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After the upheaval of the last two years, many physicians are reassessing their priorities. Coaching provides a framework for learning from the past to build a brighter future.

Fam Pract Manag. 2022;29(5):12-16

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

While much of the business world is calling these times “The Great Resignation,” for family physicians “The Great Reprioritization” may be more accurate. There were already plenty of stressors in the profession prior to March 2020, and now two-plus years of the pandemic, economic upheaval, political polarization, and social unrest have provided more reasons for many in health care to step back and reassess their careers, priorities, and aspirations.1,2,3

Family physicians are like pluripotent stem cells, with many options for career and professional satisfaction. When the trajectory we’re on no longer works for us, or we find ourselves thinking “there must be something more,” coaching is a tool we can use to forge another path — not to abandon our profession, but to refresh its possibilities. The coaching process includes answering critical questions such as “Where have I been?” (insight), “Who am I now?” (information), and “What do I want/where am I going?” (inspiration/illumination).

This article explains the coaching process, including journal assignments to help family physicians begin to experience the coaching process for themselves. The aim is to help family physicians advance on their professional journey and improve their personal well-being.

KEY POINTS

  • Having a coach to provide objective observations, clarity, accountability, and encouragement can be invaluable, particularly for physicians who feel “stuck.”

  • The coaching process involves learning from past experiences, exploring how your identity and strengths can help you surmount present challenges, and building a vision for the future.

  • The journal assignments included in this article can help family physicians begin to experience the coaching process for themselves.

THE COACHING PROCESS

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” — Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance

The International Coaching Federation (ICF), a leading accrediting body for coaches, defines coaching as partnering with an individual in a “thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”4 Coaches employ keen listening skills, insightful questions, reflective dialogue, and a future-oriented mindset to help those they’re coaching explore possibilities, realize untapped potential, and optimally achieve in their present circumstances so they can become more effective, efficient, and engaged.5

The coaching process begins with perceptive questioning based on the Socratic method of inquiry. This spurs guided self-exploration in the person being coached. Coaching then provides a structure for translating this information into achievable goals and habits that drive professional and personal growth. Having a coach who can provide objective observations, clarity, accountability, and encouragement can be invaluable, particularly if the person being coached is feeling “stuck.” (See “Finding the right coach.”)

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