Jackie: Hello, and thank you for tuning into the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox podcast. My guest is Dr. Deborah Gobo, or as many referred to her, Dr. G.
Dr. G practices family medicine at Squirrel Hill Health Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is a re resilience expert in keynote speaker having appeared on today. Good Morning America. The doctors and Rachel Ray, she has also contributed to outlets like Washington Post, The New York Times, and Huffington Post among other publications.
Dr. G, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks
Dr. Deborah: for having me, Jackie. I'm really happy to be here. Yes,
Jackie: I'm so excited about this conversation and just a note for our listeners to know that my parents are from Pittsburgh, and so close ties there. My mom grew up. Homewood. Which is Which
Dr. Deborah: is next neighborhood over
Jackie: from my neighborhood.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm. . So that's awesome. So excited about that. That's very cool. Well, I'm so glad that you're here and excited about this conversation. And Dr. G I always like to ask for our guests to talk a little about themselves. Tell me about you, your family, your identity, your background, whatever you'd like to.
Dr. Deborah: Yeah, it's really interesting. I've just, um, in doing my own background writing for the most recent Ted Talk I gave, I was trying to figure out what my own story was about my content. What I, what I research and speak on, as you mentioned, is resilience and. For me, I think the biggest thing that informs that is that I'm second generation American.
My parents were both born to four. All four of my grandparents were immigrants. And really the sort of traditional movie story of. Being in a place where they were dealing with both poverty and oppression and risk, you know, of their life and of their community. And each of them left illegally and from Russia or Eastern Europe and made it to on to Ellis Island on boats.
Mm-hmm. . And actually one of my grandparents had to come through Venezuela and lived there for five years cuz of quotas. But then he came up through asylum too. Mm-hmm. . Made it as far as the Bronx and settled there and my experience just in those two generations, I'm the only grandchild on one side and the only granddaughter on the other side and and my grandparents all came from huge families.
Not everybody you know, lived or made it, but the experiences that I had when I was in my first five or six years of living near my grandma. Hmm. You could see these stark differences in our experiences of identity in just two generations. Like I remember, you know, I grew up on Sesame Street. I'm a kid of the seventies, and Sesame Street was huge.
We didn't get our first TV until I was like four and. I remember walking down the street in the Bronx with my grandma and seeing a police officer and remembering the police officer on Sesame Street. I smiled and waved and said, Hi, Mr. Officer. And my grandmother almost yanked my arm out of, out of its socket and pulled me into the alley and chastised me, and shushed me.
And you don't try and get a police officer's attention ever. Mm. And that privilege. I didn't at the time have a lot of financial privilege. I had a lot of comfort in my own skin and in my own community kind of privilege. Yeah. That she absolutely didn't have you hide from the police. You, And I remember like when I think back on it, that my whole life she had when, when we'd been walking down the street together and she was this tiny little woman, like four foot 10.
she would try and get smaller if we saw anybody in any kind of uniform Oh wow. You know, meter or made whatever, she would walk closer to buildings, step into shadows, walk slower, put her head down, more me in between her and the apartment buildings that we were walking past to protect me. And it was so different than the way that I had been taught just by watching Sesame Street.
Yeah. See the world, right? And it really made a big impression on me of trying to figure out like were police officers, safe people, or not safe people in my little kid mind. Right? Obviously it's than that. It's a totally different conversation today than it was then. And I understand that there are so many more perspectives that I could've had, but I couldn't when I was a little kid.
Jackie: Right. Not at four. Right. .
Dr. Deborah: Exactly. So a lot of my identity comes from. Um, being the, you know, the grandkid of four immigrant parents we're Jewish. That's our main, strangely, I guess that's main, our main racial identity. Mm-hmm. , Although maybe not strangely, because when I did the DNA testing, it told me that I was 99% Jewish.
And I don't think anybody else besides Jews gets a religious answer on a DNA test. Right. . That's an interesting question. Sorry, . Uh, so when I was younger, there were lots of things I wasn't allowed to do because I was Jewish, not because of my parents, but because of society. There were teams I wasn't allowed to be on in clubs I wasn't allowed to be in.
And my very good, very wealthy friend in high school tried to bring me as one of her guests to her debutante Paul. And I was not allowed to go because I was Jewish. Um, and I very much remember the no blacks and no Jew. World. Mm-hmm. and in just, in just my lifespan really, just the last 30 years I've become white passing.
Mm-hmm. . And it's a really interesting perspective for me. My kids definitely are white. Mm-hmm. , Um, and my parents definitely were not. and I wasn't, and then I was, So that's my identity from a racial perspective. Uh, I'm asexual woman. Um, and my, I'm cis and I think that pretty much covers my identity stuff.
I love it.
Jackie: Thank you for sharing that. You know, I love the stories about, you know, how we grew up because it shaped so much of how we think about the world. Yeah. Um, and how we think about each other. And so I, I appreciate that. Thank you so much. Dr. G. Will you tell us a little bit about your medical practice and then about your consulting
Dr. Deborah: and speak?
Yeah, so I went to med school in what's called a non-traditional path. Um, my first career was in theater, and then I became an American sound language interpreter. And I used that to work my way through medical school. And I won't drag you into all of my thought processes, but once I became a doc, um, I got a.
Medical training is you, do you go to college and then you apply to medical school. Now I worked in between cuz I went to college for something else. But then you go to medical school, that's four years during medical school, you figure out what kind of a doctor you wanna be. And I don't mean like a good one.
I mean like what field you're interested in. Right. Those family medicine. Because in family medicine we get to see everybody. Mm-hmm. and things change up all the time and we get to see patients in the office and in the hospital and also do house calls. It's really cool. So it's really the kind of medicine I wanted to practice.
Family medicine is a three year residency training program. And so by the time I was done with those seven years of training, I was out as an attending physician and my second position as an attending physician separate from teaching at the med school, which most of us do teach in some way or another.
Mm-hmm. , uh, I got hired at a federally qualified health center. FQHCs are somewhat government funded, although not government run health centers that exist in every county in the US and they're kind of as close as we get to having socialized medicine. Different FQHCs are created to serve different needs.
Ours was created to serve linguistically and culturally and religiously underserved in Pittsburgh. So, We've been open. When we've been open for 15 years. We did another audit of our patient population and found that our patients speak 62 different languages natively and come from over a hundred countries, and so I get to do global medicine.
A mile from my house, which is really fun. We don't hire anybody at our health center who only speaks English. Um, I speak three languages. Most of the other providers, doctors and nps, PAs, all speak two or three or four languages. Mm-hmm. our, uh, MAs and front staff and nurses. Everybody speaks at least two languages, if not more.
And yet we can't come close to covering the 61 62 languages that we have. So we use a lot of interpreters and we try really hard to use cultural interpreters as well as language interpreters. Mm-hmm. . But what I find is that I am just learning from my patients all the time and. The work that I get to do there is really a big part of the reason that I started doing the consulting that I do.
So when I'd been an attending for about five years, I started to notice this gap between what I had been trained to do, which is help people get better when they're sick or when they're hurt, or help them prevent illness and injury. Right? Wear your seatbelt, get your pap smear, those kind of things.
Mm-hmm. . There's a big gap between helping them get better and helping them be well. Mm-hmm. like truly live the life they want, be as thriving as they can be in their circumstances. And so I thought, what's in that gap? And the more I looked at the research, the more I found that gap described and usually attributed to patient resilience.
Which I recognized sounded like a cop out, but I also thought things can be both annoying and true. So if that's true, ,
Jackie: but I love that. Oh my gosh. Uh, I have to write that down because that applies to so many things and like doesn't
Dr. Deborah: it, We be annoying things to be wrong, but sometimes they're not. So I was like, Okay, if that's the case, what is patient resilience?
Yeah. Now this goes. Over 10 years. But at the time a lot of the research about resilience in adults was done on folks with post traumatic stress disorder or severe mental illness. Mm-hmm. . And although that describes some of my patients, it's not really applicable to the vast majority of my patients. So I was like, okay.
Um, well, if the research you want doesn't exist, Then do it. And I entered into this work, uh, first about what is resilience and how do we draw it out in kids, um, as teachers, as parents, as coaches. And then in the last five years or so, what is resilience in adults and is it a trait like your eye color, you're just born with it, or is it something.
You can, like can we have a growth mindset about resilience? Is it something that goes up, goes down both What is and what's it made of? And I've been lucky enough to do research with a lab at Tapper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. And we've been really interested, specifically in resilience in the workplace and for adult professionals.
And I was so excited when you asked me to have this, when your team asked me to have this, Have me on your podcast because. , our work on resilience is fundamentally about navigating change. Mm-hmm. , the definition of resilience that people use in the colloquial world is, Oh, it's the ability to bounce back from difficulty, but that's not actually the social science definition of resilience.
Yeah, because there's two problems with that. One, it assumes that you only have to be resilient about negative change, and that turns out not to be. , you actually have to be resilient about all change, even the good stuff, the stuff that you worked for that you dreamed about, that resilient, that change also requires resilience.
The other thing that isn't great about that bounce back definition is it assumes that you can go back to how you were before you experienced something, and humans are always changed by their experiences, right? The social science definition is that resilience is the ability to navigate change with intention and purpose towards.
and one of the obstacles that people face to DEI work is that because it is a righteous change, because it is a moral change, we believe it should be an easy change. Mm-hmm. and our brains don't make anything about change. Even the
Jackie: good stuff. That's right. Absolutely. You know, that's so interesting because when we think about change, it's, it's the things that are hard or the things we don't understand
Dr. Deborah: pandemic inflation climate.
Jackie: Right. That we think, okay, this is, this is going to be a challenge. . But even, It's interesting that you said even the good stuff, those, those changes that are positive that we've been hoping for, Right, Can create some level of stress and anxiety. And then Jackie, a
Dr. Deborah: lot of your, What do you do that. A lot of your listeners lead groups, right?
They lead teams. Mm-hmm. , uh, they have groups of clients or customers that they're trying to usher through change, and, and they may sit on a DEI committee or be in charge of dei and they're definitely trying to help other people navigate change, and leaders make this fundamental mistake. They think that when people struggle to navigate change, it either means they're a bad leader or the people are bad people.
Mm. And neither is true. When a group of people struggle to navigate a change that you announced, it doesn't mean you didn't announce it. Well, it doesn't mean they don't trust you. It doesn't, It's not a referendum on leadership. And when that group of people struggles to navigate, change it likewise doesn't mean that they're lazy or obstinate or unmotivated or don't really believe in the mission that they pretend to believe in.
Right? Right. When people struggle to navigate change, it simply means their brains are trying to keep them. That doesn't mean there's nothing you can do, but the first thing you can. is understand that it is a reflex. Jackie, did you ever have occasion to bring a kid to a doctor's office for a well check?
For a visit? Yes, absolutely. Okay. Mm-hmm. . So if you brought a child to my office and sat 'em up on my table and the three of us are talking, and you know how you doing and how you growing and how's your body and how you feeling and what are you do at school, whatever. And I listen with my stethoscope, and then I let them listen with my stethoscope.
And then at some point I take out my reflex hammer, right? Mm-hmm. and I tap their knee. What are they?
Jackie: Their knee, their leg is gonna
Dr. Deborah: jump, right? Their foot kicks out, right? Mm-hmm. , if everything's wired the way it's supposed to be wired, their foot kicks out, right? If I stand right in front of that child and I tap their knee, they kick me, right?
Mm-hmm. , do you chastises that child for being disrespectful and kicking the doctor? No. No. You might, at least in your inside voice, Why is she an idiot? And she stood right in front of my kid and got kicked . Like she knew what was gonna happen, I hope. Right? And yet, leaders, leaders insist on standing right in front of their people, announcing change.
And then when the reflexes our brains have against change, kick in, we get kicked. And we either think I'm not a good leader, or you are a disrespectful person, and neither is true. Our brain has three reflex. Every single time we encounter even the possibility of change, good change, bad change, or neutral change, because our brains have a million functions, but our brains actually only have one job.
Do you know what our brain's job is? Uh,
Jackie: to keep us
Dr. Deborah: alive? That's it. That is exactly right. At our most basic, our brains, all those functions are for one purpose. That purpose is to keep us alive. The good news, we are all currently alive, right? The bad news. All change is suspect. Every single change, our brain goes, But could we die though Every change.
And so even if it's the job you've been hoping for that you got, or you pop the question and the person says yes, or you've been trying and trying to have baby and you're pregnant, or your partner is, or you've been trying, trying to have baby and the adoption's gonna go through like something you really, really wanted.
You put together a really big proposal and the leadership says, Yes, we're gonna do it. Here's the budget for it. Mm-hmm. , even that stuff, your brain. even while you might be feeling happy or excited or proud or relieved, your brain goes, What could we lose? Can we trust this? And what will be uncomfortable about it?
Those are the three deep tendon reflexes that we cannot stop anymore than that kiddo could've stopped kicking from kicking me when I tapped their knee, just cuz I happened to be standing right in front of them.
Jackie: Wow. Yeah, that's. . So
Dr. Deborah: if you think that's that, you come to your company and you say, Hey, there's a DEI initiative that would cost us nothing and would gain us so much.
Mm-hmm. , let's do it. And then they go basically, But could we die though? Mm-hmm. , we think. , you're a terrible human, aren't you? Like down deep. You might be a terrible, terrible human. Right. And that's not it. Mm-hmm. , if we can say if they have that, But could we die though, right? Mm-hmm. , Will this take away resources from something that we need?
Will this take away time or money or people or whatever from, you know, achieving our mission, earning the money we need to pay our people. Um, are you sure this is where we should be putting our time and effort? What's gonna be uncomfortable? People won't like it. It'll be itchy or uncomfortable, right? And we.
Oh right. These are those three reflexes. Now what do we do? So as soon as you recognize these three things are just reflexes, it's not cuz they're a bad person. It's not because I didn't present it well, these are reflexes, right? That's the, that's the downswing of the cycle of resilience. The upswing will get you to turn at the bottom and move things up is simply remembering that you have.
as soon as we remember. Okay. I have choices before we even lift them. We've started to engage the venture medial prefrontal cortex here at the beginning. Mm-hmm. at the front of our brains that quiets it. Can't turn off those reflexes, but it quiets the reflexes that are in the amygdala. , those fear based responses.
Mm-hmm. Of lost distress and discomfort, and then we start to behave in a resilient way. We say, Okay, what choices do we have? So it's a new DEI initiative that costs nothing, Right? Doesn't need to take from anybody's budget, but would make a huge difference. Let's use, for example, using pronouns in a meeting.
Mm-hmm. , it costs $0. So we think this is something that would make people feel more respected. It would help live our mission that we have recently been asked to write about our DEI perspective at our company. Here's something easy to do, takes. Two and a half seconds for everybody to put that in their zoom or say it as we're introducing ourselves or a, um, a land obligation statement about the land that we're on.
Whatever it is, it costs nothing, takes almost no time and somebody, the leader that you've presented it to is like, well, But is this gonna make somebody uncomfortable? Will we have a client that we lose because we do this because it's not part of their worldview? Um, are you sure? It's not just performative and people are gonna feel like we're just, it's just lip service and we don't really mean it.
Like lost distrust, discomfort. And if we are able to say, Oh, right, I heard that doctor say this was gonna be a thing, this is a normal reaction. Yeah. And we say, Okay, I hear you. This feels risky to you in some. Here are some choices that we have, or what choices do you think we might have keeping in mind?
Remember I said resilience is the ability to navigate change with intention and purpose. Mm-hmm. . So keeping in mind that our intention and purpose is to be more inclusive, right? So what choices do we have in this situation towards the goal of being more, I. and not in a snarky. There's only one possible answer here, Jackie.
Say that I'm right. . Right, right, right. But actually, , Can we talk about our choices? Maybe it is to have me do it just just me for the first couple of meetings and see how it goes. Or just the leader do it and see how it goes, or make it optional and see how it goes. Mm-hmm. , or float it in an email and ask for responses and say, We have choices.
And as soon as we remember that those reactions or reflex just arrange trying to keep us alive, not only people trying to continue to be oppress. Or unwilling to be at all uncomfortable and then say, But we have this goal that's agreed upon mission. What choices do we have? We then pick some of those choices.
We engage with them and we get to reunify. That's the top of the cycle. That's, That's the goal. Mm-hmm. and that reunification is not necessarily with best DEI practices yet. That goal is not necessarily with everybody being super comfortable, that goal. that reunification is with us knowing that we are genuinely working towards our purpose.
Hmm. I love that it's in this case, in this example, that, that reunification is about authenticity.
Jackie: That is so interesting. Dr. G, thank you for sharing that. You know, it's, it's tough to navigate change personally, and it's tough to help others navigate change. In the case of DEI practitioners or leaders, , and so just having that understanding, it feels like it takes some of the pressure off,
Dr. Deborah: right?
I hope that it does. I hope that it allows you to feel less. Frustrated personally when it's other people who are struggling to navigate the change to feel less fraudulent personally, when you are the one struggling to navigate a change. Yeah. Any change, right? It doesn't matter what it's, That's right.
Most of us have some changes that we have no problem moving through loss and distrust and discomfort really quickly. Uh, here's an example of a neutral change that causes most of us a little bit of a hitch in our giddy up. As one of my nurses used to say, uh, you pick up your phone to send a. And you can't because it's updating its operating system.
Mm-hmm. , right? That hap that's happened to you. Yeah. Mm-hmm. . Right? It's happened to me. So your brain immediately goes, Am I gonna remember what I was gonna do when it's done? Did I click something that said I wanted to update right now when I did not? What Distrust? Mm-hmm. and discomfort. How long is this gonna take?
Yeah. But most of us, like we can navigate that by the end of the day, we might not even remember it happened unless someone asked. , but we also all have moments where our phone updating our operating system is the very last straw. Yeah. Pitch the phone across the room or just collapse in a pile of frustration or huff or snap at the next person who speaks to us or walk away, or whatever our negative coping mechanisms are because there's just one too many changes.
Jackie: Absolutely. Yeah,
Dr. Deborah: I hear you. Resilience is a growth commodity. We can build it at any time, but the downside of growth commodities, as any stock broker knows, is they can drop unexpectedly,
Jackie: right? Mm. Hmm. Oh, that is, that is so interesting and I appreciate that perspective. Let's talk about your book, Dr. G from I Love Yes.
To Resilient. So from Stress to Resilient is, is your book and you talk about this, um, within IT and the eight necessary skills to be resilient, will you share a few of those with.
Dr. Deborah: Absolutely. What happened was what we discovered in our research, the first really good news we discovered is this fact that resilience is a growth commodity.
That it's not the same as my eye color. And that's just, I got what I got when I was born and that's it. Right? Um, and that's really good news because that means you can grow it at any point. Some people definitely are more, uh, naturally resilient than others in the beginning of their life, but also we. If we have a narrative, have you heard this phrase?
What doesn't kill us?
Jackie: Makes us stronger? Mm-hmm. ,
Dr. Deborah: right? My professional and personal observation is what doesn't kill us usually makes us miserable. . And if you could just go with that, if you'd be like, Well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, then everybody would be stronger. Do you know Jackie? Don't tell me who.
But do you know somebody in your life? Every time they go through something hard, it's awful. It's just like the yes. End of the world for them and it never seems to get any easier. Yes. . So if, what if every hard thing made us stronger, we wouldn't know adults like that. Mm-hmm. . That's right. Right. So saying, Well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
That's how you get more resilient. That's like me saying, I'm gonna train for a marathon by forgetting where I parked my car in the parking lot and walking around to. Mm. It's gonna make me a tiny bit more physically fit, but it's not gonna get me ready for a marathon. Right? Absolutely. Mm-hmm. , even if the marathon is in the Walmart parking lot, it's just not gonna help me.
I'm still, by the end of row C, gonna be really huffing and puffing. That's right. So it's not enough to just go through hard things, and I, I love being able to reject the premise that only people who go through hard things are going to be as strong as it's possible to be. That like you have to have, it's like inspiration porn, right?
Like you have to have great, you have to have suffered. People who start off behind the starting line are so much luckier. That narrative is just ridiculous. Mm-hmm. . Mm. We discovered that this ability to navigate change and come through it with intention and purpose is built on eight skills. Okay? And those eight skills as I'm gonna list them, I'm gonna list all eight.
Okay? As you listen to 'em, you're gonna think to yourself about yourself. I hope. What do, I know you may, if you're, you know, if you're a parent, you might also be thinking about your kids. But really, I want you to think for yourself right now. Okay? How competent from, From not at all to, Oh yeah. Very natural for me.
You feel about each of. And I'm not gonna ask you to tell me Jackie, cuz it's really personal, but just everybody is listening. Just listen. How competent do you already feel at any of these eight skills? And they're in no particular order because there's no order to this. But I have an order in my head that I memorized them in.
Okay. So building connections with other people, that helps us navigate change because when we don't know what to do, we know other people well enough to ask if they've been through this or what suggestions they have or how they can lend a hand. The second one I want you to think about is the ability to set boundaries, which isn't only about saying no, It's about making sure that your yeses line up with your actual intentions and purpose.
Mm. So you're saying yes to the things that move you towards the life you need. The next one is opening to change, Recognizing that there's more than one way to get you to a positive. , I'm
Jackie: learning that one as a, as a leader. Right. And you
Dr. Deborah: can easily see how like a lot of three year olds, they really think the only way they can have a good day is if they are wearing the tutu and the Superman cape and the hat.
Right. And you have to help them see that they could possibly have a great day, even if they put on a jacket because it's 20 degrees outside . Right? So a lot of adults too, we struggle. We have one way that we can picture this going. And if it doesn't go that way, we think it can't possibly be good. But it's much easier to navigate change when you have the skill of opening to different possibilities and evaluat.
Yeah. The next one is managing discomfort. I talked about those three reflexes, the loss, distrust, and discomfort, and before we did the research, when we just discovered that those were the three reflexes and named them in that way, I thought most people would get stuck in loss. Because we know how hard grief is, right?
Mm-hmm. , and then actually during the pandemic with all of the partisanship and echo chambers and bubbles, I thought maybe distrust is the place that's hardest for people. Mm. But the research points to discomfort. being the hardest place for people. That's where we get stuck and we don't move through to choice.
We move to our negative coping mechanisms. Wow. Like substances and conflict and, you know, and like, I mean, by conflict I mean like violence and tantrums and, um, and avoidance. Yep. And, and we don't get on. . So managing discomfort turns out to be a crucial skill in navigating change, and then we have four that kind of hang together.
You have to be able to set goals. That's an important skill. You can't navigate change with intention and purpose if you don't know how to figure out what your goal actually is in that change. Yep. You have to be able to find options, find more than one way to skin the cat. Mm-hmm. , because sometimes the first thing you think of isn't the best thing or it doesn't work.
You have to take action because when people get stuck, they can't navigate change, right? When they're like on option overload or they're afraid it won't be the perfect choice, so they don't make any choice when it turns out that not making a choice is actually making a choice. Right? So, So taking action, and the last thing is persevering.
Mm-hmm. . I'm especially interested in persevering because we're terrible at teaching perseverance. . Jackie, were you educated in the us were you in elementary school? In the us. Okay. Yes. Can you picture on one of your classroom walls a poster of someone and a, an inspirational quote about perseverance? Like Thomas Edison took two 10,000 tries to create the light bulb, or Michael Jordan said, Success is falling down seven times, getting up eight.
Or you like a, a picture, a portrait of someone, and an inspirational quote about perseverance.
Jackie: Not specifically
Dr. Deborah: about perseverance. Okay. So I remember this being, and I've heard, I've heard motivational speeches about perseverance, and I've heard educators speaking about perseverance and they always wanna tell me about other people who perseve.
Yeah. You know, the guy who invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner had 5,243 patents before the time that it worked, right? Mm-hmm. , this is like, this is like, you come to me and you say, Dr. G, I wanna learn to be a professional figure skater. And I say, Oh, no problem. Here's a poster of a professional figure skater, and an inspirational quote.
Now go , Uhhuh, right? So, Okay, here's another, here's another way I'm gonna describe how frustrated I get with how we think about perseverance right now in the world. Finish these two sentences. The first one is, we tell children all the time, If at first you don't succeed, try again. Right? We say to adults all the time, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results is the definition of insanity, right?
So square, those two. Uh huh. We tell kids, Yeah, that's true. Try again. We tell adults don't do the same thing over and over. Right. So I'm sitting down to write my book, my section on perseverance, and I'm like, How do you thread that needle, Dr. G ? Like, Wow, what's the deal? And the deal is it's not just about trying, again, it's a two step process, not a one step process.
You have to try again and change something. Mm-hmm. , it could be something small. My kids. One of my kids really struggled to learn to tie his shoes. And I'm one of those parents who's like, You have to have a shoe with laces because you ought to know how to tie your shoes right And don't know why. And it's probably like handwriting, but there it is.
I want you to know how to tie your shoes. suck. But I found myself saying things to him a lot when he would fail at tying his shoes. I was like, Well, why don't you put down all the things in your hands and then try again? Mm-hmm. , Or why don't you stop balancing on one foot? Sit down and try again. . We say change something, something small, something big.
Mm-hmm. , you know, start with your left hand whatever and try again. But it's not just try again. It's change something and try again. Yeah. And so persevering is this, we bring it up like a trait, like some people just do it, but actually it's a skill. Mm-hmm. , all eight of these are a skill. Wow.
Jackie: That, that is helpful.
And you know, I've never thought about,
Each other as adults. Yeah. But Right. Try again, but, but what's the tweak? That's, that's very important. So Dr. G, your talk book talks about turning stress into resilience and with all that's occurring in the world with our, our private lives, our work lives, our in the world. Right. What advice do you give to someone who's generally happy?
Right? But, but you know about gaining and keeping balance in, you know, very stressful times.
Dr. Deborah: I'm gonna have a little bit of a allergic reaction to the word balance, okay? And here's why. Here's why I am a single mom of four kids. , I'm a doc and I have this other company, right, where I work with companies to help them navigate change, and people are like, Oh, how do you balance it all?
Here's why I don't like the image of a balance. I don't know if you remember Jackie, or if your listeners well, but in science class, way back in the day when you had to weigh something, you do it on a balance scale. , Yep. Mm-hmm. . Right? Not on a scale with a digital readout, but a balance scale. Mm-hmm. And people may have seen pictures of these, even if they haven't done it.
The idea of a balance scale is you put what you were weighing on one side and then on the other side you'd keep putting weights until they measured exactly the same and you could count up how many weights you had. Mm-hmm. . So the idea of balance is like me saying, Well, if I, if my kids need me a lot this week, if I have to take time during the day to do something and all their evenings are full and our weekends, well then if they took.
60 of my hours this week to be balanced. I better give my work 60 hours to mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , and I dunno about you, but my hours don't work like that. . Yep. I can't infinitely add them until they add up. Right. So the idea of balance, I think only makes sense over a season. Mm. Not over a day or a. Every day and most weeks are gonna lean more towards one than the other.
And also, I don't have only two plates on, on my balance scale. Yeah. I'm also the only child of an aging parent. Mm-hmm. . I'm also involved in my, you know, I'm on a national advisory board for the United States, um, for Olympics. Teams. So like I, and I keep adding plates. I've got like this, you know, 16 plated balance thing.
Yeah. And if I just kept having to add weight to each of them until they all added up, I would be dead. So , that's, And my brain is like, But could we die though? Don't do that. Right. Right. So I think that instead of looking at his balance, I look at it as trying my best over the course of a month or a season.
Mm-hmm. to match. My calendar, like the things I'm actually spending time doing to my priorities. And I give myself like three to five priorities. And by the way, I put my own health and wellbeing on that list so that I can be around to have that list next year. Yeah,
Jackie: the same. I love that answer. And you know, the, the thing about it, Dr.
G, is I, I love to use the word balance because very often high perform. I know what you mean. Have an allergic reaction to the.
Dr. Deborah: And I know what you mean and everybody, and it is to feel balanced. That's really valuable. Yeah. But I really wanna think of it as matching. If I'm gonna navigate all this stuff with intention and purpose, then my goals have gotta match up with my actual purpose.
Jackie: And one of the things that I've discovered by thinking that way rather than what's the balance, right? The, the equal parts all around and all of the things that you are as an individual, it gives you the opportunity to give yourself some grace and not to be. Excellent. At everything every single day because it's impossible.
Dr. Deborah: And so, and nobody wants love. I'll be friends with somebody who's excellent at everything every single day. . That's true. Do you wanna hang out with that person? I don't wanna hang out with that person. No, no. Somebody can occasionally cuss like a sailor about how terrible everything
Jackie: feels, . Absolutely.
Absolutely. Cause we all need that outlet a little. I That is great. You know, and, and again, it's just so important to give yourself some grace. You're not gonna get it perfect every day. You don't have to get it perfect every day to be a good professional or a good parent, or a good daughter, or a good friend, or a good, you know, um, runner or whatever your things.
Um, it's important to give yourself a little, a little room, right? And so that's, that's great. Thank you for sharing that. Dr. G one of the things that, that I wanna ask about is the word resilient. So oftentimes that word is used a lot, especially among black women. as a compliment, right? To cope with inequities, imbalances, unfairness, things like that.
So how do we use that word without it being that kind of proverbial pat on the head, rather than addressing systemic issues that arise? And one of the things just to point out is I love. Your practice, the doctors speak so many language because that's languages. Cuz that's one of the inequities that we have in healthcare is that there's, you know, if you don't understanding, if you're not understanding what your doctor is saying, you don't understand the diagnosis, how to treat it.
And so I love that. staff, um, and your doctors speak multiple languages to be able to bridge as best they can. That inequity. Um, so I just wanted to, to point that out. I know I went in a different direction, but back to resilience.
Dr. Deborah: I, Well, I appreciate it, but to your point about cultural issues mm-hmm. , the language isn't enough and we recognize that, you know, we're working really hard.
So one of the populations that we serve most in our practice is Bhutanese and Nepali folks. And at first we were really excited in the first few years to be able to get some folks from that community who wanted to train to be medical assistant. And they were really excited because some people were actually going to medical school and now we're getting providers, you know, or PA school or NP school.
And now we're getting providers who don't just speak that language but are of that culture and that and that group. Because hearing your language is a bridge. Mm-hmm. over a gap, but seeing yourself in your healthcare provider removes the gap.
Dr. Deborah: and the bridge is better than no bridge. Mm-hmm. , no question.
Right? Sure. Having, having me be able to be educated enough, and that's all it is, it's just education to say to a patient, um, that I recognize that, you know, I, I've said to patients, for example, some of my trans patients mm-hmm. , I'll say,
I recognize that there are just realities of our health center that aren't the best for you. You would be best in a health center that was only for trans patients. We can't offer that. We can offer a health center that doesn't put genders on bathrooms that, um, asks genders for every patient at check-in.
That makes a point of asking to be corrected if we say something that's different than how you'd like to be referred, but still, You're having to be the person who's looking out for your speed bumps and just being like, There's another speed bump. Could you fix it, please? Mm-hmm. , as opposed to we've smoothed out all the speed bumps.
Yeah. And those cultural differences make a really big difference. And so, you know, every single time that I see a patient of mine who's black and they've been in the hospital, one of the things we talk about, I ask about is what inequities they faced, and if they wanna discuss any of those things. Mm.
that's not as good as me being able to remove those inequities. Yeah. But it's a bridge, so the gap still exists, and I'm not fixing the gap. I'm just putting a bridge over the gap. Mm. That what you bring up with the word resilience and what it means in different cultures. Mm-hmm. is a good example of that gap.
Yeah. A bridge that I would recommend over the gap is to define our terms. I've heard from other people, especially in the corporate setting. The word resilience to them is a call to suffer without complaint. Mm. That, especially during and after the pandemic, they're tired of being asked or patted on the head by their leadership for being resilient.
Yeah. That they don't want, you know, like we're gonna have to be resilient. They're like, Enough, don't ask me to be resilient. Fix some of the problems that I'm facing. Yeah. And I totally understand that perspective. , but I also know that it is a personal goal for most of us to be able to navigate, change and feel less winded by it, less oppressed by it.
And so I wanna help people who want them to grab and polish more of the skills that will help them face the stressors they have today and feel less oppressed. . Yeah, absolutely. Wild. Really important work exists to have fewer obstacles and fewer difficult changes. No question.
Jackie: Definitely, definitely. Dr. G, you speak about resilient teams.
So we talked a lot
Dr. Deborah: about being resilient
Jackie: as an individual. How do we create a resilient.
Dr. Deborah: There are two things that we can do. One is preventive and or one focus is preventive. Mm-hmm. and one focus is treatment. I'm, I know I'm speaking about it in doctor terms, but So there's one that's like, Before you're dealing with a difficult situation, um, or a big change that's really negatively impacting your team.
And the other is while you are navigating. And so from the focus of beforehand, some of the things that we can do to have a team that's more resilient is a team that feels higher senses of connection and belonging. Hmm. So when people feel higher senses of connection, belonging, and motivation, they are more likely to hang together as they navigate.
Yeah, absolutely. While you're navigating the hard changes, that's a lot of the work I do with companies. They bring me in when they are about to, or much more often when they're in the middle of navigating a big change. Some examples would be changing an IT system or a payroll system, moving the physical plant of a building, merging with another part of the company, or changing leadership or organizational structure being acquired by another company.
Those big changes that make people feel. Loss, distrust, discomfort, really at risk. Mm-hmm. , uh, they bring me in to help navigate those, but there are some things that leaders can do, and the one in the time that we have that I'd like to point out, because it costs nothing . Mm-hmm. is empathy. As leaders, we tend to feel like, Oh, my people are upset about this problem.
If I fix the problem, they'll feel better and be more resilient. And it turns out that's not true. The evidence shows that if people are upset about a problem, they will be more resilient if you show empathy for their feeling. . Wow. You don't have to fix the problem. That's the good news. It's hard on those of us who really like to be fixers.
Right. But, But that is the good news because often you can't fix a problem to someone else's satisfaction anyway. But if you can show empathy, Sure. But we have this myth in our society that expressing empathy comes easily to good people. , if you're just a good person, empathy is simple, and that's not true.
There are seven cognitive barriers to empathy. As a matter of fact, right before our interview today, Jackie, I was doing a training for, um, educators, sales educators and trainers from all over North America about the seven cognitive barriers of to empathy and how to get past them and express empathy.
Anyway, one hack I can give. Even though we're not going through the seven barriers, and that'll frustrate some of the more data minded folks. One hack is if you can authentically say you're valued. So I care about what you're going through. Wow. Yeah.
Jackie: Yeah. That's important. You know, as a leader, I've, I've learned that over time that sometimes, you know, and, and I feel like it's, it's new to those of us who are Gen Xers and, you know, spent a career with.
Head down, do your work, get your promotion at the at the expected time, and just go through the paces to moving into making time to just listen and, and hear and be there for the people that you're working with and the people that are working under you. And so I think that's,
Dr. Deborah: So I. You pointed out a really important generational difference.
We were taught that you had to compartmentalize yourself and you brought your professional stuff to work and your personal stuff stayed out of it. Mm-hmm. , and that was that. And that this compartmentalizing is not at all how millennials are Gen Z. Look at themselves and the world and they're looking at it much more three dimensionally and authentically.
Absolutely. And. That's one of the reasons that for them, empathy rings the bell much better. If you are authentic, when you say you're valued, I care about what you're going through. Yeah. I don't have to know how to fix it. I don't even have to understand it. If I really mean when I say that, then I'm listening, and the truth is it turns out to help Gen X and boomer professionals as well to hear that if it's authentic.
Jackie: Mm-hmm. , Absolut. Absolutely Dr. G. Let's talk for a moment about your email@example.com. Tell us about a couple of your curriculums. .
Dr. Deborah: Uh, so I did a couple of things. I really like to. Find what I think are, or what people have told me are particular pain points. Mm-hmm. and try and solve them. So one for example is how to change a behavior in yourself.
This week it is behavior change is really the expertise of family medicine. I've spent my entire career trying to help people understand how to pick which behavior they would like to change. By the way, start with just one. Don't have the, what I call the January 2nd problem, , where you've decided this is my year.
People come in, Dr. G, New Year, new me. Right, Right. I'm gonna, I'm take a every day and not drink anything more than one glass of wine a week, and I'm gonna exercise every day and no more smoking, and I'm gonna get nine hours of sleep. And I'm like, Whoa. Mm-hmm. . Pick one, just one . See how that goes? Get really competent at that one.
Build your confidence for your ability to change a behavior. Because behavior change is really hard. It's the hardest kind of change. Our brain pushes back with all kinds of loss and distrust and discomfort. So there's a course on there, um, for you to pick which change you wanna change. I don't tell you it's not a lose weight or, uh, find your keys.
It's a pick a change. and then I give you a step-by-step process for navigating that change. Mm-hmm. . And it's really only 60 minutes of content, but you gotta stretch it out over a few weeks because there's homework in between. Mm-hmm. , it doesn't work to just sit down, watch all 60 minutes and be like, Well, clearly I'm done,
Dr. Deborah: So I think that's the best example. There are other courses over there, but they're really all set out in that here is one specific thing that you wanna do, and here are the behavior management steps, the change navigation steps to help.
Jackie: Awesome. And Dr. G tell me, you know, this, certainly I could, I could find 50 more questions to ask you.
Right. But , no. We only have so much time together. But what's the message that you want to leave our listeners with today?
Dr. Deborah: My goal is to help people think differently about stress. Stress isn't a toxin, it's a. Stress builds mental health and resilience. Like exercise builds body fitness.
Jackie: Yeah, I love that.
Thank you for that. That's, That's such an interesting way to think about it. Stress isn't a toxin, it's a tool. I love that. Dr. G, thank you so much for taking some time with me today. I've learned so much I'm sure that our listeners have as well, so thank
Dr. Deborah: you. Thanks for having me, and I hope if anybody has any questions or wants to push back on any of my ideas, I'm always happy to learn with people.
So just get in touch through my website. I love it.
Jackie: Thank you, Dr. G.
We’ve all heard the phrase “The only constant is change,” but change can be difficult, stressful, and unsettling. In this episode, Dr. Deborah Gilboa shares how you can use a growth mindset to reframe your attitude toward change and navigate life with renewed intention and purpose.
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