Achieving mastery in General Practice

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Lantum's GP Community Champion Dr Saffan Qureshi reflects on how to achieve mastery in GP...

After completing VTS training there is often an ecstatic feeling of achievement. Once the euphoria settles down, often there is a realisation of how much is needed to be a good GP. It doesn't take long to realise that 3 years was far too short to be an accomplished GP. However, being a GP should be seen as a life journey, a path of constant refinement of practice in order to become true masters in our profession.

The path of mastery can be an arduous journey.  In the book Mastery - the keys to success and long-term fulfilment by George Leonard, I found some useful pearls, which I hope could help us achieve mastery in our profession and ultimately allow us to prosper.

George Leonard’s main proposition is that mastery can be achieved by anyone and is not just a case of natural genius or skill. He argues the path can be applied on any field whether sports, a hobby, professional career or relationships. He argues that to achieve mastery one needs to be on a constant path of practice, reflection and refinement of their practice.

He argues there are three types of learners, different from a master.

  1. The Dabbler - is someone who gets really excited about a new hobby, sport or career. They often buy all the equipment needed, but after the initial excitement, things start to wane and then they are fixated on the next interest.
  2. The Obsessive - is someone who is highly goal orientated. Initially they achieve their goals however when things start to plateau they would get anxious. This often results in them doubling their efforts to achieve their goals and when the goals are not rapidly achieved, burnout and a drastic fall from the initial euphoria follows. This personality is very common in the corporate management world and medics who have a perfectionist approach to medicine.
  3. The Hacker- is someone who achieves a minimal standard and is content to stay on this level, with no desire to improve. They are willing to stay on the plateau, indefinitely. Often this is the doctor who cruises in their career, not seeking to improve their professional practice and with time becomes outdated and dangerous in their practice.

The author argues that to achieve mastery in any aspect of life the following steps should be taken:

  • Enjoy the path and practice- this is the idea of enjoying your art and being less focused on achieving an end result.
  • Refinement of practice- this is the idea of reflecting on your practice and constantly refining and improving.
  • Accepting the plateau - mastery is achieved with long periods of plateau followed by bursts of genius/ creativity. The constant practice builds up to a critical level, resulting in a burst of creativity, which then elevates your practice. Often many of us in a goal driven society fail to appreciate this aspect of gaining mastery, resulting in us becoming the obsessive learner and eventually burning out.
  • Failure is part of the process - accepting mistakes will occur and is part of the process of mastery through a means of reflection and learning.

Although the points are simple and self-evident, I hope they would provide some gems in helping us prosper professionally and in our personal lives.



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