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You can’t have it all, but you can have everything you want. The big question is, do you know what you want? What are your values?

Contracts are full of significant benefits (money!) and big risks (restrictive covenants and liquidated damages!). After working well over a decade to get to the point of even seeing a contract, we deserve to make sure those benefits outweigh the risks. And then when we accept risk, it’s for a good cause, namely ourselves! Our contracts should reflect our values.

One day while rock climbing with my fellow OBGYNs, we started discussing values. There’s a values card “game” that lists everything you can imagine valuing, and you can lay them out in order. While resting our tired forearms between sends, we verbally laid out our cards. My friends named “family” and “friends” as her top two. Another emphatically claimed “success” and “prestige,” and I jumped straight to my personal number one, “adventure.” That conversation truly changed the trajectory of my clinical career. I realized my ability to include adventure in my life was not reflected in my current work schedule or job contract. I spent a year journaling and thinking about whether that gut reaction was genuine. The moment I realized it was, I quit my job and switched to a position as a locum tenens (actually, 90 days after the moment I decided since that was my termination clause). My new career not only allowed me time for the outdoor adventures I craved, it even turned my everyday clinical work into a beautiful, unique experience.

When I record videos (or ‘vlogs’ as my much more hip younger brother told me to call them) from mountaintops in my favorite puffy-of-the-day, it’s not because I don’t work. I also spend 60+ hours a week in the OR clinic on call. And I enjoy that time very much. Talking to you from the outdoors is my happy space, my space of peace and energy, a place where I have time to think about all of my joys and heartaches and everything meaningful to me. When I’m in the hospital, I’m thinking about my patients and the care I can provide to them, and I’m thinking about my partners and colleagues and the ways I can support them, as we all know we’re all stretched pretty thin, this year in particular. I rarely have the time to sit down, clear my mind, change my headspace, and record a vlog. My professional time and personal time are protected, and I love that. And I’ve made sure that my decisions and my contracts reflect that.

Enough about me! Let’s talk about you and some of our colleagues who have advocated for their values. I’ve changed everyone’s names to protect their privacy. For starters, let’s look inward. Here are a few questions you can use to get your values wheels turning. You can use these as food for thought, journal prompts, or spark conversation with friends over drinks or between sends at the gym.

  1. What do you value most? Today? In 5 years? In 10 years? For your retirement?
  2. How do you demonstrate those values?
  3. How does your current contract allow you to manifest those values?
  4. What would enable you to manifest those values better?
  5. What are you willing to sacrifice to live a life that reflects your values?

My friend and mentor, Dr. Wallace, has a career as a full-time physician and a part-time politician. She negotiates her clinical contracts to have flexible non-competes allowing her to remain working in the same city, have maternity leave immediately approved and covered, and ensures her contract outlines a clinical schedule that will allow her nights and weekends at home to attend her kids’ soccer games, school plays, and family days at the zoo. Her hospital contract will enable her to have protected time to work at the courthouse office, attend her committee meetings, and participate in the annual parade. And equally important, her contract ensures that the income she receives from these activities remains her own and is not owed back to her practice. Another friend, Dr. Evans, has three kids in school and a husband with a full-time job he loves. My friend Dr. Jordan works in academics, and she has committed herself to be the best surgeon in her department. Although she also loves to travel and exercise, she is prioritizing protected time in the OR and has negotiated this within her department.
Last but not least, my friend Dr. Carlisle is married with kids. His goal is to earn as much as he can to allow his wife to stay home with the kids and ultimately afford to send them all to college. So he selected a high-paying job that allowed him to work locums on the side and to invest inside businesses to maximize his income. These friends have entirely different values, and they are equally excellent and valid. They took the time to identify these values and identify jobs and lifestyles that accommodate them.

When you have your contract review meeting with Contract Diagnostics, we always ask to know more about you. We love to hear what journey led you to where you are, what you love about the job you’re considering, and your goals and priorities for your job and your life. Let us help you negotiate a contract that supports your needs, desires, and values that you have worked so hard for and deserve.