Sabrina Runbeck Discusses How To Balance A Powerful Career And A Great Life – Episode 102

LFL 102 | Powerful Career Balance


Finding the right balance between having a powerful and demanding career and a great private or personal life is challenging on different fronts. Sabrina Runbeck works with professionals with demanding careers like healthcare to overcome stress and feel powerful and passionate again. In this episode, she discusses with Patrick Veroneau the effects of the pandemic and working from home in both our performance at work and at home. Sabrina also touches on what it’s like to be a Millennial and clears up the misconception that most have towards them regarding how they view their respective professions. Listen in for some great tips and strategies on developing habits and learn all about the key components of life.

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Sabrina Runbeck Discusses How To Balance A Powerful Career And A Great Life – Episode 102

My focus is on finding a better way to lead. That’s by helping individuals develop the behaviors that will inspire, empower, and compel others to follow where you’re asking them to go. If you’ve been struggling at all with how to balance a powerful career with a powerful life outside of your career, then you’re going to want to know my guest, Sabrina Runbeck. She is a healthcare practitioner. She’s also a speaker and a peak performance coach. Her sole focus is around this mission of trying to create an environment where people, especially healthcare professionals learn to love their career, but also have a powerful life outside of that career. Why don’t we jump into it?

Sabrina, I want to thank you for being on the show. Your background is varied and important for the environment we’re in. I was looking forward to having you on. You’re an advanced practitioner in cardiothoracic surgery, but you’re also a peak performance coach. Both of those in terms of your focus is with professional Millennials and trying to create balance, especially for healthcare individuals and females in healthcare. The balance between having a vibrant career, but also a balance between life outside of that. I think that’s important. I was wondering if you could talk to that.  

Thanks for having me on the show, Patrick. Years ago, I was the typical person who’s always on. One day I was operating with a 101 fever. I wondered how could my childhood passion of working in medicine and living this American dream has turned into such an unhealthy reality. To tap that off, when I called in sick the next morning, my manager made me feel like I was inconveniencing him. Fast forward a few weeks, I treat a young man in his early 30s. He has two kids and a wife, and he required his fourth open-heart surgery. He had failed to report some new symptoms that he thought were small and insignificant. That’s when I realized that I had these small and insignificant things in my own life that I need to address before I too become a patient. At that time, I was in the mindset of “I have to say yes.” That becomes a default mode, “I got this, I can do it.”

When we say yes to many things that do not align with our core values, who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to show up for people, then we become resentful. We’re unable to deliver quality results or keep our promises with our family, friends, or even everyone who we want to work with. I believe that many young professionals who are working in areas that they are passionate about just like me, share similar struggles. I then dive, head in and went back to my roots of neuroscience and public health, and learning from other peak performance and personal development coaches on how can we turn this thing around. We all worked so hard to get to where we are now. We didn’t do it just to hate every moment. We simply give up and jump ship to something else. That’s when I came up with a simple three-step system to say no to stress and say yes to stamina.

Is that the quiz?  

I have a free three-minute quiz and that focuses on the ten different components that are important in life. I totally believe that for you to have a life full of heck yes, we need to be more conscious about our strengths and weaknesses, then we can remove these hidden roadblocks and excel in life.

How did you come up with that?  

We need to be more conscious about our strengths and weaknesses, so we can remove hidden roadblocks and excel in life. Click To Tweet

There are many different studies on what are the important things that people have in life. This wheel or a circle of life that people divide to either four components all the way to twelve components. For me, the key ten components are lifestyle, how do we want to live and what do we possess? Personal mission, what are your true purpose and value in this big wide world? How do you want to serve and show up? We have love and relationship, the most connections and the drive. Someone we rely on and someone relying on us. Social support, people who are not your family but simply trust you, believe in you, and you can also do the same for others. The next is career development. For some people that become the number one or the only thing they focus on.

You have financial intelligence, which has nothing to do with your career development. We can do things that we love to do that make zero money but give us satisfaction versus you can pick the career that can make you stable but you have a lack of fulfillment. You have spirituality. It doesn’t mean it has to be religious, but it can just be knowing the energy, how you’re drawing and manifesting from everything around you. There’s health and fitness, and that includes nutrition. Lastly is the mental wellbeing. What I believe is that if we only pick 1 or 2 of these key components, and then we dive deep into that, and somehow unintentionally ignored everything else, that’s when things wobble.

I don’t truly believe that we can create balance for everything, but we can create harmony that elevates every single aspect of life because they’re so intertwined. If you don’t feel good physically, especially in this critical time with the Coronavirus, then you had to pull yourself out of work for two weeks. During those two weeks, you’re isolated. People might want to speak to you or they’re connecting with you, but how many people are proactive about doing that? Talking about physical distancing, we do have to increase our virtual connectivity in some other way so the social support or family support still feels like it’s there for you so you’re not alone or sick and bored out of your mind. That also comes into the personal character development part. If we’re not growing every day, that’s when you feel dissatisfied and bored at the end of the day.

You bring up such an important point, especially as we talked about the virus and social distancing. Social distancing benefits us for our physical health, but it is a liability for every other component of our health, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We need that connection. We’re pack animals. There’s a belongingness that we need to be connected. Even if you’re an introvert, you still need connection. When we don’t have that, it messes with people in a lot of different ways.  

I don’t like the word social distancing because if you think about socializing, it means you’re here. You’re packed. You come together. It’s just a physical thing. You can still be in the same room 6 feet apart. If we couldn’t do it, think about how many of us healthcare professionals. What are we going to do? The people who are in the emergency room, urgent care, critical care were completely ganged up. You’ve worn your cap, your eye shield, your mask, your gown, even shoe cover and gloves. Just having all this doesn’t mean it protects you. You need to take all that out before you walk out of that room. One of my friends sent me a joke that says, “If you drive around seeing people stripping, that means the healthcare professionals are trying to protect themselves.” I’m like, “I guess that’s somewhat true.”

At the same time, we need to be smart about staying home if you don’t feel well. If your job allows you to work from home, which most of us are mandate to do that now then yes. Figure out a better schedule. What people are missing nowadays is when you go to work, they know what they need to do because someone else is also doing the work. You feel like you have to work and now you have a schedule. There’s a meeting. It’s lunchtime and we have to do X, Y, and Z. When they’re home, time goes wrong together because at least some people were not trained on how to plan out their day.

Some of the simple activity that I do with some of my clients is a visualization activity either in the morning or at nighttime. Allow yourself to imagine this perfect day that you’re going to have. What are you going to have for breakfast? Are you going to work out in the morning? When you show up for your meeting, how do you want to present yourself? Is that the enthusiasm you want to bring or the knowledge? You play around your whole day until the moment you go to sleep. You’re already allowing yourself to have a planning session without writing everything down. You preset your mind to this positive realm of things instead of sitting in there questioning, “What the heck am I doing?”

LFL 102 | Powerful Career Balance

Powerful Career Balance: That initial sensation of stress is healthy because they alert us. It becomes unhealthy if we hold on to that emotion of frustration and anger.


A time that is unstructured is a liability for a lot of people especially in this environment. I have often said that if you’re at home, get dressed just like you would if you’re going to work. Everything down to putting your shoes on, because if you don’t, you lose that sense of structure. We go to dark places oftentimes when we have too much time to think about the negative of what’s going on.  

When you plan things out, it doesn’t have to be minute by minute. You can also plan out the intentional breaks. Part of the way that I train people is that we should allow ourselves to even take a 2 or 5-minute break. Those 2 or 5-minute breaks can be very intentional as well. I call them the stamina reboot session. That will allow us to subside the mental chatter and refocus and bring us back to the present. You can completely reset your energy so you can be more intentional about your life.

Are there any tools, apps, or anything that you use in regards to chunking that time? There’s one that I’m familiar with that I’ve used periodically called the Pomodoro Timer.  

For us, every time you sit down, you set a timer for fifteen minutes. Our phone is super easy to use. The other thing I used to do before the Coronavirus is that I knew where my schedule allows me to take that 2 or 3 times of a mini-mental break throughout the day. First thing in the morning before I go into the operating room, right after I come out, I’ll do one exercise. Before I leave work, I’ll do one, and then right after dinner, I’ll do one. I’m more intentional in associating the habit with the existing activity. Now I can trigger myself, “Two minutes, that’s it. Let’s reset so I can be doing these things.” For people who haven’t developed this activity, you can preprogram the timer into your phone. When the timer goes off, especially if you’re not on a call or a meeting, drop it. Allow yourself and give yourself grace and empathy for that moment.

You’re talking about it from the standpoint of what you’re doing is you’re developing habits though to do that. Part of our conversation is that we all have the ability to develop these habits. What I’ve found interesting is I’ve interviewed people from different professions. A couple that I have found important, and I’d love your perspective on this. One was a fighter pilot that was talking about stress, crisis, and training for the habit, so that when you’re in that situation, that doesn’t hijack you. The other was somebody from the armed services in the Army. It’s that same thing. He was on the front lines of saying, “We practiced and practiced so that when we were in these situations, we were able to still operate.” I think of you and you must be in that same space. I think you can provide a lot of value to people of saying, “How do you deal with stress so that it becomes a challenge and not an overwhelming burden?”  

When we talk about stress, that initial sensation with stress is healthy because they alert us. It becomes unhealthy if we hold on to that emotion of frustration, anger, pessimist, whatever comes with it. When your emotion starts to replay itself, then we get trapped into that negativity. However, if you have learned to reprogram yourself, once you notice and you recognize it, it’s almost like you recognized it from a third-person perspective. Now you can do something about it. That trigger becomes healthy for us. Let’s say, simple things, you’re at home with your kids. The kids are running around when you’re trying to run a meeting. That irritation starts to come up. Before you react to speak to your kids about “Stay in your room, do your homework,” or whatnot, and even your dog. My dog is running around while I’m recording sometimes.

Instead of getting irritated right away, you recognize that irritation, and you start shifting yourself out. What my coach trained us to do is positive intelligent reps. These simple activities can use all your five senses. Visual is the hardest to train because we are so distracted by the things that we see. One of the easiest things for most people that I teach about is tactile or the touch sensation. You can also do smell, hearing, and vibration. In this simple activity, you recognize something that is not working for you, then you allow it to quickly shift into something positive to reprogram your neurocircuitry. You immediately bring yourself back in the center. Forgive yourself when you’re doing these quick exercises. If there are still other thoughts coming at you, it’s okay. Let them pass. The more that we practice these exercises, it’s easier to shift our mind right away, calm ourselves down, and then do something about that.

When you say yes to so many things that do not align with your core values, then you become resentful. Click To Tweet

It sounds like a lot around mindfulness of embracing and being in the moment for it in some regards.

It is hard when you’re angry or upset. If you recognize that, then you can say, “I understand that my dog is nudging on me. She wants attention. It’s not that she’s trying to destroy my career.” What we can do is close our eyes. Tactile is very simple, and then you start doing your deep breathing. Count it in your head, almost like you’re entering that meditation state. We’re not doing a 10, 20 minutes. We’re just doing a quick break. Once you start doing a couple of central channel breathing, what I ask people is to start feeling their thumb with each fingertip and start feeling the texture, the temperature, the smoothness or roughness.

Focus on the sensation itself and bring your entire thought to this sensation, and allow yourself to drop everything. The thoughts that are not related to what you’re touching and feeling, let it pass. Some other ones, if you add on to the massage pressure point, you can simply comb through your hair because we have many meridians on top of our hair. You can do that if that becomes easier to bring into yourself or bring into the present. Once you do 1 or 2 minutes of that, before you open your eyes, set the intention on what do you want to do next, then give yourself a direction.

There’s a theme that I continue to hear. It’s this idea of setting habits when we’re doing this. A lot of what you’re talking about to me is around self-awareness too. You need to know that it’s coming. Just like if you were in the OR. If you’re on a procedure and something starts to go in a direction that probably wasn’t normal, there’s no panic in a sense. We know that this is what we need to do next, but that comes out of the habit of being in that situation.  

What’s funny is that I brought that into my life as well. If something bad happened, I’m super calm. I dive directly thinking into solutions. I see the problem. I see what are all the possibilities, we can solve this. When things are small and if you let them go, then small things compound to bigger issues. What I tend to do is if I recognize something small, I nip them in the bud. What I also learned from myself is sabotager like, “Bring myself back to the positive state. Don’t get irritated by the small things,” because we can address small things so much easier than big things. If something frustrated you and then somehow, I ended up not reacting.

If I say you drop your phone from the second floor to the first floor. That initial shock is like, “My whole life is on there. I need to get this phone back and reprogram it.” That happened to me and my initial shock was nothing. I didn’t even react. I walked down and picked it up like, “The whole thing is shattered. Let me use someone else’s phone and try to get a screen replacer come to my house.” Maybe it’s weird because throughout the years I learned. In medicine at least at my specialty, things can happen like this a heart or lung surgery. If the surgery goes well, great. The recovery takes a lot more time and a lot more energy to get people off the vent, the machine that help people to breathe, and off the drips, all this medication to help your heart pumping.

Even if you can be off of all these supports, people still have to do the rehabilitation. There are also studies that have been found depression associated with open-heart surgery. You felt like your body is completely changing. Your mindset is you have to rely on people instead of how independent you were. That’s something I talk to people beforehand to address a lot of that. We can offer you surgery. We can offer you services like anything in our service industry, but what do you want out of this experience? Knowing everything has consequences and you have to work towards that, how do you imagine life being better? You won’t have a heart attack. We gave you an additional blood supply to your heart. Allow them to visualize that, and then it becomes more real. People can work towards that.

LFL 102 | Powerful Career Balance

Powerful Career Balance: Accountability is not exactly holding someone accountable, but it’s a relationship you have built to make sure we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do so that we can elevate each other.


I had seen some research, especially around cardiac issues with patients, that those that were in support groups tended to be more adherent to following through after the fact. Are you familiar with that?  

I believe so. I haven’t seen exactly all the studies, but anything in life, we talk about accountability partners. If you’re in the same boat, you feel like you’re not alone anymore. Accountability is not exactly that you hold someone accountable. It’s a relationship you have built to almost holding each other’s hands and make sure we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do, so then we can elevate each other.

It is true because when you hear the word ‘accountability,’ people tend to think of it as not a positive thing. It’s punitive if there’s going to be accountability. For me, it’s almost related more towards ownership. That’s what we’re talking about. It is about ownership. We’re all going to take ownership of our health or of where we’re going to go as a team, whatever it might be. To me, that’s how I look at accountability.  

I think it’s true. It is a positive way. When we have a coach, that’s someone who’s accountable for you, whether it’s in sport, in life, in work, in business, or whatever we’re doing. It’s someone who’s also there to challenge you because they know you have that strength within you that you might not see it yourself. That’s also what true leaders are. They can bring out that energy and that skill within someone that they thought it was easy coming to them. All of us think this way, “How could you not know how to do this?” That shock is your jam. That’s the crystal that somehow you got and no one else got. Recognizing that that’s your strength and people rely on you to do that. That gave us more of that confidence to go into the next task instead of thinking, “Everyone wants a piece of me.”

You mentioned leadership and leaders doing that. The direction that leadership is going, there’s more and more of that. An old-style of what was seen as a leader was more about command and control, and not thinking about. It’s interesting because especially as a Millennial, we always hear this, “Millennials don’t want to work.” I can’t tell you how many individuals and family members for me that are in that state. I don’t know any that aren’t working hard and don’t want to do a good job and aren’t proud of what they do, no more than a Boomer or a Gen X or in that same group. It’s more of an indictment on leadership and lack of positive behaviors for leaders and not as much on the Millennial or any generation.  

I totally agree with you because there are multiple studies out there that Millennials just like Baby Boomers and Gen Xers want to show up as an expert in our field. They want to bring positivity to the organization. What’s different is our tendency is different. Our personality is a little different. If you talk about personality studies, Gretchen Rubin has this great book called The Four Tendencies. I believe that a lot us are in that questionnaire tendency where externally, we need to question the reason, the purpose, the idea of why we’re doing something. It’s not to challenge the norm, but to simply understand it better. At the end of the day, if I’m the leader and I can be super clear about my purpose, then people will agree with me and more likely to help me to achieve that purpose. It’s like Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It’s the same thing. It’s purpose. If we don’t even know where we want to go, then who’s going to follow us? You will become someone who has no knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you have the title. If you don’t have a clear direction or idea, then people don’t even know what to expect or how they’re supposed to drive to that end goal.

I’m a Gen Xer and I jokingly will say at times that I was born in the wrong generation. It was always my downfall because I would be the one that would be like, “Why are we doing it this way?” Because they say that’s the way we’re going to do it. Even if that was the right way to do it, if somebody just explained to me like, “This is why we need to do it in this way.” Even if I didn’t go along with it or agree completely, at least I knew that I was part of this. There was, “This is why we need to go in this direction,” as opposed to, “You’re going to do it because I say you’re going to do it, because I have the title and I’m the leader.” I don’t think it worked then, it definitely doesn’t work now.

You can actually address small things much easier than big things. If something really frustrates you, somehow you end up not reacting. Click To Tweet

I believe the questionnaire tendency, if you bring it to internal, we’re good about keeping ourselves on track. If we believe in something, we’re very good at getting things done. You don’t need to push us over and over again once you set that clarity. When people don’t do it, it is because they have no clarity in what they want or how they set their own expectations. Sometimes the hardest thing for anybody is they don’t know. What they’re clear on is what they don’t like, but they’re not sure what they truly want to do, like to do, or how they want their life mission.

There’s a quote by John Quincy Adams that I often use. He said, “If your actions inspire somebody to do more, dream more, learn more or become more, you’re a leader.” There’s no title. It’s just about actions inspiring other people. To me, that’s what it’s about. That’s what leadership is. It’s not that there’s only one type or only one person who can be the leader. It’s to simply say that there are many ways to do this.  

I’m not sure if you read the book Multipliers. I love that one. It talks about the six different diminishers and things that sometimes we don’t even think about. If you are someone who always wants to solve a problem for everybody else, they’re not going to think for themselves. If you’re someone who has to micromanage, then people feel like they have no freedom to even show up and be the best person they want. Also, the people who said, “I have run ten meetings today. I got all those things done. How about you guys?” You feel almost fearful that you’re never going to catch up. These things happen over and over again in life and I felt like it is such a crucial topic to even notice.

I believe she has that quiz about what is your accidental diminisher. When I’ve taken those a while back and also matching what I’m trained to build passive intelligence, it’s recognizing the self-sabotagers. You can bring that out on a surface and truly recognizing how you’re being triggered. What’s the emotion affecting you? Now let’s shift into this exercise to reprogram your brain. As we talk about in the beginning, if you have something that upset you, that’s fine. You recognize that. You do this quick activity to bring yourself back to the center and in the present, then you can address the issue.

If we look at the work by Gallup around employee engagement whether it’s healthcare or outside of healthcare, about 2/3 of employees would say that they’re disengaged from the work that they were in. This can provide an opportunity for many people to recalibrate, “Where do I want to go?” If somebody were to come to you and say, “I’m not happy with where I am.” What’s the first thing that you would recommend to them?

I would recommend to write down three different columns. Get a blank piece of paper and create three columns. Number one, what was the initial interest that you have in whatever you’re doing now? That initial excitement and drive. That initial interest. In the second column, what are the things that you completely disagree on that does not align with who you are? The third column, even if it’s outside of your job description or how you think this thing should be, what can bring you more joy if you allow yourself to add an extra component into it? When you have three columns, how can you bring yourself back to that initial excitement? Now that you know what you don’t like, can you address it with people’s things or yourself to eliminate these things? How can you add additional things to allow yourself to feel better?

For me, when I was burning out and switching things up, I know I love to speak. I pick up to become a speaker and learn about how to become a proper public speaker. That third column is to learn from people who are on stages. I also know I love to teach. The speaking part aligns and I also love to teach students. I set up with three different universities to have students come to me for surgical rotation. It is on hold due to Coronavirus. I had medical, PA and PE student leading up to that point. Part of my public health background is research so I became the lead PA in my team to do research. We look at surgical result outcomes and additional ways to better educate patients, maybe a free activity so then they can reduce rehospitalizations.

LFL 102 | Powerful Career Balance

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better

You become more proactive about what can bring you joy and think about what got you into it. I got into medicine because I feel like a human body is super intriguing. There are many different ways that we can fix things, not just the Western medicine. There are also these other ways that we have done thousands of years. How can we integrate everything? The things that I’m not liking, it is what it is but how can I reduce that? Whether it’s the scheduling, whether to make sure everyone cares their own way, whether it’s, “When do you go into the OR versus other different components of your job?” It becomes more tangible and not like, “I’m not happy about it.”

It’s back in your control. We talked about this in terms of resources, you might not have the time now or whatever it might be, but you do have the resourcefulness to be able to figure out, “How can I work around that?”

Sometimes you just have to ask. If you have the idea, write down one sentence purpose statement so you’re clear about it. Whenever you talk to people, they will trust you. You become more fluent about your messaging. Share these messages. Someone is going to be aligned with your message, who you wanted to be, and how you wanted to bring this to the surface. People will help you. When you don’t ask, people don’t even know you have this idea. It would become something out of nowhere and then you probably have this thought. It could be great, but it won’t come to reality.

I love the three questions in terms of lining that out. That’s a great way to start. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to work with you or learn more about you?  

I’m very active on Instagram. Please send me a private message and also, on LinkedIn. Those are my two major platforms. For the free quiz, I’m generating three graphic analysis. I will also send you a voice message with the analysis on Instagram, private message, or LinkedIn. I’m the type who loves to talk. I think the best way to communicate is through a voice memo. Somehow, I hate reading text messages so that’s how I’m doing this.

That’s a great way to do it. I like that. Your list, there’s so much there in terms of helping people understand what component of this would be most valuable for me to work on.  

We need to question the reason, purpose, and idea of why we're doing something, not to challenge the norm, but to understand better. Click To Tweet

Thanks, Patrick, for having me. Thanks, everyone, for reading.

Sabrina had some great strategies and approaches to how you can have both a rewarding career and also a rewarding, gratifying and powerful life. If you know somebody that would benefit from this episode, I would ask you to forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed, go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment regarding this or any other episode because that’s how this message, re-imagining leadership and finding a better way, continues to get out there. Until the next episode. I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.

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