Life Changing Moments: Defining Values with Dr. Adam Harrison

Once Dr. Adam Harrison took a critical look inside and determined what their values were, the decisions they made didn’t become easier, but left him with many fewer regrets. 

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Dr. Adam Harrison is a Family Physician, Lawyer and Leadership Coach who, as a result of his personal experiences, specializes in confidence and mindset coaching for professionals who have been on the receiving end of workplace bullying.

As a former medical director, he also helps leaders of organizations develop kind leadership cultures based on the compassionate, servant and inclusive leadership model paradigms.

The underpinning philosophy to both his workplace bullying and detoxifying toxic cultures work, is mental and physical wellbeing, so he does a lot of work in that arena too.

He strongly believes in doing work aligned with his core values (honesty, justice, gratitude, love and humor) and he believes that shines through in his work.

He is also the creator and host of the podcast ‘Inspiring Women Leaders’ which aims to showcase the
extensive leadership knowledge and practical skills of its incredible female guests and to both inspire and educate its listeners, helping them acquire the know-how necessary to become better leaders themselves.

Note: Links on this page may be linked to affiliate programs. These links help to ensure we can continue to deliver this content to you. If you are interested in purchasing any products listed on this page, your support helps us out greatly. Thank you.

Access the Show Transcript Here


[0:00] It’s the right thing to do for me to live by your values, but it’s not always the easiest path you can in the in the short term in the long term, it probably is in the short term, if you just kind of bury these things and sort of repress them, that’s obviously worse for you in the long term, isn’t it?

[0:16] There are times in our lives that change the way we see the world. Navigating these challenges can take insight, trusted confidants, or even a coach. Let’s explore those moments.
In this companion podcast to RX4Success, we will discover ways to learn and write our own success stories together.
I’m Dr. Dale Waxman, a physician coach with MD Coaches, and this is Life Changing Moments.

[0:48] Today we’re talking with Dr. Adam Harrison. Dr. Adam Harrison was our guest for RX4Success, episode 114.
And as with many guests on this podcast, Life Changing Moments, I heard something in that one that piqued my interest and wanted to invite him back.

[1:06] Before we get into what that something was, a bit of background about Dr. Harrison.
Dr. Adam Harrison is a family physician, lawyer, leadership coach in the United Kingdom, who as a result of his personal experience with incivility in the workplace, bullying, he, specializes in mindset coaching and consults with organizations about developing kind leadership cultures. So Adam, welcome to life changing moments.
Thank you so much for having me Dale. It’s a real, real honor. It’s lovely to meet you.
Great to have you back with us from across the pond. You’re now our first and second international guests. So thank you very much for joining us again.
Excellent. So as I mentioned a moment ago, in listening to the segment of the podcast where you were discussing your personal prescription for success, I don’t know if you remember, but your third point was do things that are aligned with your values.
Now, there’s a lot in this section, and I just wanted to take some time to break it down with you.
Would that be all right?
Of course. Yeah, please do. So, you know, before we get into it, let’s just kind of replay that so we can kind of refresh our memories, what that’s about.
So let’s take a listen to it just to kind of refresh our memories.

[2:27] My third one is live, love and lead by your values and do work in alignment with your values.
So I alluded to this earlier. One of my core values is justice.
The others are honesty, gratitude, love and humor.
And I feel that since I became aware of what my values are a few years ago, that it’s transformed, the way I live my life. I live my life with a certain intention now and now say.

[2:56] Most of my work now is self-employed work, I will only do assignments that are in alignment with my core values.
And that feels very liberating and very empowering.
And I think if you are in a workplace where you feel like, you just feel things are not right, you know, there’s some kind of like disharmony or disequilibrium between you and your employer, it’s probably that there’s a malalignment or a misalignment in your values.
And it’s probably the kind of place that you’re not going to get along with for the rest of your career.
So, we’re thinking about your values.

[3:35] Great. Does that bring back any memories? Yeah, very warm, fuzzy memories of speaking with Randy.

[3:44] Well, first of all, just as you have heard that, any reflections on that?
It’s just, you know, very, very pertinent all the time, you know, there are moments every day where I have an interaction with someone or something happens and it causes me to pause and reflect on what my values are.
So recently, you know, there have been a kind of few people reach out to me where it hasn’t.

[4:16] Always been the most pleasurable of interactions. And, you know, my, my, honesty value then comes to the fore. And I just say, you know, I have to be completely honest with you and say that, you know, this is, this is upsetting me or something like that, you know, and that’s not, it’s not always easy. It’s kind of given me more, more pause to reflect on. It’s the right thing to do for me to live by your values, but it’s not always the easiest path you can in In the short term, in the long term, it probably is.
In the short term, if you just kind of bury these things and sort of repress them, that’s obviously worse for you in the long term, isn’t it?
But it can be uncomfortable living by your values, but I think it’s still really vital to do.
So it’s interesting, it’s very alive for you, it’s very present for you.
On a daily basis, as you’re saying, there are things that show up and you go, here it is.
Here’s my value and let me kind of really live that.
In that podcast, you mentioned that you became aware of what your values were a few years ago.
I wonder if you could say something about how you became aware of them.

[5:27] Yes, of course. Yeah, so I do talk about values a fair bit and I always say that we all know internally what our values are. You know, if something feels right or doesn’t feel right, if we’re attracted to something or something triggers us, we know that our internal moral compass has been activated in some way. And we live our lives like that. And so people who’ve never kind of, you know, done any deep analysis of what their values are, they still make the choices that are right for them, I feel. But for me, I was in a medical leadership, role. And this was just over four years ago. It was just, before I turned 43. So I was 40 right, ripe old age of 42. And.

[6:15] I’d never been never been asked what my values were. I’d never asked myself what my values were, I just kind of coasted along relying on that innate sense of what my values were. And I had some leadership coaching and my coach who was fantastic asked me to do the values in action character survey, very famous values questionnaire. So I did that and that’s when I discovered what my core values were which was in the recording which is justice, honesty, gratitude, love and humour. They were my top five. And it really was like a, it was that kind of classic coaching aha moment, a light was switched on. And all of a sudden, flooding into my mind was these things from my past that were done because of my values without really even realizing it. So things like justice, I undertook law studies and did a law degree and was past the bar and all of this.
And it’s like, oh my gosh, justice is one of my core values.
This makes complete sense. I didn’t know really that I was predestined to kind of study the law in a way, you know?
And things that I’d done, things I got involved in as a junior doctor.

[7:31] When I saw inequities going on in the workplace and people who didn’t have the confidence to kind of speak up for themselves, give an example, someone had just done a 24-hour call and then there wasn’t anyone to do the next day’s cover. And one of the bosses, one of the medical bosses would say, you have to do call again today.

[7:51] And you’d look at them and they’d be, you know, dead on their feet. And I would just say, look, they’re absolutely exhausted. They’ve just done 24 hours. They can’t possibly do it safely, do another 24 hours. That’s just not feasible. It’s not realistic. And by speaking up and kind of calling out these, you know, things that I didn’t think were fair, I unfortunately, invariably put a bit of a target on my back and ended up being the victim. But I wouldn’t change I would, you know, I would go through that again and again.

[8:23] Because my core values are, you know, one of them is justice.
And I have to speak up when I see these things happening. So, yeah, it’s just things like that, just started to make sense why I have behaved in certain ways in the past, when I knew, when I had labels for my values, you know?
So there’s kind of this quality of unconsciously living your values.
And then when you became more consciously aware through the coaching and through the values in action, it was illuminators like, oh, yeah, this makes sense.
This is what this is what it’s always been for me.
I’m just curious. And now that it is more illuminated and you’re able to articulate them in a way that makes some sense to you, how is life different to have them more at the forefront, you know, that they’re in the spotlight rather than just sort of unconscious?
It’s a great question and it’s hard to say because, you know, my memory is not what it was but I guess in the past when I was relying on that, you know, that kind of just organic, way of living my life through my values that I hadn’t put a label on, maybe things wouldn’t come to me as quickly or something like that.
Maybe now I know exactly what they are and I feel like I live my life through my values and I have a very values led way of conducting myself, I do now think, aha, okay, yeah, so, So that’s why I need to make that decision, because that’s the person that I am.

[9:53] Whereas before it would be a bit more of a process, perhaps subconscious ticking on in the background.
Now it’s a bit more active and a bit more conscious, you know, a bit more deliberate.

[10:04] Hi, I’m Rhonda Crowe, founder and CEO for MD Coaches. Here on RX for Success, we interview a lot of great medical professionals on how they grew their careers, how they overcame challenges, and how they handle day-to-day work.

[10:19] I really hope you’re getting a lot of great information. But if you’re looking for an answer to a specific problem, management or administration challenge, or if you’re feeling just a bit burnt out like maybe you chose the wrong career, well then there’s a faster way to get the help you need.
No, it’s not counseling. It’s coaching.
Rx for Success is produced by MD Coaches, a team of physicians who have been where you are.
I know you’re used to going it alone, but you don’t have to.
Get the support you need today. Visit us at to schedule your, complimentary consultation. Again, that’s because you’re not in this alone.

[11:04] Dr. Darrell Bock We’ll get back to our interview in just a moment, but right now I want to tell you a little bit about Physician Outlook. If you haven’t discovered this remarkable magazine, please do so very soon. It was created by physicians, for physicians, to showcase the intersection between clinical and non-clinical interests.
Whether it’s writing, painting, cooking, politics, and dozens of other topics, Physician Outlook gives a physician perspective. It’s available online and in print. It’s really unique among Physician Lifestyle magazines and like the Prescription for Success podcast, Physician Outlook amplifies the voice of any physician who has something to say.
It also engages patients who still believe in physician-led team-based care.
And Prescription for Success listeners can get three months free when you enter our promo code RxForSuccess and select the monthly option at checkout.

[12:05] A really great deal on this stunning publication. And now let s get back to today s interview.
Scott Cunningham You used the word intentional. Is there some intentionality in the way that you kind of proceed through life now through your values?
Can you say some more about that?
Ben Gallagher Yeah. I mean, you mentioned it before in terms of just things like when you re having conversations with people about potential collaborations or people are reaching out to you to do certain things, you know, if it doesn’t feel right. I suppose the first stage is, like everyone, you have a sixth sense.

[12:44] And something just kind of triggers and then you kind of think, okay, in what way is this, not feeling right? You know, is it from a justice viewpoint? Is it a gratitude thing, an honesty thing? Is it because, you know, love and humor, I’m on a different page with these people, I just can’t relate to these people or whatever it is, you know. But then that kind of gives you the answer. And then you can just be more authentic and sort of more true to yourself rather than it just being, and you don’t have to tell people why, but when you’re declining a request, it just feels more authentic to you, you know, that you’ve done that kind of slightly deeper dive into it and you know which part of your values it’s not in alignment with. But I mean, it’s not all about employment. You know, obviously our values transcend absolutely every facet of our lives. This is a podcast primarily for physicians. Some of those will be employed physicians, and some of them will be self-employed physicians, and so on. Some of them will be juniors, some of them will be in really high-level leadership roles.

[13:52] It applies to absolutely everyone. I do talk a lot about comparing your own values, your own personal values, with your organization’s values, and actually analyzing whether your employer’s values are lived values or whether they are just for promotion and marketing and lip service to the world.
I mean, I was in a medical leadership role and I didn’t know what my values were.
Actually, your values tie in so closely with the kind of leader you are.
So I always get my leadership clients to do a values questionnaire, which is oftentimes the first time they’ve done it. Leaders in their 60s have never completed one of these surveys.

[14:31] Then I’ll go through Goldman’s leadership styles with them and get them to do a survey on that. They dovetail beautifully. When they look at their leadership style and reflect on their values, it actually makes a lot of sense to them.
So, so many ways, you know, through your life that you can use your values.
You know, one of the things I think about with the, you mentioned there’s a lot of different people that are primarily physicians listening to this podcast, and that living your values is in all kinds of different dimensions of your life, not just your professional.
One of the things that comes to mind is your, and I think you said this in the earlier podcast, is when you are more aware of what’s important to you.

[15:17] You kind of use that.
Those are upfront and center when opportunities come your way.
Opportunities come your way. Earlier, Sid said something like, well, I might reject something because of this, but there’s also the other side of that.
What do you take on because of your values?
Yes, thank you for framing it like that because you’ve made it sound more positive.
My initial comment was maybe looking on the negative side of it, turning things down.
But for sure, you know, I like to be… love is very important to me and humor and I like, I do like to take things on that are in alignment with me in that way. And actually.

[15:57] You know, looking at it from another angle, if you’re truly living your values, then you are.

[16:03] You have some kind of aura that you’re giving off that reflects those values.
And so in a way, I don’t want to get kind of law of attraction based.
I’m not really, you know, I don’t have detailed knowledge of that, but I feel that if you are extolling, you know, the values of, in my case, love and humor and gratitude and honesty and justice, then people will probably pick up on that.
And then it may bring work to you.

[16:33] That’s in alignment, you know, and with similar, you know, like the RX for Success podcast, you know, and Rhonda and Randy, you know, we just, I’m sure the reason that we all get along is because we’re in alignment in some way.
We probably, I’m sure we don’t all have exactly the same top five core values, but they’re, very, very similar values. And then you listened to the podcast and you thought I’d like to interview him.

[17:01] And so, you know, and so maybe there’s that kind of I’m putting out to the world and people are kind of picking up on things as well.
So yeah, there is this concept of putting your intentions out there and then it, you know, I know that’s the attraction principle and then, you know, it attracts the people and the things and the places that are important to that intention.
That’s awesome. You know, one of the things that I’m aware of as we’re talking about this is that there, are some listeners who may say, boy, I know, you know, as I get clearer about what my values.

[17:35] Are, I’m also more aware of how it conflicts with the situation that I’m in, let’s just say professionally.
Do you have some thoughts or suggestions about that when people become aware that there’s some conflict there between, boy, I’m spending time in a place that doesn’t kind of align well with me. Yeah, for sure. I mean, and how common must that be? Because I mentioned before organisational values, corporate values and the values that sort of trickle down from the C-suite and from the leaders. But when we’re employed, we tend to work in teams. And if you’re a shop floor, family physician, should we say, you’re working closely with your nursing colleagues, your medical assistants, your admin reception colleagues, those sorts of people. And all of these people have different values. And it’s impossible that they’re all going to align, certainly not all of the time.
So there’s a lot of potential there in the workplace for us being triggered by the way that, other people conduct themselves and the things that other people feel it’s appropriate to say.

[18:45] That just don’t sit well with our values. And I genuinely believe this. I think your values are, part of who you are. You can’t change them. You can’t really change other people. We don’t want to get into Stephen Covey and circles of influence and things like that, but it’s hard to change other people. Why would you want to change other people? They are who they are. Going to work day after day and entering an environment where you’re constantly in disharmony with your colleagues or your leadership.
It’s just exhausting. It’s absolutely exhausting. And it’s not tenable. And for me, it’s one of the contributing factors to burnout, physician burnout. Sure. You know, I think unless you can find a way around it, you know, to circumvent that, then you just have to think about moving on and, you know.

[19:40] Finding another employer or going going on your own, you know, self employed or changing career, whatever, whatever it is you want to do. But yeah, it’s it’s going to be a perennial problem, because your values are your values. It strikes me, you know, as a clinician that if you are feeling exhausted, and we talk about burnout, you know, a central piece of that is emotional exhaustion. That perhaps one of the hypotheses about why that might be is because you are in, conflict in your situation that that may be one of the reasons why you’re emotionally exhausted.
It may just be that you’re working too much or it’s chronic stress, but it could be also that, it’s exhausting to continue to be in a situation that just doesn’t reflect your values, which I, think, as I heard your story, you kind of lived that. You lived that organically, that this isn’t quite fitting for me. Yeah. But I mean, and I totally understand how people will be trapped, and you may be trapped for a…

[20:42] A short time or it may be a longer time because you know if you’re a young doctor and it’s the same in the UK you’ve got your student loans to pay off you need the money and you know it’s a big concern what am I if I leave this job what am I going to do for money and if I leave this job, midway through I’m not going to get a reference from my boss how am I going to get another job.
So we do have to again living a values led life lead to a lot of discomfort but hopefully temporary, And going back to what you said about conflict, you know, if there is some conflict at work that’s, caused by a misalignment in values, hopefully one of the values that you have that is one of your core values, like, you know, kindness or fairness or something like that, can actually act as a.

[21:32] Lever to help you negotiate that conflict. So you can go back to the value that you know, that would be helpful and think, all right, how can I best use this to navigate this difficult situation, offer some kindness to the person who I’m in conflict with and see if we can, sort things out just to make the whole situation more palatable for us while I’m here for the next three months or whatever. Yeah, that’s a great suggestion for people that if they are more aware of what their values are, I mean, either, you know, kind of bring what’s unconscious to more conscious and then be very intentional about using those to navigate the situations they’re in.
That’s a first step towards kind of managing through some of the conflictual situations that might be going on.
As you look back on that time of your values discovery a few years ago, any other learnings that you haven’t mentioned so far that you, from that time, that you want to impart to our listeners.

[22:35] You know, when I first kind of clicked the link to do the value survey, you know, it seemed like, one of those psychometric type tests. And, you know, as doctors, we like to, you know, overanalyse things and try to get behind the question, you know, what do they really mean?
What answer are they looking for here? And that kind of coupled with the perfectionist trait that.

[23:04] Physicians have, you know, of wanting to excel and get the top score and, you know, get an A plus and, you know, we can’t settle for a B minus. It’s like, oh, how do I get a really good score on this test, you know? And it just totally, when you’re just not doing it from the heart, it totally changes the responses that you give and then the ultimate score you get.
So and I’ve seen this time and again with with clients of mine and One of them came back to me and said, you know, I did it three times until I was happy with the score that I got and I was like.

[23:39] My you know, it’s not you’re not under exam conditions here. There’s no invigilator at the end of the hall He’s kind of keeping a BDI on you. Just just answer it from the heart, you know, It’s hard to interrupt but I remember when I if it’s the I did the values in action the VIA and, And I think there’s 24 values.
They’re all just values.
And so of course, I and like a lot of my colleagues went to, well, what did I score the least on? Like, well, I’m not, you know, I value fairness.
Why is that one of my lowest ones? And so there’s that whole piece that goes on in our heads.
That’s hilarious. Somebody took it three times, the results they wanted.
You’re so right, completely.
You’re absolutely correct. And you’re right.
It’s kind of like, oh, well, what values do I feel like I ought to have as a physician or as a good person? And how can I answer it to kind of engineer it to get those values?
Well, just, you know, don’t even think like that.
And, you know, just do it from the heart. I would suggest that every physician do this survey.
And maybe we can put a link to the VIA one in the show notes.
Yeah, sure.
You know, kind of, and do it just really with an open mind and don’t overthink it.
Know, do your answers quite quickly, do it from the heart.

[24:54] And exactly as you said, when I and don’t be disappointed when something like, you know, kindness comes out at number 24. I always say to my you know, and I literally have had, physician clients say this to me, I was really disappointed that these were my top five. And these are my bottom five, because I just kind of look, I look briefly at the bottom five with them as well. And I’m like, Look, just because it’s number 24 doesn’t mean you don’t have that value. Right? Just means it isn’t, one of your primary drivers isn’t one of your top five.

[25:24] You know, please don’t think you’re not a kind person because kindness isn’t in your top five.

[25:30] So yeah, there’s a whole, a whole load of work that you can do around that. But yeah, do do it, and spend some time reflecting on it and think about how your life has played out because of your, your values. And then yeah, I would live, live by your values if you can, you will find you. Yeah, you’ll find you’re happier. I’m definitely, I’m definitely much, much happier now.
It’s a really nice story about sort of coming in touch with those values and then living those and trying those on and then really reaching some level of happiness and contentment.
That’s awesome. So I think it’s a great place for us to kind of close today.
I really appreciate Dr. Adam Harrison joining us from across the pond for life-changing moments and reflecting on your process by which you went from kind of, you know, organically going through, living your values to really sort of saying what these are, being able to articulate what those are.
And then to be able to say, I’m kind of use those as a way of determining what I’m gonna take on in life, and what I’m gonna let go of in life for the most part.
And so really appreciate your taking some time to be with us today and look forward to future connections as you proceed with all the great work that you’re doing.
100%, thank you. I really appreciate you, Dale. Thank you for inviting me and having a chat with me.
I’d love just talking to you and yeah, yeah, Let’s stay in touch.

[26:56] Great, thank you so much.

[27:00] I really enjoyed this conversation I had with Dr. Harrison today.
Here’s a recap of what we discussed.

[27:07] One, living your values is the right thing to do and you’ll likely be happier if you do so.

[27:13] But it’s not always easy. Two, you can identify your values in a couple of ways.
One is innately by looking for what feels right to you, but also what doesn’t feel right in certain situations.
For example, if you’re feeling symptoms of burnout, it could be the exhaustion that comes from the disharmony between your values, and the values of the organization or system in which you work.
Or another way to identify your values is to do a values assessment, like the values in action or VIA, which is in the link that we are giving you in our show notes.
Caveat there is don’t engineer it to get the result you want.
Three, once you bring your values more into consciousness, you have an opportunity to, be more authentic and true to self.
This awareness can help you with what you’re going to take on in life, as well as what you’re going to let go of in life.
And finally, this all serves to align what you do with who you are.
Thank you for tuning in to Life Changing Moments.
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