Learning to Pivot

Being able to pivot and embrace change is an important skill in our rapidly changing world. Fifty years ago, it was typical for a person to work at the same company their entire career. Now, the trend shows that’s become more uncommon; people are not only switching companies but changing careers, too.

When I worked as a physician assistant, I didn’t expect to do anything else. I dreamed of providing care to an underserved population until I retired. Life had another path for me, though. That became abundantly clear in 1989 at three in the morning as I worked on a patient who had a major cut across his face.

I tried close the cut, but my hands were swollen and hurt more with each passing minute. Two years earlier, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—and it was hitting me full swing tonight. For one terrifying moment, I didn’t think I could do my job. I gritted my teeth, worked through the pain, and finished my work.

I went home after work shaken to the core. Could I continue being a physician assistant if my arthritis continued to worsen? What if there came a time I really couldn’t finish the job? I began to doubt my dream of providing care full-time as a lifelong career.

Some months later, my doctor informed me that I was ultimately going to be disabled and wouldn’t be able to work within ten years. That was agonizing to hear. But it was time to pivot.

I had to find a way to reinvent myself, so I began volunteering to teach clinical skills to the local EMTs. That’s where I discovered I deeply enjoyed teaching. Within a couple years, I was teaching in higher education while maintaining my physician assistant practice part-time. I did this for more than twenty years, proving my doctor’s prediction completely wrong.

But I didn’t stop there. In 2018, I launched a business to provide consulting services. Then I became an author. Then I started another career as a motivational speaker and coach. Again and again, I’ve sought ways to reinvent myself and embrace change. Pivoting is almost second nature now, but it’s taken a lot of practice.

When you’re resilient to the challenges life throws your way, you can choose how to pivot and reinvent yourself. You’ll grow and find new ways to contribute to the world in ways you may not have seen before. I certainly didn’t expect to be where I am today. Envision your future: where might you be in twenty or thirty years if you began embracing change today?