What’s been good about today? - Veterinary Practice
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What’s been good about today?

How does this question make you feel? Energised and thinking about all the good things that happened, or slightly numb and empty? Are you able to recall a list of things that you or the team did that you know made a difference? Or are you thinking, “there was nothing good about today”? Do you even add the subtext, “there never is, it’s always like that”?

You came into the profession to make a difference. You care deeply about the animals in your charge as well as wanting to meet the ever-increasing expectations of their owners. Despite trying your best, there are clinical challenges you can’t solve and owner expectations you can’t meet. Sometimes you know you could help, but don’t have the consent to do so. Sometimes you wish you had more knowledge, more experience, and more time.

You face death and suffering almost daily; you don’t get many real highs, but there are plenty of lows, and these chip away at the back of your mind. Quickly, this becomes the story you tell yourself; your brain ignores all the not-so-bad and the good bits. You start to create new beliefs about your clients, yourself, your patients, and your profession. Is this really what you want to believe?

Let’s go back to today, or a day recently that left you feeling awful. If possible, take a pen and paper and make some notes. What did you do well? Think about all the lives you touched; your patients, your clients and your colleagues. What were the moments when you know you did a good job? What skills did you use? What were your strengths during the difficult bits? Who did you communicate well with? What difference did it make? What have you learnt? Keep digging for those good bits, however small and insignificant they may seem.

Active reflection has very real benefits

What did the team do well? Think about how people were interacting with each other, with clients and patients. What were the moments where everybody was performing at their best? What felt good? Who stepped up? What difference did it make? What have you learnt?

How often do you stop to reflect?

Our clients regularly tell us that one of the benefits of coaching is pressing pause and taking time to reflect and put life back into perspective. It helps them to recognise what they are good at, the difference they have made, and helps to separate out the facts from the tangle of thoughts and emotions in their heads. Active reflection has very real benefits. It creates positive feedback loops in our brains, which help us to stop the creation of limiting beliefs; we are actively choosing to create a different narrative, a different lens through which we view the world. It increases our mental flexibility and strengthens our personal resilience. We acknowledge what hasn’t gone well, but focus on what worked, what we’ve learnt and what we’d do differently.

Think back to the day you picked in the exercise. How does it feel now? What do you now believe about it? What would be the impact of taking a moment each day to reflect personally and within your team? How could you do that?

You came into this profession to make a difference, and you do, every day. Take time to stop and reflect on the animals you care for, the people you help, your skills and strengths – what makes you uniquely you. You can always be better, but remember how good you already are.

Penny Barker

Penny is a personal performance coach, trainer and NLP practitioner specialising in communication skills, resilience, leadership and team development. She is a small animal vet and former management consultant.

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