Feeling powerless?

What do you do when you feel powerless in the face of forces you can’t control? It might be the shift in marketplace for your profession. It might be the environment, or the change in the current political story.

It’s easy to get emotional and lash out. Maybe voicing your anger on social media on the internet will make you feel better temporarily. Most of the posts I read by doctors about their professional seem to be doing this.

But eventually, there’s really only one practical thing to do: You need to look at your circle of influence and your larger circle of concern, and focus on the former. Act on things that you can actually influence, rather than spending your energy on the things beyond your reach. You always have something that you can influence, even if all you have is your own attitude.

It’s easy to see that some things are in your circle of influence and others are outside it. But when you get closer to the edges, it may be harder to tell. Especially if you are emotional about it, it can be easy to discount your power. You can do more than you think. And if you want to do more, you can work at expanding your circle of influence over time.

You may not be able to change the face of healthcare, but you can change the way you act today. You may be able to change the course of your particular organization or business. Or if you can’t, you can work to grow the skills that allow you to. Why write another article decrying the state of professional satisfaction for doctors when you can instead think of how you might work to make it better? At the very least, you can change your attitude and look for potential rather than doom. Someone is going to succeed and be happy in healthcare, why can’t it be you?

Work within your circle of influence, expand it over time, and question the borders when you assume that you are powerless.


If you want to read more about the concept of the circle of influence and concern, search the internet for those terms and Stephen Covey. If you feel like you really are powerless, you might want to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Here’s a nice summary. He found a way to see choice in the face of hopelessness, and chances are that his sphere of influence was smaller in a concentration camp than yours is now.

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