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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: YES!

Before I get going today, I just wanted to share a random moment in my day that made me chuckle. Sometimes they arise from the most unexpected of places. That happened to me today when I was listening to the news on the radio talking about, of all things, a deadly tornado that ravaged Mississippi this past week. Of course, the last thing I wish to be is insensitive, but they were interviewing the mayor of the town, and he was speaking about the town being rebuilt, but it was just, odd. His words were on point, but his tone was that of a vanquished villain, vowing to have his revenge in a movie sequel. “We will rebuild and come back stronger” did not sound humble and determined, so much as, “You may have won today, He-Man, but mark my words, I shall defeat you the next time!” Sorry for the random thought, but those who have read in this space know I tend to do that sort of thing, some “mental calisthenics,” if you will.

I’ve thought about writing on today’s blog post for a few weeks now, but other ideas have always seemed more important. In other words, I’ve said ‘no’ to this topic three times, which is ironic, considering the nature of said topic.

Learn to say ‘yes.’

I remember seeing one of Jim Carrey’s lesser-known movies, Yes Man. In it, he plays a character whose life has become lackluster, and he attends a conference led by a speaker who challenges him to say ‘yes’ to everything, and it radically transforms his life. As you can imagine with any Jim Carrey movie, the concept gets taken to the extreme, often with comical results. But the thing I like about comedies is that there is a nugget of truth buried in all the laughs. We often live Macbeth’s “lives of quiet desperation,” wanting to live a better life yet not willing to bust out of our comfort zones. “The world’s a playground,” muses a character in the movie. “You know that when you’re a kid, but somewhere along the way everyone forgets it.”

How many of us come home after a long day, a long week at work, completely exhausted and wondering “is this all there is to life?” We long for adventure and excitement, only to turn down opportunities when they present themselves. You beg off going to dinner with a friend, or you tell others that you have to get up early, and you couldn’t possibly stay out that late. Our sense of adventure always takes a back seat to that nagging buzzkill that we know as our sense of responsibility. We pack all of our frustrations into tight, pre-designated fun zones called vacations, and we demand to speak to the manager when the impossible demands we’ve placed on our “fun” fail to come to fruition. (Believe me, I’ve been to Disney World enough times to see it). We are so desperate to show others that we’re enjoying our lives that we post our vacation pictures all over Facebook. In psychology circles, there is now a thing known as “social media depression,” where we become profoundly depressed, knowing that our everyday lives don’t measure up to the life highlights we see posted on our friends’ pages.

It doesn’t even need to be something on such a grand scale. There was a period of time when I was getting extraordinarily burned out with my job. Medicine was no longer enjoyable for me, and it wasn’t until I took a long look at things before I realized what the problem was. I ran a busy practice, and there were always demands being placed on my time. I can’t speak to the motivations of others, but the thing that gives me the most fulfillment out of what I do is the ability to help a fellow human being. And every time I had to say no to a request for an appointment, I was squandering an opportunity to help. I told myself that I was doing so for the sake of self-preservation and not getting burned out, but in the process, I manifested the very reality that I was trying to avoid. The subconscious hears the ‘no,’ and when it sees a consistent violation of your innate desires, it returns a biochemical syntax error, and suddenly things lack meaning.

So what did I do? I started to say ‘yes.’ Patient needs to be seen for cold symptoms? Yes. But your schedule is full, doctor! I understand that, but we can make it work. When I returned to my old clinic at the beginning of last year, I told my patients that I intended to run things like a used car salesman – no reasonable offer refused. As a result, patient satisfaction scores have never been higher, but the shift in philosophy made my career satisfaction soar. Do I still have bad days? Of course I do. But I’m happy to report that those days are fewer than they used to be. Most days, I walk into my office and say to my nurse, “We’re saying yes today. Let’s go do some good.” And my co-workers love that philosophy; it gives their work meaning, but more importantly, they don’t have to tell the patient no. See, I may be the one saying ‘no,’ but I’m never the one that has to give the bad news. I let others do my dirty work for years, but no longer.

I extended that outlook to my personal life as well. Maybe it’s my age, becoming more keenly aware by the day that my days on this rock are numbered, and how I spend them matters more now than ever. When a friend wants to spend time together, I do it. When someone wants to see a movie, I’m game. If someone needs a favor, I drop what I’m doing if it’s possible to assist. That one’s especially important because I know how proud we can be when it comes to asking for help. The last thing I want to do is reinforce that person’s belief that no one is there for them. And I think it goes without saying, but when I make a promise to someone, I keep my word; I still believe how powerful something like that is.

So start saying yes to opportunity. Feeling burned out? Maybe you’re uninspired and need a new challenge. Another line from Yes Man that hit so hard with me was this: “The old Carl didn’t think he was good enough for anybody. I thought if I said yes to things, and got involved with people, then sooner or later they’d find out that I’m not enough.” What a sad statement, but at the root of everything, isn’t that what we believe? We walk around with imposter syndrome, our inner critic droning on in our thoughts and actions. Maybe it requires taking a leap, doing that little extra. Oh, and pro tip here: don’t do it with the expectation that you’ll get recognition. If that is your motivation, you’ll be doomed to disappointment. Do things, do extra, say yes because it’s the right thing to do. As I often say, the high road never has potholes.

I hope this has been helpful. Say ‘yes’ to life. I also hope you’ll say yes to sharing this with others! Follow me on Facebook at Eric Knabel, Author; Instagram at ericknabelwrites; and Twitter at @ericthemed. As always, be excellent to each other, and…

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