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On Being Consistent

In my last post I wrote about the run that I really didn’t want to do. My legs felt so tired and all I could think about was stopping. But I kept going and built up momentum.  I ended up having a great run and feeling terrific afterwards!

When examining this more closely, it is clear that it all began with a choice. My choice.  It was my decision to keep my legs moving despite how fatigued I felt. I could have very easily chosen otherwise. I could have stopped. But I chose to keep going.  In life, everything about us ultimately comes down to our choices.

I wrote a recent post about choices.  At the risk of being redundant, I would like to discuss a bit further. This is because our choices are so important. There are two wonderful books that I would recommend for anyone who would like to read more on this topic. One is “The Slight Edge,” by Jeff Olson, and the other is “The Compound Effect,” by Darren Hardy. These books provide great descriptions of how consistent decisions affect our lives and our circumstances. Even those seemingly small decisions, when added up over time, can have enormous impacts in our lives.

The “added up over time” phrase is key.  Smoking a single cigarette won’t give anybody lung cancer. However, smoke a pack a day for twenty years, and your putting yourself at risk for very bad things.  Going to the gym one time will not get anybody into shape. However, go a few times a week, and over the course of several months there will be some positive changes noted.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about what’s been called the magic penny.  You know it-take a penny and double it every day. Doesn’t sound like it would amount to much. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256, 512.  On day 10, all you would have is $5.12.  On day 20, you would have  $5242. Day 25-$167,772.  A nice chunk of change-but not rich.  But then, on day 30-$5,368,708. During the first 25 days, change occurred relatively slowly.  The last 5 days was really where most of the magic occurred.

So the moral is not just to make good choices, but to make good choices on a regular basis over time. If you do, you will see positive changes. They may seem small at first. But don’t get discouraged.  Stay patient and consistent. Enjoy the journey. The big breakthroughs may take longer to occur, but when they do it will have been well worth the effort.

Physics

 

I run a few times each week, and I can remember one day last week when I went out for a run.  Nothing out of the ordinary. However, for some reason it seemed extremely difficult. My legs felt so tired. I felt the burn of lactic acid build-up very early on.  With each stride, I felt like I wanted to stop.  Maybe I just was not in the mood to run.

However, I kept going.  I kept pushing through my desire to stop and the fatigue in my legs. I kept moving.  After a short while, I no longer felt tired.  It also didn’t seem to require as much energy to keep my legs moving. As a matter of fact, I was enjoying the feeling of my legs really pumping. My energy levels continued to soar, and there was a point during my run when it felt like I could continue for hours.  When it was over, I felt great!

That run reminded me of two facts I first learned way back when I was a student studying physics. First, inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest. Second, momentum (or impetus), is the tendency of a moving body to maintain its motion. I’ve also been reminded of these two lessons many times over while reading books on the subject of personal development. And like my run that day, I’ve been reminded of these truths many times over through my own personal experiences.

Many times when you’re not doing much, your inertia can make it difficult to start moving. It will take discipline and will power, but once you start moving you gain momentum. And the more you keep going, the more momentum you gain-which gets you going even more. It’s a wonderful upwards spiral.

This principle applies to any goal you have set for yourself- whether it is related to health, sports, fitness, education, career, finances or relationship. Momentum can help us do great things!

Back when I was in school, I can remember some of my fellow classmates saying that physics was boring.  If only they knew!

 

Gratitude

Speaking about choices-we are called upon to make so many choices every day. Some are big and others small.  However, there are some choices that we can make all the time.  Like the decision to be grateful.  No matter what our circumstances, we can always choose to be grateful for the abundance of wonderful things that we have in our lives. We can always give thanks for our families, friends, home, food, health, clothes, cars-for our very lives and people that we are.

I recently treated a patient who came to the Emergency Room with symptoms that he had never had, and they were concerning to him and his family.  After his evaluation, I was explaining his diagnosis when he said something that resonated with me.  “Well, maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” was a remark that gave me pause for a moment.  He was thankful that he had symptoms that brought him to medical attention early-possibly averting a catastrophic event in the future.

Looking for something to be grateful for is a powerful choice that can have a profoundly positive impact.

Choices

Yes, things can change.  Our individual and collective health can be better. And it all comes down to just one thing-our individual choices.  Sounds simple, yet it is magnificently powerful. I’ve read it over and over again and have seen it at work many times in my own life.  The choices we make every day will impact our lives.  And I’m not speaking about major life decisions, but rather the small seemingly unimportant choices that we make many times over throughout the course of each day.

These will affect every aspect of our lives-our relationships, finances, careers, and health. And depending on the choices made, over time the impact will be either positive or negative.  May we choose to make good choices.

It Can Be Better

I know there IS more.  I know it CAN be better. I’ve seen so much during my years as an Emergency Medicine physician.  As ER doctors, PAs, nurses and techs, we help the sick and injured. We save lives.  We help the worried well.  It can be so rewarding. It can also be sad.

The biggest part of “sad” is when you can’t help people, no matter how hard you try.  I do understand that matters are ultimately in God’s hands. For me, another part of “sad” is when I see so many people who are suffering from illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and emphysema. These people often have long medication lists and many times are relatively young. What I find to be so unfortunate is that many times this does not have to be so. Is this really true quality of life?  Can we do anything to make it better?  I KNOW WE CAN.

Leadership

 

I am an avid reader of personal development and self-improvement books.  John Maxwell is an author that I have become familiar with.  He is well known as a leadership expert.  I once heard an interview with him during which he defined the word “leader.”   He said that to lead is to influence others.  Prior to this I had never thought of leadership in that manner.  I believed that to lead was to solely delegate responsibilities to others. To lead by influencing put a whole new perspective on the essence of leadership.

John Maxwell also said that leadership is not determined by position or title.  Looking at a large corporation, for example, this means that a member of the janitorial staff can be as much of a leader (or perhaps more of a leader) than the CEO of the company.  Any person with any job title or any level of experience can be a great leader.

Each of us was created as a unique individual.  We all have our own strengths and talents.  Thus, we all have something positive to share with others.  I believe that we all have something to offer to the world that will help make others’ lives better in some way. It is in this way that we can influence other people. By helping another person generate a positive change in her life, we have created influence. Something wonderful has been accomplished.  Something that can be passed on.

I believe that leadership can thus also be defined as having a positive impact upon others. We can begin with ourselves and our own families. We can teach, encourage and inspire. We can extend our reach to our friends, coworkers and colleagues. We can even be leaders to people that we have just met.

The Concert

Today my sons played in their second concert.  They play the piano and have been taking classes for a little over a year now. It was wonderful just to be there and listen to my boys perform. They worked diligently and practiced a lot. I am truly a very proud father.

There were many other young people that performed in today’s concert.  Most played the piano, a few played the guitar and one boy played the cello.  I listened attentively to each child’s recital and genuinely enjoyed all that I heard. I couldn’t help but to feel amazed as I watched coordinated fingers running across piano keys, playing guitar strings and effortlessly encouraging a bow to create beautiful melodies upon the strings of a cello. Even more remarkable was witnessing the presentation of magnificent pieces of music solely from memory.

I imagined how it must have been the first time each of these children picked up their chosen instrument. Something that at first was so unfamiliar had become almost an extension of their own hands. The instrument itself, its texture, and the sounds it creates have over time become part of the child himself.

Time is one key. Consistent practice is the other key. Given enough time and consistency of practice, the child learns at first how to play notes, then rhythms, and eventually delightful pieces of music.  I am a firm believer that any worthwhile endeavor can be achieved by consistent practice and perseverance. Even seemingly enormous goals can be broken down into smaller ones and accomplished one small step at a time. Practice does make perfect. The children at the concert are living proof of that.

 

Focus

 

I’ve heard many times and in many forms the idea that what one focuses on will grow stronger.  I’ve heard it as a concept passed down from yogis as well as from a multitude of authors of personal development and inspirational books. It is an idea that I try to implement in my life as well. It really is a powerful idea, and one that holds a great deal of truth.

Allow me to borrow from Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect. He mentions that when you purchase a new car, it all of a sudden seems that so many people are driving the exact same vehicle. This was something that you had not noticed before. Well, it’s unlikely that thousands of people went out today and bought the same car you did.  What really happened is that you are now focused on the type of car you drive, so you see all of these identical vehicles that have always been there but that you had never noticed before.  I know that I can relate to that, and I’m sure that many people can as well.

Another story that illustrates this comes from my own life.  I meditate on a regular basis. In the warmer weather I like to sit on my meditation cushion outside.  However, it often seems that no matter what time of the day I decide to sit outside, there is always someone getting their lawn mowed or doing some other type of noisy outdoor work. A few weeks back people were blowing leaves nearby ( I am not very fond of leaf blowers) while I was sitting on my porch.  I decided to try to really focus on my breathing and not on the noise. It turned out that when I deeply concentrated on my breathing I did not hear the leaf blowers at all. I’ll admit that this was not easy to do do and something that I need to put a lot more work into, but it is definitely something that I want to improve upon.

I believe it is important for people to focus on the things in their lives that are most important to them and for which they are grateful.

Be your own Advocate

 

I believe that it can sometimes be difficult to go to the doctor. This may be somewhat more true for the non-medical person.  The doctor-patient relationship should have solid and open communication at its foundation.  The doctor should speak in language that is easily understood by the patient.  The patient should ensure that he has a clear understanding of all that is being said.  I think that writing your questions down beforehand and taking them with you is a great way to be sure that nothing is forgotten.  Having another person present, be it a friend or family member is definitely a big plus. There have been several instances in which my wife was with me at a doctor’s appointment and brought up really important questions that I had either forgotten or not even thought about.

There may be situations that arise in which you have certain concerns that the doctor does not seem to share.  If this is the case, please advocate for yourself.  Please ask your doctor to explain his difference of opinion, and make sure that you are comfortable with the reasoning. Us doctors are human beings, just like our patients.  Sometimes we may overlook things or perhaps not see them quite the way our patients do.  If you have reasonable concerns, then you might need to persevere a bit in your questioning. This dialogue should, of course, occur in a polite fashion. Over the years I have had a few patients whose symptoms at the time did not seem to represent anything serious. I was going to discharge them. The patients were young adults.  It was their mothers that were proactive and adamant when they said that they knew something was wrong with their child. I listened. I proceeded to investigate further and ended up uncovering serious medical issues that would have caused significant disability for my patients had I let them go home.  I listened.  That’s the most important thing I did. My patient’s families voiced their concerns and I listened. This open communication helped my patients tremendously.

Always keep an open communication with your doctor. Ask questions. Voice your concerns. Be your own advocate when you need to.

Self-Discipline

 

The obvious definition of self-discipline is to discipline oneself.  The Random House College Dictionary defines discipline as “training to act in accordance with rules” and “instruction and exercise designed to train to proper conduct or action”. This tells me that the formal definition of self-discipline must be training oneself to improve a specific behavior or skill.  I believe that this can be extrapolated out to mean training oneself to improve any aspect of life.

There are many attributes of good self-discipline.  These include proper motivation, patience, consistency and perseverance.  Breaking your final goal into lesser ones and taking small steps to successfully accomplish these can greatly help to increase your momentum and maintain motivation. This will ultimately translate into a greater ability to train, or discipline, yourself.

I believe that I am a disciplined person.  However, as I sit here at my computer trying to recall an impressive example of self-discipline to share, I am drawing a blank.  But now I realize that I do exercise self-discipline on a daily basis.  Take something simple-like flossing.  I floss every day. Many years back I didn’t floss at all. When I visited my dentist at that time, she advised me that I should floss to keep my teeth and gums healthy. I was adverse to the idea at the time so I asked her if I needed to floss all of my teeth.  She responded “No, you don’t.  You only have to floss the ones that you want to keep.”   I thus started developing the habit of daily flossing. I trained myself to incorporate it into my nighttime routine before brushing.  And I’ve been doing it ever since. That took self-discipline. I exercise and eat healthy on a consistent basis. I read on a regular basis to keep up with the advances that are occurring in my field. I want to keep myself well and always be able to improve myself. This takes self-discipline.

To become self-disciplined is often a slow process, but one that will enable us reap great rewards.