From Sports Psych to Work Psych

A long time ago in a far, far away place (ok, Florida 2003), I had a session with a sport psychologist geared towards my tennis. People often speak of “the loneliness of the long distance runner,” but I think there is no lonelier sport than tennis. Its you and your thoughts against your opponent. No coaching. No time outs. No team huddle.

Two things have stuck with me since that session:

1. All pressure is self created.

2. It can be hard to distinguish between reality and the stories we’ve made up that become our new reality.

The latter is something I’ve thought about quite a bit about as an intern.

Making mistakes is a given as an intern. Contrary to what you might think, mistakes usually aren’t grievous or harm a patient (knock on wood). Interns aren’t given enough power to really harm someone (well, hopefully)! If most newbie interns are like me, they’ll ask a senior resident if they’re unsure.

Mistakes are generally more misdemeanor in their nature yet the blow to your psyche just as tough. I’ve found my flubs to be in having my note not save in the electronic medical record (and having to write it again), forgetting the very specific way to write an obstetrics admission history and exactly which forms to fill out (and having to ask a senior for help), not being able to get tasks done fast enough, forgetting which retractor is the sims vs the narrow deaver and so on and so forth.

Senior residents are like moms – they have eyes in the back of their heads and are the most efficient people you’ve ever seen. They practically troubleshoot a problem before it even happens. Even if you ran around all day getting stuff done, they will find the one or two things your forgot, which is, after all, part of their job!

In turn, being an intern becomes more of what you didn’t do rather than what you did do, which is a huge adjustment from medical school where anything that you did do was praised. There are no more gold stars as an intern.

All of this isn’t bad – its a fact in moving from school to the working world as I’m told by my friends who went through this adjustment a good 5 years before me.

However, for the type-A, high strung, coffee carrying, self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive personality disorder intern, as many of us are, the “what I didn’t do” can spiral into the “what I am not.”

The “I made a mistake” turns into “I am a mistake.” You can convince yourself that you were the “questionable admission” into the residency program and that most everyone around you thinks you’re inept. If you don’t recognize that this entire environment you’ve now created for yourself is, in fact, a story rather than reality, you could dig yourself into a pretty deep hole.

Fortunately, senior residents were once interns themselves and, like moms, can have a nice nurturing manner that lets you know you’re doing ok (this is of course, provided you have nice senior residents like myself).

Still, this whole “being an intern” thing has been an adjustment. I’m hoping the growing pains are over soon!

Until next time…

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4 thoughts on “From Sports Psych to Work Psych

  1. Great parallels Meggie – I’m definitely one to fall into the downward spiral of self criticism, both on the court and in my professional life. A co-worker recently introduced me to the term MSU – making s**t up – which I fall victim to all too frequently. Similar to the “I was a mistake” thoughts you mention, I question what teammates think about my contributions, clients think about what I’ve delivered, etc. And I generally get great feedback, I just have a hard time remembering that they value me as an employee, or that the client values my work, and instead focus on what wasn’t quite perfect. I’m learning to remember that perfection is the enemy of the good though, and to just keep moving forward, trusting my instincts and the work I’ve put in. Also happens on the court!

    Were you able to catch any of Wimbledon? Your comments reminded me of the ads Jacobs Creek Winery showed of Andre Agassi talking about the loneliness of the tennis court. It’s so very true, and I agree with you, when you’re out there on the court, there is nothing more lonely at times!

  2. You are such an awesome person with a great outlook on life! Intern year is definitely a year to learn. I think it’s amazing that you’re blogging and you’re motivating me to write and reflect on my abundance experiences also. Let me know if you ever want to run. I’m thinking about running a nyrr race in august.

  3. Well said. This is exactly why I seek out the first year teachers, offer any help I can, and write letters of commendation for them at the end of each year. Everyone needs a little help, someone to ask questions, and someone to agree or affirm with. You’re great, continue to be great!

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