How to stop ticking boxes – the secret revealed (part 3 of 3)

How to stop ticking boxes

(This is last part of a 3-part story. Catch up with what happened earlier: part-1 and part-2)

So it turned out that bringing out the best in people and helping them realise their potential was my calling all along. I had always wanted to make a difference in the world by “helping people”. My career in Medicine facilitated that to some extent, but something did not sit right with me, despite trying out multiple specialties or working within different teams. The occasional tears of frustration, disempowerment and disillusion during my five years as a doctor were a sign of swimming upstream. I loved and cherished the “helping patients” part but it was apparent that the rest of the “system” was in conflict with my values.

It is wonderful if Medicine is your true calling and gives you joy and fulfilment more often than not. Congratulations if you look forward to getting out of bed in the mornings to do what inspires you! Congratulations if you are happy with your work-life balance and feel completely in control of your life! There are many doctors out there who are less fortunate and Medicine is just a job, a status, a reliable source of income or a way to prove something to the relatives, friends or even the society.

It took some courage to listen to the Voice inside and to decide to start all over again and this time to create the life of joy, meaning and purpose. Once the decision was made, I started noticing that my health began to improve and a sense of inner peace followed. A huge weight came off my shoulders. I could finally breathe. At the same time, the prospect of transitioning into the great unknown petrified me.

Like many professionals who are outwardly extremely competent and relatively financially successful, inwardly I was unsure about my own decision-making capabilities and confidence to make a new venture work. I yearned to take the bold step out of my box-ticking role and into a new world filled with passion, purpose and possibilities. Just before my job interview, I decided that Management Consulting just wouldn’t do it for me. I wanted to remain in a helping profession to facilitating changes that would bring greater joy, fulfilment and empowerment in other people’s lives. I never lost the connection with my life-long dream of “making a difference in the world”.

The “Person Specification” for my ideal role was something that would nurture my soul and inspire the heart, a role that would allow me to rekindle the long-lost creativity. The big question was where to begin looking for options, reassurance and support. “Should I find a mentor? Should I speak to my Educational Supervisor? (and if so, should I do it before or after giving a resignation notice?)”

The Secret Revealed

The truth is that without changing the systems around us, in the end of the day it is up to each one of us, as individuals, to choose to create a better life for ourselves. There will be a lot of – often conflicting – advice from the well-wishers. Everything you need is within you, so listen to your heart.

So how does one begin to tune in to this ‘inner voice’ and create clarity in life and at work? The answer, thankfully, was both incredibly simple and gratifyingly effective: find a trained, qualified and experienced career coach – OR – do what I did and become one.

Coaching – Eh?

So what does coaching involve? The profession as a whole still appears to be widely misunderstood, partly because it is not as strictly regulated as the medical profession. There is a stigma amongst many UK professionals around “being coached”, as if they would be admitting some weakness. How would the Olympic athletes achieve unbelievable results on their own if they thought that working with a coach was a weakness?

Coaching is a profession, a skill set, a collection of core competencies that is now being used in most corporate environments in the developed world. It is different from counselling and therapy in that it helps clients to move from the “now” into the ideal future rather than concentrating on the past. Coaching is different from consulting and mentoring because there is no advice-giving, although many coaches may adopt a combination of styles.

Coaches work off the principle that the client has all the answers within, although may not have the insight or clarity that could explain why some of us feel we are not living life to its full potential. Through asking the right, often bold, questions, a good coach will identify the values that drive your vision of the ideal future and then work with you to overcome the limitations that have, up until now, stopped you from having what you want. A good coach will then co-create a detailed action plan with you, teach you how to access and engage your energy and resources, and will hold you accountable throughout your partnership to ensure that you consistently reach your goals.

Learning through transition

Before I am judged for taking up someone’s place at Medical School, a 16 year old “helper” who wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives simply did not know any better way to do so than to become a doctor. Before the critics say “You just wanted an easy life”, I have to confess it was far from easy to leap into the unknown, out of my lonely but safe box. Doing it all alone poses unique challenges I had never encountered while working in the NHS. Not having a Plan B means I have to make Plan A work. It is a steep learning curve which often feels like an impossible task. Finally being able to really take care of myself, to breathe, to live in a city of my choice, to create, and to rebuild meaningful relationships are the things that keep me going. I am lucky to be creating the life just the way I want it and to experience boundless energy and enthusiasm in the process.


I know that for most people, the prospect of changing a job – let alone leaving a profession – can feel much like stepping off the proverbial cliff into an abyss of uncertainty. It seems so daunting that many choose the boredom of their comfort zone or even years of painful discontent over facing their fears and taking the leap. For those who are willing to tune in and listen to their inner voice, coaching or the training to obtain coaching skills may become the first step on the personal path to creativity, freedom and reconnecting with inner purpose. Whatever it is that gives you that unsettled feeling that there is more to life than a job, explore it, and search for the answers within. When you do, it won’t come to you as a surprise that at the recent BMJ Careers Fair, the workshops on the topics of Career Change and Work-Life Balance were sold out.

2 comments on “How to stop ticking boxes – the secret revealed (part 3 of 3)
  1. Chickoo says:

    Hi, I can identify word to word of what you said. I am still in those soul searching stages. Dont know when will things change for the better. Feel really good for you.

  2. sslu says:

    thanks for the inspiring article

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