“The years teach much that the days never know.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Task at hand: This week I’m thinking about negative outcomes. Times when life gives us the proverbial lemons… Surgery and life mirror each other in the interplay between action, reaction, and consequence. Sometimes – despite our best efforts, despite our best strategy, despite our best analysis of the situation – there are negative, untoward, unfavorable outcomes. In surgery, these are complications. In life, more commonly, these are hurdles and stumbling blocks that hinder our relationships and goals.
The question then, becomes, how do you effectively deal with these negative outcomes that invariably come our way?
There are three main attitudes that I use to deal with negative outcomes – whether they be in life or in surgery. First and foremost, do not over-react! What is done now is history, so you have to immediately start planning for the next step. The idea of not over-reacting is absolutely crucial, and almost guarantees your ability for damage limitation. You must stay calm, stay focused, and try to assess what just happened. In surgery, you will sometimes encounter a complication. If you are not careful, your rush “to fix” this first complication that instant, can cause you much bigger difficulties. I can’t stress this enough: the idea of not over-reacting is paramount.
This brings us to attitude number two: Take inventory of the perceived negative outcome. Is this a decision that’s been poorly executed? Have you offended someone? People tend to over-react and speak endlessly in these situations… Don’t do this! Instead, hold space. “Holding space” is a concept that I’ve come to appreciate. The idea is that you take inventory of the situation by actively listening and consciously processing information. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything, but you have to consciously be there. For example, if someone comes up to you and says, “You did this wrong”, it’s very easy to get defensive; it’s easy to start talking, to start moving in a counter direction (usually defensive). Instead, try holding space. Hold that moment there, and you’ll see that the silence, and the pensive aspect has a powerful effect – it can diffuse tension and allow you to empathy in stressful momemnts.
The final one is – and I’ve said this before – plan and execute. This is always your go-to strategy. You have to plan. Then you execute. You have to develop a strategy, followed by its application. What was the negative outcome? Was there an unhappy patient? Was a co-worker offended in the way that you dominated a meeting? Was it a friend who feels abandoned? Whatever it is, you make a plan, and you execute the correction.
These are the three attitudes I have found to successfully mitigate negative outcomes. There’s no way to avoid conflict or complications: these are the crucible of character that you will encounter, undoubtedly, many times. The adage that calm seas don’t make for a skilled mariner – it’s the storm that brings it out – rings true. Remember: don’t over-react! Instead, hold space, and plan your escape.
Medicine & Macula: Interesting article in the open access journal, Medical Practice & Reviews, on Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). It can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors and – worldwide – up to 70 million workers are at risk for CVS (risk factors include prior ocular history and poor ergonomics). The most common symptoms include headache, eye strain, double vision, dry eyes (burning, foreign-boy sensation), and eye fatigue.
While a better understanding of the pathophysiology underlying CVS is necessary, I try to always remind patients that when you are in front of a monitor, you blink approximately one-third less than normal. Consequently, artificial tears and lubricating drops are excellent to maintain a happy ocular surface and the integrity of your cornea-tear film interface.
Check out the study here
Gratis: Our new case, Central retinal artery occlusion in a young HIV-infected patient on Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), has been published online ahead of print by Retinal Cases & Brief Reports. Thank you for all the positive feedback! Check out the paper here
My best to you,