What kind of doctor will I be?

Understanding one’s (unique) path of contribution and service to patients, society, and the profession

Key Distinction: Authenticity vs. Imitation

When most people approach the question, “What kind of doctor will I be?” they go towards identification with a specialty or with a function (e.g. administration, clinical, research). However, if you define yourself in these generic terms, you are ‘imitating’ others. You will not be accessing your unique talents to make an authentic contribution. This domain of meaning / self is designed to lead you towards an integrated understanding of your unique role and identity within medicine.

Elements of the MEANING / SELF domain: Values, Strengths, Self-Awareness

The MEANING / SELF domain of your professional identity involves developing an integrated understanding of your values (e.g. I value variety and collegiality), your strengths (e.g. I have a natural inclination towards asking the right questions, or seeing the big picture), and your self-awareness (e.g. I see myself as a person who does well under pressure) to answer the question, “What kind of doctor will I be?” 

VALUES: What matters most to me?

Related Topics: Choice and Prioritization, Personal Ethics, Resilience

What this is about:

  • Knowing Yourself. You are defined by your values. They are the closest thing to “you” that there is.
  • Knowing What Is Important. What is important to you? Why do you do what you do?
  • Acting Congruently. You have congruence in your life when you live according to your values.

Why it matters:

  • Making Choices. There are many choices coming up. How will you make the ‘right’ choices for you, and not to check off boxes?
  • Prioritizing Time. You don’t have enough time to do everything. How will you spend your time in a way that aligns with what is important to you?
  • Maintaining Resilience. As Nietsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” You will encounter challenges. During those times, will you know your “why”?
Prompts for Reflection:
  • The most important people in my life are…
  • The three adjectives that I would like for others to use to describe me are…
  • If I were to write a memoir about my life, it would be titled…


  • The Life Wheel Exercise: Prioritizing the eight domains of your life based on your values.
  • Values Words: What is more important to you? What do you want to be known for? (Coming Soon)
  • Highs and Lows: Think of three instances in your life where you were the most proud of yourself. What were the values that you were expressing during those instances? Think of three instances in your life where you were the most dissatisfied with yourself. What were the values that were being suppressed during those instances?

STRENGTHS: What are my strengths?

Related Topics: Managing Self, Teamwork, Learning

What this is about:

Why it matters

  • Learning and Expertise. You can be one of the world top experts in an area. What is that area? Where are your strengths and how will you develop them into a level of mastery?
  • Designing your Job. Is what you are doing utilizing your talents? Do you know what your talents are? Once you develop your talents, begin to craft your job/role more towards one which will use your top talents.
  • Teamwork. You can think of teamwork as working together with others towards a common goal. However, teamwork at its best is much more than that; It elicits each member’s superpower. What is the superpower that you are called upon to contribute?
Prompts for Reflection:
  • I find that I am the “go to” person for others for…
  • Three activities that I excel at (and enjoy) relative to my peers are…
  • The three areas where I would love to be a world-class expert are…
  • The topics that I love reading and learning about are…


  • Teach on a Topic: What is a skill you are trying to develop some expertise around? Sure, you can take class or a workshop on that topic. Or… how about volunteering to teach on that topic? Often, teaching is a more effective way to learn. You don’t need to be a PhD on that topic to be able to teach others. You just need to be better than those you are teaching. Look for opportunities to teach.
  • Read for Depth: According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of U.S. adults did not read a single book in 2017. If you want to develop an exceptional level of knowledge on a topic, you will need to focus your reading efforts. What if you read ten books on a topic of your interest in the next twelve months? Before long, you will be the expert on that topic.
  • Find Opportunities to Practice: How long does it take to be okay at something? Not as long as you think. If you’ve never played the guitar before, but practiced for twenty hours, you’d actually be passable. To get to twenty hours, it’s better to do fifteen minutes a day for forty days. The secret is not to try to do ten hours of practice one day and then give up. Keep chipping away little by little. You can become a master at just about anything with sustained practice.


  • Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie
  • Via Institute on Character
  • Reflected Best Self Exercise by Center for Positive Organizations
  • Laura Morgan RobertsGretchen SpreitzerJane E. DuttonRobert E. QuinnEmily HeaphyBrianna Barker. “How to Play to Your Strengths.” Harvard Business Review, 1 Aug. 2014,

SELF-AWARENESS: How do I see myself, and how do others see me?

Related Topics: Identity, Feedback, Limiting Beliefs, Narrative

What this is about:

  • Taking Time to Reflect. It’s not just about nose to the grindstone 24/7. If we want to improve our lives, to grow, to advance in our careers, we must cultivate our awareness.
  • We Can Create Our Own Meaning. Things happen in the external world, but we have the ability to create our own meaning from those events.
  • Other People Can Often See Us More Clearly Than We Can. We must often get feedback from others in order to learn about ourselves.

Why it matters:

  • Your Performance. You will have a tendency to perform up to the level of your expectations. You should be aware of what your expectations are. Often, they are running in the background outside of your conscious awareness.
  • Learning. You can memorize facts and practice skills, but how do you get better at living life? How do you decide to eat better, be a better spouse, and set a personal goal? It stems from your self-awareness.
  • Your Relationships. People will often not tell you difficult things to your face. How will you know how others feel towards you? How will you get that feedback from others?
Prompts for Reflection:
  • The words that I would use to describe me at my best are…
  • The three beliefs I have about myself that are holding me back are…
  • The people from whom I would like to get feedback are…
  • The three actions I can take to get feedback from others are…


  • Weekly “Down-Time”: Take an hour a week. In that hour, don’t do any “productive work.” Give yourself time and space. Go for a walk along your favorite path. Ride a bike around on a trail. Watch the sunset. If you noticed a nature theme, that’s intentional. Nature helps. Use the time to “process.”When you take your mind off of “doing mode,” you give it chance to be free. During that time, you may find that all kinds of creative ideas come to you. (Incidentally, this also the reason why you get a lot of great ideas in the shower.)
  • Asking for Feedback from Others: Ask ten people to give four words to describe you, one of which must be a word that describes an area where you could improve. I guarantee you that you will learn something that will help you.
  • Journaling: In medical education, many students I know journal about something they’ve learned that day, or something that they’re grateful for (which leads to resilience). There’s a body of evidence that journaling leads to learning and creativity. It’s a practice that many leaders do as a part of their routine. It would be difficult to document the whole field of journaling here. Google “journaling practice.”There will be examples that you will be able to adapt for your own practice.


  • Wong, Kristin. “A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping a Journal.” The Cut, 3 Aug. 2017,
  • Konnikova, Maria. “How People Learn to Become Resilient.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017,
  • The Gratitude Effect by John Demartini
  • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Medical education is not just a program for building knowledge and skills in its recipients… it is also an experience which creates attitudes and expectations.Abraham Flexner