Learning to (humbly, quietly) march to the beat of my own drum…
Since I graduated earlier this summer, I’ve been reflecting on the nearly three years of my life where I bore the designation, “SPT.” If anything characterized that time, I think my classmates would be quick to agree that I marched to the beat of my own drum, and if they’re being honest, I think they’d agree that at times the noise I made bordered on obnoxious. While I’ve learned to embrace my enthusiasm and willingness to speak up and am glad I didn’t just unquestioningly jump through every hoop set before me, I also think there are ways I could’ve been more mature in my nonconformity. I want to share with you ways in which I’m proud to have colored outside the lines, as well as share a few reflections on areas that needed growth.
While I’ve learned to embrace my enthusiasm and willingness to speak up and am glad I didn’t just unquestioningly jump through every hoop set before me, I also think there are ways I could’ve been more mature in my nonconformity.
In his book ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,’ Greg McKeown writes, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. [...] It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” Because I entered PT school with a clear picture of my professional goals, I allowed that sentiment to dictate how I prioritized my coursework, class attendance, and extracurriculars. I recognized that as a student, I might not have the best perspective on which topics were relevant to my goals, so I started asking mentors, “What’s a class in PT school that at the time you didn’t think would be relevant, but now you realize it is?”
I wish I would have applied that same sort of humility in the way I communicated with my classmates when I decided that a particular topic, class, or activity didn’t align with my goals. While I’m glad that I didn’t spend a ton of time studying topics like wound care and prosthetics, bragging about that didn’t accomplish anything constructive and was disrespectful of those who did care about those topics. Ownership of your decisions is a step towards maturity but that doesn’t mean you should broadcast your decision to skip class via SnapChat to your classmates who are, ahem, still in class.
Challenging the status quo is absolutely crucial if we want rehab professions to continue evolving, but just like ownership, this can be done in ways that are constructive, as well as ways that are counterproductive. Initially I was really quick to jump the gun and speak up if a professor or guest speaker said something I disagreed with. Eventually, I learned to first ask myself...
“Am I saying this to make a point or invite a discussion?”
“Is this person open to discussion?”
“Would it be more appropriate to raise this question privately, at the next break?”
I like being right as much as the next person (okay, probably a little more!) but I think I’ve finally learned that being right isn’t the point, and sometimes it’s more productive to shut my trap, try to control my non-verbals (not a strength!), and create space for someone else’s questions.
As clinicians, ego is one of our greatest enemies. If you’re reading the Level Up Blog, you probably already embody the core values of passion, forward thinking, and growth mindset. My challenge to you today is to consider how humility can complement those qualities. Here are a few questions for self reflection:
- When was a time where I spoke up in class or at work and it wasn’t productive? Why do I think that was?
- In my identity as a student clinician or clinician, what am I most proud of? What am I doing to continue to grow in that area?
- Do I have people I can trust to give me feedback on when my ego might be interfering with my effectiveness as a communicator?
Thank you for reading!
Taylor Eckel PT, DPT, CSCS