On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, I welcome TaVona Denise on the show to discuss burnout in physical therapy.  Atlanta-based business accelerator, success coach and avid cyclist, TaVona Denise lives and breathes by the motto, “success is 80% mental, 20% skill.” With certifications in life, weight and wellness coaching, her specialty is helping new entrepreneurs get past fear and overwhelm, get their business up and running, so they can help change the world.

In this episode, we discuss:

-Burnout in physical therapy and the tools you need to take the next steps in your career

-Why a gratitude practice can help shift your mindset and elevate your to-do list

-The importance of a coach that can identify your blind spots and keep you accountable

-How to channel your fears and build confidence so you can tackle your biggest goals

-And so much more!


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A big thank you to Net Health for sponsoring this episode!

Check out Net Health’s 4 Ways to Increase Patient Engagement in 2020.


For more information on TaVona:

Tavona DeniseAtlanta-based business accelerator, success coach and avid cyclist, TaVona Denise lives and breathes by the motto, “success is 80% mental, 20% skill.” With certifications in life, weight and wellness coaching, her specialty is helping new entrepreneurs get past fear and overwhelm, get their business up and running, so they can help change the world.

Shortly after finishing college she started her first two businesses, but found herself burned out because they were not using her gifts. TaVona then used her skills as a physical therapist to start a physical therapy contracting company. Finally her own boss, the problem was, she basically created a job for herself, which was not the life she had envisioned.

It wasn’t until TaVona found the world of coaching, that she was not only able to successfully lose 80 pounds and keep it off, become an award-winning athlete, and build the business that would eventually provide the lifestyle she wanted.

Speaker and author of, Unstoppable Success: How to Finally Create the Body, Business and Lifestyle You Want, TaVona teaches entrepreneurs the steps she used to create lasting success as a lifestyle, in weight loss and in business. She believes there would be less addiction in the world if people were courageous enough to walk in their purpose. She is on a mission to help people find their zone of genius and make money by making a difference.

Read the full transcript below:

Karen Litzy:                   00:01                Hey TaVona, welcome to the podcast. I am so happy to be interviewing you live here in Nashville, Tennessee at Graham session. So welcome to the podcast.

TaVona Denise:             00:10                Thank you for having me. Karen, I’m so excited to be here and to be speaking with you today.

Karen Litzy:                   00:15                Yeah, and I’m excited to have you because what we’re going to talk about today is when a therapist, we’ll stick to physical therapy, but this really could probably apply to most people in healthcare, let’s say. But we’ll stick with physical therapists because that’s what we are. That’s what we know. And we’re going to talk about when, as a physical therapist, you kind of hit that crossroads in your career where you’re not sure if what you’re doing is what you want to continue to do. So TaVona, yourself as a physical therapist and as a coach, I’m sure you’ve seen this quite a bit. So can you talk to when therapists get to that crossroads and what you’ve learned from interviewing over a hundred different therapists?

TaVona Denise:             01:03                Yeah. Well, it’s a fascinating thing. I started to notice whenever I would remember to ask somebody, like, what year, how many years have you been in the game? What’s going on with you? When they’re coming to me for life coaching and they’re thinking about making a change. The number 15 kept coming up. Every time I would write it down, they’re like, yeah, I’m at year 15 I don’t know if I was attracting them because that’s about when I started to feel like, okay, I’ve been doing this 15 years. I know my job inside and out, backwards and forward, and I don’t think I can do this for the rest of my life. And at that time I wasn’t even 40 so I have plenty more work, work years left and I can’t keep doing it. And so I just find that, especially for the women, either it’s 15 years if they’ve gone straight through and sometimes it stretches to 20 if they have gone back into part time to rear their children.

Karen Litzy:                   01:56                Okay. And in talking with all of these therapists, have you found any common themes that they get to this 15 to 20 year Mark? And they’re like, Ugh, now what?

TaVona Denise:             02:09                Well, that’s exactly what they say. It’s like, now what? I know my job, I don’t necessarily want to keep practicing in this way. I feel stuck. I don’t know what to do next. And part of the problem is they do not have a passion for research, academia or management. And so many of them are thinking, well, should I leave the profession? And if so, what does that look like? What does that mean? Am I throwing my degree away? And so what are the options? There are several. I think one of the things that we have to do is take a look at, well, why did you get into the profession in the first place? And can you reconnect with that? Are there aspects outside of what you’re doing that you can bring into what you do now to help judge it up and renew it? To me, some people have reinvented themselves and said, okay, well maybe I don’t necessarily want to stay on the rehabilitation side, but maybe I want to practice prevention and wellness. So I think for some people that’s an easier transition because they get the sense of I continue to use my degree and leverage it to do something that still helps people.

Karen Litzy:                   03:20                And if let’s say I’m coming to you and I’m saying, Oh TaVona I just, I don’t know what to do, I’m really stuck. I’m getting, you know, I’m starting to feel like I’m not making a difference anymore. So how would you, we can kind of go through a mock coaching session here. So what are some things that maybe you would want to ask me or want to know from me that maybe can help me figure out what to do next or what’s your process like?

TaVona Denise:             03:51                It really, really depends. Just like in an evaluation situation, like no two people are alike. So it depends on how they present, how they come to me. But I really want to know what do they enjoy at their job and what do they enjoy as a person working in a profession. Because sometimes there’s an opportunity for a person to create a position for themselves or to create a program. And some of the clients that I’ve worked with have become what I call intrepreneurs. They have taken their skills, their expertise, their specialties, and then develop programs within the organizations that they work in, which it’s a challenge. It’s not as risky as being an entrepreneur and going off and doing it for themselves. They get to stay in that environment and not lose the years of service and PTO and all the perks and things. It’s kind of like playing with the house’s money so they get to do that. Sometimes it’s a matter of just feeding the hobbies and things and taking time for themselves that they’re not doing. Because we always hear the analogy of you have to put your own mask on first before you serve others. And so as caregivers, that’s what we do. We care for others and sometimes we are forgetting to care for ourselves. So sometimes that’s the approach we take. I find a lot of people, and this is also a strange one that I’m thinking about. A lot of people need to declutter their homes.

Karen Litzy:                   05:14                Yes. 100% yes. I’m just going to say yes to that. I’m Marie Kondo in my home like five years ago and I have to tell you, decluttering my home kind of decluttered everything else for me, even part my practice and my thought process and I was able to then expand and do things that I couldn’t even imagine were possible. So proceed.

TaVona Denise:             05:42                Yes, 100% it was interesting, I listened to a coach that specialized in a relationship. It was one time and she was like, you need to make space in your closet for the person that you want to come in and so if your closet is jam packed. There’s no room for anybody else. And I think about that too. Now that we’re talking about this, the decluttering process I think gives people space, like you said, expand space to think, to breathe. So that, that like every time they pulled into the garage and they see all the boxes in the junk, it’s irritating them. And so that’s just one more thing. If they can declutter that, that’s something that they have control over where it doesn’t have to do with the manager sucks, the coworker sucks, the patient’s suck and all of this thing, we’ve got to go to all these meetings, we don’t like you can control your space. So I think that’s part of the empowerment process and having them have a sense of control over their lives and looking at how we do anything is how we do everything.

TaVona Denise:             06:32                Yup. And so once we take a look at that, then they can use the skills that they learned to, to go into other things. And it really goes into thought process too. So a lot of people are holding on to things that they shouldn’t be. It’s beliefs that they shouldn’t. Stories that they shouldn’t, grudges that they shouldn’t. And we literally unpack that stuff as they start to declutter their homes. And I also found that when I decluttered my home, I mean I have a garage, but when I decluttered my home, when I would come home after a busy day of seeing patients, I was coming home to a space that was calm and that was peaceful and comfortable. And so I wasn’t adding stress of ah, God, I gotta go home, I gotta put this away, I have to do this, I have to, I didn’t have to do anything when I got home except take the time for myself and relax a little bit.

TaVona Denise:             07:30                And so for me, I felt like that was really helpful in almost like avoiding burnout, if you will, at that stage of my career, which is about the 15 year Mark.

Karen Litzy:                                           Yeah, I think you made an interesting point about the word have to, whenever I hear someone say I have to do something, my antenna goes up because it’s a very disempowering thing to think I have to do something and whatever we have to do, we kind of resist. And so part of the resent and resent, right? So the burnout is coming from this resistance like, Oh, you can’t tell me what to do. And so if we can just make that subtle shift to I get to do this thing, sometimes just that subtle shift of people thinking that they have to go to work. And this is really important for those who are considering building a business and they need to bridge, they can’t just quit what they’re doing in bridge, you know, it requires a lot of effort and energy to start a business as you know.

TaVona Denise:             08:28                And so if we have that resistance and that resentment towards our job, that is actually paying the bills, right? We are exhausted at the end of the day and then there is no mental energy or emotional energy to put into our new baby over here. And so just one subtle shift. If listeners can think about anytime they say, I have to go to work, can you find the shift who I get to go to work and really be grateful and thankful. The things that go into work is providing you the opportunity to practice new skills, to make connections, to pay your bills without worrying about what it’s doing to fund the software or the whatever that you need to in order to start this other venture.

Karen Litzy:                   09:09                Absolutely. And I think I’m so glad that you brought up the get to versus the have to, because I admit I’m a have to girl sometimes and so now I am going to remember to say I get to, because you’re right, when you get to, you’re coming from a place of appreciation and of gratitude and we all know there’s a lot of research out there on how gratitude can make you happier and gratitude can make you successful, can contribute to making you successful. And so I think that’s a really important shift. And now what, are there any other, let’s say little shifts like that that the listeners can do if they get to that point where they’re like, Ugh, work, I don’t want to do it.

TaVona Denise:             10:00                Well, one favorite exercise I like to give people, especially if people are just zonked at the end of the day and they like to carry work home with them. One thing I have people do is put a journal or notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive in the car. And so what it does is when you get into the car, you get the opportunity to let your brain have it. Say they get the fuss out, whoever they want to from the day they get to say everything that they didn’t get to say. They want it to say they think they shouldn’t have said and all of that on paper. And just that bit of detachment from it. They can more easily evaluated and see the truth or the lie of it. And when they do that one, the brain gets to say it and then let it be done. And I’ve found that many people have thanked me because in their relationships get better cause they don’t go home complaining to the partner or the spouse. The other thing that it does is it gives a clear break from the day. So the brain can say, okay, we’re done with work. I’ve said my say and I can go to the gym, I can go enjoy time with my honey, my children, my whatever. And there is that separation.

Karen Litzy:                   11:06                And in your experience in coaching, a lot of therapists, do they return to work? Do they switch gears? Would you, if you were to put a percentage on it, and I know that’s probably tough and I’m making you do this on the spot here, but if you were to say, you know, after we came up with better strategies, they found the joy in their work again, or after coming up with better strategies, they were like, Oh, I think I want to do X, Y, Z.

TaVona Denise:             11:34                I think it’s so it’s an interest in it, but it may be a 25 go back to work and they’re excited and they’re like, Oh, I’m renewed. 25% is like, thank you for those skills. I want to turn the page to the next chapter of my life and do my own thing. Whatever form comes in. And then there’s this 50% that’s kind of in the middle and they either don’t move forward to practice the skills all the time. And we see this sometimes with fitness and anything in life, right? And I think, and here lately I’ve been wondering about that person, like what makes that person not move forward? And I’ve come to understand that that person is very much afraid. So we talked about those over 100 interviews I did last year. And in my note, taking some variation of the word fear came up in 90 something percent of those interviews.

TaVona Denise:             12:34                And I thought to myself, well, what is really going on here? And what I’ve been thinking about here lately is how we in healthcare are taught to follow certain protocols and we’re breaking out of that now, right? So people are not recipes and things like that, but there’s still this underlying mentality that we need to have certifications that we need to follow rules that we need to play inside the lines and get it perfect and get it right. Because, I come from acute care background. So things that I do we do could literally kill a person. And so it can be very scary to make mistakes for the rest of us. It’s very competitive to get into PT school. We were higher achievers, many of us athletes were used to getting stuff done and doing it well. After you’ve been in the profession for so long, it can be very difficult to be a beginner again and then be in something that nobody’s written out.

TaVona Denise:             13:28                A curriculum to tell you this is how to be an entrepreneur and be successful at it. And so people freeze. And I’m like, Whoa, I know the answer. Let’s move forward. What? Why are we not moving forward? And it’s something that I’ve come to understand is what I’m calling the confidence loop. So for example, a person may be uncomfortable in their situation and work, they want to make some kind of change is not really comfortable. They decide that they want to move to the next level. They’re going to make some kind of change. The challenge is once they make that commitment, then the freak out occurs and it’s like, well, I’m too old. I’m too young. I don’t have this. I don’t know what I’m doing. So and so failed. Right? So that’s the freak out. What it requires is a bit of courage to take the first step and to keep on stepping.

TaVona Denise:             14:18                That part, I call the gauntlet because it’s very challenging mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sometimes, physically, depending on what the goal is. But if you can continue taking the moves forward and be consistent, what happens is you find clarity and you find competence. And from that clarity and competence where you know what to do and you know how to do it, people are confident. Like when you know what to do and you know how to do it, you’re pretty confident. But when you don’t know those things, you’re not going to move forward. That can be paralyzing, very paralyzing. The problem is we’re so used to knowing what to do. We won’t keep invoking the courage to do enough of the things to be clear about what to do in house so that we can be confident. And the interesting thing that I realized about that was that when we were in PT school, that consistency was forced, right?

TaVona Denise:             15:13                We had tests all the time that were given to us when we’re in clinicals then should see, I would say go do that manipulation or mobilization or whatever, go take that as subjective like they forced us to do of it. If we decide to do something on our own, it’s on us to keep moving through and to be courageous. And so that’s what I call that pattern of the confidence loop that I’ve started to notice is why some people never get started in the first place. And the gauntlet part, that first part where it is where people get stuck.

Karen Litzy:                   15:44                Yeah. And that’s why people need a coach sometimes to keep us consistent. Right? Like I interviewed Steve Anderson a couple of months ago, so Steve is one of the founders of the Graham sessions. Like I said before, we’re in Nashville and he is now doing executive coaching, not necessarily with physical therapists but with different C suite executives. And he was talking about the need for a coach. And one of them is accountability, which leads to consistency, right? And he said there’s a reason why Roger Federer, who is one of the best tennis players in the world. You think, what does he need a coach for? He’s already great, but he has a coach because that coach keeps him perhaps motivated and consistent and accountable. Yeah. And it’s like, you know, we talk about doing exercises and we tell our patients all the time, you have to do this daily. Every other day. You have to be consistent and yet consistent physically, but being consistent mentally still changes the brain.

TaVona Denise:             16:47                Oh, 100% I think the other reason why coaches in the way that I coach people is in finding the blind spots, right? So one form of coaching is to hold a person accountable. Did you do what you say you were going to do? And that forces the consistency so that you can move into clarity, competence, and confidence. One of the things that I’m very good at and work on with my clients where you were talking about the mental exercise of, okay, the courage, where is the fear coming from and can I help shine a light in that blind spot so that you can see that it’s not as bad as you thought it was. So the big example that I have is many times when we would do a total knee or total hip replacements, the moment I would open the door to the stairwell, people would freak out.

TaVona Denise:             17:33                Oh yeah. Because the fear of the fear or the anticipation of pain is worse than actually doing the thing. And so part of my job as a coach is to help coach them around that fear of anticipation of pain and to understand where it’s coming from so that they can unlock themselves.

Karen Litzy:                                           Yeah, I mean fear is a very powerful emotion and it can take many, many forms, which I’m sure you’ve seen, like not all fear is, Oh, I’m not going to do that. Sometimes fear could be self-destructive. We could be self destructive to ourselves or to others around us out of fear. And so if you were to give any advice for people who are at that point where they’ve got everything lined up but they’re not taking the step because of fear, what do you say? Well that’s a loaded question, right?

TaVona Denise:             18:43                So going back to the journal is a very, very powerful tool if you’re not working with a coach and you’re trying to do this on your own. But the simple question of what am I afraid of? What am I afraid of? And if you will, after you asked that question, don’t just ask it and just have like in your brain, like actually write it down because there is some power in the scene, the written word, and you giving yourself that distance because once it’s on the page and out of your head, you can actually analyze it and see is that true and how can I mitigate the things that I’m afraid of happening? So Tim Ferriss calls it fear setting as opposed to goal setting. So what am I afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen? And he borrowed some of this technique from stoicism and he asks you to answer those questions for yourself and see, okay, well I’ll be out on the streets.

TaVona Denise:             19:39                Well do I have family that I could stay with? He did. He actually went and did some couch surfing for a while before he took the leap. So he went and stayed on people’s couches for a couple of weeks so that he could be in that space of is it actually that bad to have to sleep on somebody’s couch or eat ramen noodles or something like that. So like what am I actually afraid of and write it down.

Karen Litzy:                                           So, if I’m getting this concept correctly, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, so you write, what am I afraid of? Kind of write those fears. And then what’s the worst that can happen if that fear were realized? Is that what you’re kind of writing?

TaVona Denise:                                     Okay, that’s exactly right. So what am I afraid of? And what if this actually happened and how can I mitigate it? Got it. And he actually goes and practices it so that he can feel like, Oh, that’s actually not that bad. Even if it does happen. And that you may even have more resources than you thought you did if your worst fear were realized. So again, I think it forces you to write things out and say, Oh well maybe isn’t that bad.

Karen Litzy:                   20:48                Or maybe it is really bad. I don’t know. I guess it could go both ways. I’m not sure.

TaVona Denise:             20:54                Well, they could. So one of my mentors says, whenever you choose to do something or not to do something, make sure you like your reason.

TaVona Denise:                                     So, so many people are one, unclear about what they want in the first place. And two, if they know what they want, they’re just not taking action, but they can’t articulate why. So I just think if you can just start with that, those two simple questions that will give you a lot of information to get started with. You can find your why right. In some minuscule way in your life. Right? You can kind of find that why, which is often elusive to too many people. Yeah, I can because a lot of people, I think that’s another thing that I’ve found is just the simple act of asking you what do you want? Many people are quick to tell me what they don’t want and when they’re very clear on what they don’t want, but they can’t tell me what they do want, they’re also not going to make a move.

Karen Litzy:                   21:53                Got it. So all of these little tricks that we play in our minds can work against us in so many ways and we don’t realize it until we either, like you said, journal it, write it down, have an external eye, take a look at what you’re doing to kind of shine that blind spot right into your face so you know what’s going on. And then also just, I think, like you said, decluttering and really getting to the bottom of why at this point in your career, are you feeling the way that you’re feeling? Trying to recap a little bit here. Yeah. Is that good? Okay. All right. So now in before we kind of wrap things up, I have a couple other things to ask, those were the key takeaways from our conversation, but what do you want the listeners to really kind of take with them?

TaVona Denise:             22:50                I think we hold ourselves back unnecessarily. So I think it would be, if I were to give you like a step-by-step, if you will, a rough step-by-step is to one, figure out what you want, understand why you wanted, because the understanding of why you want it will help you move in the face of fear. Just like when we went to PT school, we had, there was a lot of fear involved and we moved through it anyway because we had a reason, right? So know what you want, know why you want it. Understand that fear is allowed to drive, ride the bus ride side car, but not allowed to drive the bus. And it’s really going to be okay if you think about that confidence loop and I can share a diagram with you so that people can actually see a visual of it. But if you think about it, if you just keep going, you will get there. If you just keep going, you’ll get there.

Karen Litzy:                   23:53                Yeah. And I think to that point in a digital age where everything happens at the speed of light, that can be difficult because what if it takes longer than you think it should take? Right. So expectations, let’s talk about that for a second.

TaVona Denise:             24:14                Yeah. Because speed of light microwave society, here’s something that I’ve been noodling over here lately. We want our business to take off like in 60 to 90 days. And Jen and I were talking about that today. Oh yes. And I was just thinking about this, like, why is that even fair? You need to learn marketing. You need to learn sales, you need to build an audience. I mean, there’s so many pieces that you need to learn. If you would just flip the switch. So from have to versus get to right. Here’s another little mental switch. What if it was just like going to PT school? So what’s the average length of PT school now? Is it two and a half, three years? Yeah, so let’s just say three years. What if you just said, I am going to learn what I need to learn all of these pieces of business and I’m going to not expect anything for three years and if I’m not as consistent as I was in PT school, which is full time, I don’t think anybody can work and do PT school. If I am not putting in that amount of hours in that amount of effort that I did in PT school for three years, then I need to add a year for however much time and effort I didn’t put in. If we can do that and give ourselves the mental space, time and grace, if we thought about how hard we worked and how long we worked in PT school and apply it to business, nobody should expect anything before three years of full time work and then it’d be great if it happens in a year.

Karen Litzy:                   25:45                Yes, I agree. I think oftentimes people are fed false hopes and expectations in marketing ploys and whatnot, and that’s just not how it works. It just, it just doesn’t work that way and you got to work at it. And I think I agree with you. I think your expectations have to be realistic and to have a successful business in 60 to 90 days is not realistic. It’s just well put, it ain’t going to happen. Not a chance. Yes. So expectations are huge. Thank you for touching on that. Okay. Did we miss anything?

TaVona Denise:             26:25                Not that I can think of.

Karen Litzy:                   26:26                All right. Cool. Cool. All right, so then the last question before we get to how people can get in touch with you is knowing where you are now in your life and in your business, what advice would you give to your younger self as a graduate out of PT school? So this is advice to you from you, from future you, to past you from future. You got it?

TaVona Denise:             26:57                Mmm. Don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s all going to be okay. The things that you think were for you that don’t work out actually happened for you.

Karen Litzy:                   27:19                Excellent. Excellent. So again, going, looking back, you can say to yourself, man, I was so upset that X, Y, Z didn’t work out. But look where I am now.

TaVona Denise:             27:31                Oh yeah, yeah. If I didn’t get that great management position that I thought I was going to get. I wouldn’t have gone to Costa Rica to Spanish immersion school if I didn’t. If I got the other management position that I thought I was going to get that I didn’t get, I wouldn’t have written a book. I wouldn’t be here talking to you all today.

Karen Litzy:                   27:49                Amazing. What great advice. I love it. Now. Where can people find you and find out more about what you do?

TaVona Denise:             27:55                Yeah. you can find me anywhere on the web at TaVona Denise. I’m most of the time on Facebook, sometimes Instagram and Tavonadenise.com.

Karen Litzy:                   28:11                Perfect. And just so for all the listeners, we’ll have links to all of that under the show notes for this episode at podcast.healthywealthysmart.com one click will take you to everything that TaVona has an and can offer to you. So TaVona, thank you so much for coming on. This was great. All right, and everyone, thanks so much for tuning in. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.


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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.