You approached it like it was heavy, so it was.
I saw this quote and it made me pause. It’s simple but profound. Ten words that pack an entire philosophy into them; that is: The way you experience the world has more to do with you than anything around you.
The quote had me primed, but the message was further reinforced by a section in the book Attending by Ronald Epstein.
He elaborates on an exercise he uses at conferences where, for a short period of time, he asks attendees to walk around and write down everything they can find that is the color red. Signs. Logos. Wallpaper. Shoes. Doorknobs. Pens. Ties. Pamphlets. Some attendees get competitive: Can purple technically count as red? What about brown? Orange is pretty much red, right? This thing looks red when you hold it up to the light. What is “red,” anyway?
The point of the exercise: When you direct your focus into making something important, you will notice those things but also, in fact, create them. You change the way the world exists around you. “Redness” starts to take all sorts of shapes and forms, it comes with nuances and subtleties. By approaching the world as red, it is.
Now imagine the lens you’re using to view the world isn’t something benign as red. Imagine it’s “I’m unqualified.” Or perhaps, “those people are bad.” Or “everyone is out to get me.” That message begins to appear everywhere, not because it inherently does, but because you’re assigning that meaning to everything.
But it’s adjustable. By bringing into our consciousness the lens through which we view the world, we can start to change it. Without physically changing anything external, we can redefine how it exists.
This has important implications for the realm of professional medicine.
The wrong people are in power. The system is inefficient and expensive. Physicians feel overworked and unappreciated. Clerical work dominates this field. Electronic health records are a massive waste (of time, energy, resources) and source of errors. There is endless work to be done.
It is easy to get caught in the trap of viewing all this as bad, hopeless, doomed. But, just like redness, when we see it this way— it is. And that changes how we act. If we feel doomed we are forced into inaction and surrender. This lens is disempowering. It makes changes impossible.
What if, without doing anything to our environment (yet), we changed how we viewed it? It could be a problem waiting to be solved. A puzzle. And learning opportunity. A challenge. An excuse to jump out of your comfort zone (that’s right, physician-who-is-reading-this, get involved in leadership! You’re qualified). These lenses inspire action. They’re empowering.
We sabotage ourselves and we do a disservice to the world when we take on a disenfranchised lens. We enter a feedback loop from hell: We see the world as doomed, then we make it so, which reinforces how doomed we think it already is. It's time to propel ourselves from this downward spiral.
By seeing the healthcare as a vast and complicated puzzle, it is. And now we can start to solve it.