EP. 77: Dr. Maria Phalime: The Doctor Who Walked Away

Dr. Phalime leaving guilt behind.
    Our guest this week is the incredible Dr. Maria Phalime. Maria wears many hats and she does it well. She is a medical doctor, adjunct senior lecturer, and mindset coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is also an award-winning author who chronicles her dissatisfaction with the health ramifications of medical school and her journey to leaving her practice in her book,Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away. Maria even spoke on the TEDxJohannesburg stage on the catharsis of accepting all life has to offer. She firmly believes that opportunities will present themselves when we learn to let go of guilt and strict boundaries. Maria’s episode will provide you with a distinct perspective on making bold moves and finding yourself in the process.
Lesson 1: You may not have it figured out and that is ok. There is no “right” timeline for figuring out what lights you up. 
    The goal is to approach life with an open mind and change your mindset from saying, “I should” to “I am.” Take inventory of what you are doing every day to accomplish your goals. Be open to new experiences and opportunities. Although it may seem like trying different things and accepting the potential of failure is counterproductive, the incremental progress is essential to your personal growth. So what if it takes you three months, one year, or even ten years to find your way? Every single time you make progress and are able to learn from your takeaways, you are setting yourself up for an opportunity to find your “why.” You should never feel guilt or shame for taking longer than others. Maria pivoted in so many ways, but she never forced herself into something just because “x” amount of time passed. She fully tackled her guilt of leaving her first career. She was patient and was able to evaluate her results at every turn. At different points in her journey, Maria was a Portfolio Manager, a Deputy Director for the World Cup, and even worked in trade and investment promotion. She did not limit herself to a single industry or niche. Maria took the time to determine what path was right for her. Quitting was always an option, and the reduction of limits allowed her to really grow.  
Lesson 2: Trust what you’re feeling. Embrace your guilt. The important part is how you move on from it. 
    Maria struggled with feeling guilty for quitting a system that not only failed her but was failing so many others. For years after, she would find herself withholding the fact that she was trained as a doctor for fear of judgment or shame. This was a consistently present theme in her life until she decided to do something about it. She felt empowered to not let this guilt define her. Around the time when her guilt was particularly strong, she was offered a job. This was her dream job in the medical field. She was reminded of how many people needed adequate care, and the magnitude of the impact she could make. But she turned down the offer. At that moment she also turned down the idea of looking back and began shifting her mindset to be open and accepting of her new path. She was no longer shackled with the fear of other’s opinions and the guilt of quitting something that no longer served her.
    We are better stewards to the Earth and to those around us if we follow our passions and invest time in matters we truly care about. Carrying around guilt only holds us back from reaching our true potential. We will never get a clear cut answer on why you decided to leave or if our change was the right one. Acceptance of ourselves and every facet of our journey is key. 
Lesson 3: By putting your story out there, you are giving other people permission to speak up. 
    Courage is contagious. When you are willing to be the one who takes that scary first step, you will be amazed at the ripple effect it has on the people around you. When you are quitting or pivoting, you learn from the anecdotes of friends, family, colleagues... The same applies to perfect strangers hoping to learn from you. Sharing builds a library of information and gives individuals a rough guideline of next-steps. Whether you falter or have major wins, know that you are not alone and someone out there is gaining so much from you. 
    Speaking with Maria this week really reminds me of my own quitting journey and the initial guilt I felt when working through it. I am here to tell you to embrace all of it and listen to others’ journies. No matter the outcome, you will come out on the other side stronger, and better prepared to tackle any opportunity that comes your way. Maria always allows herself to explore so many different opportunities and is not stuck in a timeline or in one mode of thinking. I think if we all learn to expand our horizons and have the courage to be kind to ourselves, we’ll all have much smoother journeys. Allow yourself to feel the guilt, frustration, unbridled joy… All of those moments will make you stronger and guide you to the path you are ultimately meant to take.
Where to find Maria:   Follow along for more: