will start eating it again? No matter how determined you are, the answer is most likely yes. Removing something from sight is not a permanent solution.
  5. A shortcut to removing a habit is aversion training — yes negative reinforcement. This step is not absolutely necessary, but will cut the training time line by a significant percentage. You could consider putting a rubber band on your wrist and snapping yourself every time you reach for, or even think about, that habit you want to quit. This technique will help your brain to find ways to avoid that habit — making step 3 even easier over time.
  6. Now that you are lessening your desire for that habit, it’s time to implement a healthy habit in it’s place. This could be as simple as eating fresh fruit instead of that piece of candy. You don’t need to over-complicate it, just find a suitable and healthier alternative.
  7. The final step? Celebrate your success. Even if you aren’t 100% off of candy, we bet you’ve decreased that habit tremendously and even gained a more healthy habit in return. Take 2–3 minutes to revel in your success.

Habits are not created or broken by willpower, but they can be hacked. It takes an understanding how habits work in the brain, a deliberate action plan, and focus to make them stick. Use this simple 7-Step process to make them work for you, so that you are on a constant betterment path. If you have questions or need help identifying where you can best put your focus in your life, let us know at That’s “Where Healthy Veterinarians Thrive.”