How to Cultivate a Gratitude Mindset to Overcome Challenges


Have you ever had challenging moments in your life that, later, led to something special, something great? In hindsight, you now can look back and see that you’re grateful for those moments. 

As physicians, you are well aware of the studies about gratitude positively impacting health and mental wellness. And you are also fully aware of why it’s so important to our success that we cultivate a culture of gratitude. In today’s fast-paced world, taking a moment to pause and express gratitude can ground us, provide clarity, and give us the right perspective. 


But life is not always perfect, and I’m not trying to give you that impression. Cultivating a culture of gratitude takes effort, especially when bad things happen. But we can overcome all of this by developing an abundance mindset through gratitude. The spark of hope starts with a simple question: What are you thankful for?” Ultimately, a gratitude mindset can help you overcome any challenge

This week, as we are busy preparing for the holiday festivities with our family and friends, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we are grateful for and how to cultivate a gratitude mindset.

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Gratitude Practices for Mental Wellness and Personal Development

In our pursuit to cultivate a culture of gratitude in our home and career, here are a few practical tips to develop a gratitude mindset.


Gratitude Journal:

Get the benefits of gratitude by jotting down daily and past moments that you are thankful for. Your writing could take the form of a narrative, but it could also be a list. As long as you acknowledge what you are thankful for, you’re on the right path!

Part of this includes acquiring a journal that speaks to you somehow. Maybe the journal has some heft, a fun cover design, or it’s a digital device. For many, the ease of using your computer and keyboard works best. Whatever it may be, create a daily catalog of what you’re grateful for to foster consistent feelings of gratitude. 


Call out the good you see in others with verbal affirmations and appreciation. Let friends, family, and cherished colleagues know what it is that you appreciate about them—both in general and something specific they did today. 



Most communities of families and friends have rituals of some kind. That might be family dinners, bedtime stories, birthday celebrations, and more. Make it a point to embed discussions or observations centered around thankfulness into these rituals. Doing so will help you make gratitude a habit. 


We are prone to recognize major things like anniversaries or a good grade on a major test. But a gratitude mindset means also celebrating the small wins. Recognize and celebrate team achievements, individual accomplishments, and small stories of success. Make celebrating each other a natural and habitual part of your daily routine. 


My Gratitude Mindset and Three Challenging Moments I’m Grateful For

Reflecting on the past is an essential part of cultivating a gratitude mindset. It’s important to revisit things that appear tough in the moment but, later on, can be seen as a step to something beautiful or great in one’s life. Modeling a gratitude journal, I want to demonstrate this practice for you now by looking at three challenging moments in my own life that I have used to create a gratitude mindset

The Residency Match

When it comes to “the match,” physicians have all been through this rite of passage. It’s a big moment. Dreams and aspirations either come true and you feel set for life, or it can be a big disappointment. I’m an anesthesiologist today, but the first time I applied for the match, it was for urology. That’s where I thought my heart was. But it just didn’t feel right. Well, there was an issue with the match and I had to do it again. But the second time, I didn’t match. 

I felt like a failure. Rather than give up, I decided to take it as an opportunity. I did a PGY in general surgery. I worked closely with the Chief Resident in Urology, who had my back as I worked toward applying again. But then he pulled me aside and, although he was confident I would make a great urologist, asked if I ever thought about anesthesiology. I was shocked. He pointed out how happy they seemed and encouraged me to talk to them to learn more. He must’ve seen something in me. 

After working with them, it became clear that this field would offer me the work-life balance I was after. For the first time, I reflected on exactly what I wanted. I had been on the freight train of medicine, barreling forward with unstoppable momentum toward becoming a doctor. It never gave me a moment to pause and think about what I really wanted until now. 

The Chief Resident in Urology said to me, “If you go into that field, I promise you, you’re going to think about my every Christmas.” I decided to switch right then and there, and I felt great about that decision. As it turns out, every Christmas I do think about him. But that’s not where the story ends.

I applied for the match again, and I was offered a position by a call from my dream program. Excited, I told everybody. The next day, they called back and said there was some confusion, that they had meant to offer the spot to somebody else before me, and this other person had accepted. My offer was rescinded. I couldn’t believe what was happening. 

What else was I supposed to do? I pushed through the match, and I matched into the same institution. Through the ups and downs, I got there. I was in the city I wanted to be in, in the field I felt like I could make a difference in, and I understood that I needed these things to happen to get me there. 

I faced a match rejection, a PGY, and a rescinded offer. At the time, they seemed to be challenging moments. Now I can look back and be forever grateful for the events that transpired, for they gave me my life as it is now. 

The Dream Job

During and after my fellowship in OB anesthesia, I was working at what I considered the Mecca of OB anesthesia. It was my dream job, and it was an amazing place to work. As a junior, I started working tons of nights and weekends, sometimes up to twelve nights a month. I worked almost every single holiday. I knew that I’d become a partner when I hit the two-year mark and I’d be set for life, so I was happy to do my part. Plus, I was promised that the shifts would become equitable once I became a partner. 

When I became a partner, what I was promised didn’t happen. Shifts that were supposed to go my way went to the higher-ups. I’m not sure if something similar has ever happened to you—having sacrificed and delayed gratification for a moment that never came. But I felt really upset. I felt angry. I felt duped, actually. And I lost sleep.

That’s when I decided not to be reliant on somebody else. I wanted to take control, specifically financial control, of my life. I reached out to the docs at the hospital that seemed to have it all figured out with a good work-life balance. They traveled a lot, had the time for a good family life, and enjoyed the freedom to do what they wanted. 

What was the common factor for all of them? They had all created income streams outside of medicine, mostly through real estate. It allowed them to practice medicine on their own terms. They loved what they did, but it wasn’t the only thing they did. 

My education started immediately. I read books, listened to podcasts, and found mentors. This led to my first investment that became my first out-of-medicine paycheck.  Soon after, I purchased my first property. The rest of the story is fairly well known to some of you: It all became Passive Income MD, a community of doctors and high-income earners looking to live an intentional, controlled life. 

When my work situation changed and people were being forced out, I was able to make that decision to leave my dream job. And I was able to do so without worrying about my family’s financial security. 

So now, I think back to a moment where it felt like everything was ripped out from under me—when becoming a partner didn’t change much of anything—and I’m grateful for it. That challenge was actually the opportunity that helped me create Passive Income MD and led to a financially free future. 

My Father and His Health

Six years ago, my father had some health issues. I always thought of him as a strong, stubborn guy. When his health faced a major test, it was the first time either of us had thought about his mortality. 

Watching him go through it was very difficult. Initially, he was in some denial about the surgery he would need. Leading up to it, he couldn’t walk or move or take care of himself. We moved him into our house at a time when I had two very young children. It was tough for everybody, but we wanted to make sure he was taken care of. 

While he lived with us, we started to have conversations about life that I had never had before. Life’s short, in a way, and not many people have the chance to reflect on it or address it with their parents. But, at that point, I was able to have these conversations with him, and it was eye opening. I asked him about the best time in his life, his life priorities, and his perspective on a lot of things. His answers changed me.

He told me that the best time in his life was when myself and my sister were younger and everyone was in the home. He talked about how fun it was to see us daily, each day filled with surprises. He also said that if he could do it again, he would’ve worked less. 

And so I thought about my life, now with two young kids in the house like my father during his best years. And I remember thinking, “Why am I giving up so much time to work?” At that point, I had already created income streams outside of medicine, but I realized that I needed to push it further. I needed to secure my family’s financial future so that I could change my priorities and spend my time the way I wanted to: with my family. 

I no longer worked nights or holidays. At first, it felt like I was giving something up. But after a while I realized I gained something even more valuable. That realization helped me design my life in a way that prioritizes the time I have now with the people I love. 

Even though his health problems created a temporarily challenging time full of stress and anxiety, it also created so many beautiful moments of connectivity that completely shifted my priorities. It was all possible because of a difficult challenge I am now thankful for. 

Cultivate the Benefits of Gratitude

So what about you? How have you used gratitude to overcome your life’s challenges? What are the moments in your life that, when you look back on them, felt so incredibly challenging but you now realize it’s the event that made you who you are today?

Those moments are things to be grateful for, as are small challenges in our daily life. When we cultivate a gratitude mindset, our experiences are always an opportunity to create the life that we want. In the end, it’s important to cultivate gratitude, as the benefits of a gratitude mindset put you in abundance and help you overcome any challenge. 

I’m also grateful for this community. Thank you for being part of it, for sharing your experiences, and for sharing this community with others. We here at Passive Income MD appreciate you and your support. We hope you enjoy this holiday season with loved ones, and while you are with them, don’t forget to tell them why you are grateful for them. Until I see you next, continue to cultivate your gratitude mindset and reap the benefits. Happy holidays!  

Further Reading

Peter Kim, MD is the founder of Passive Income MD, the creator of Passive Real Estate Academy, and offers weekly education through his Monday podcast, the Passive Income MD Podcast. Join our community at the Passive Income Doc Facebook Group.

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