As a doctor, I would regularly hear encouraging words of gratitude from my patients and nearly every day have the opportunity to see tangible evidence that I was making a difference. This came to an abrupt end and I am now trying my hand at blogging, writing, and public speaking, Unlike the practice of medicine, these endeavors typically don't provide the prompt positive (or negative!) feedback I had grown accustomed to.
The lack of immediate response often leads me to doubt the significance, the quality, and the quantity of what I am doing. Just this past week, I was going through a time of doubt much like this one. At the very same time, I was drawing a blank as to what my next post on Finding Normal was going to be about. It was then that I received the following Facebook message from a former patient of mine.
Sometimes we can be quite selfish without realizing that we are. For quite awhile I was very frustrated with you for leaving your practice. When I first met you, you didn't know it but I was there to see who this doctor was that that had saved my husband's life. When my husband was seeing our previous physician, I begged him to find another doctor who would listen to him. He found you and within weeks I could see all the bad coming undone. He was losing weight, he wasn't falling asleep as soon as he sat down and he had so much more energy. I will forever be grateful to you for that.
I am learning a lot about all you've gone through and how much you are helping others with what you're doing now. You're still healing people. You're just using words in your new position in life.
Your post about OCD kind of touched a nerve with me. You described things that I do. I constantly have lists and I have an abnormal need for organization. It's mostly been confined to my work life but within the past few years, it is pushing into my home life.
Thank you seems inadequate for what you've done for us but "Thank you!" Please keep writing... you're still healing people!
After reading this, I found the solution to both of the struggles I had mentioned above. These simple yet timely words calmed my doubts by reminding me that although what I am currently doing is nothing like I did in the past or anything I had ever planned on, it still matters and is still making a difference. Also tucked away in these words were reminders of a couple truths that I often fail to remember. Truths that seemed fitting to share in a blog post.
1. Never underestimate the significance of what we do
We all have our own ideas on what our lives should look like or what our role in this world should be. But I believe that many times this ends up looking much different than what we had planned or envisioned. We shouldn't always see this as an indication that we are doing is wrong or that its time to change direction.
It is just time to look more closely at how we can use our gifts or our current "job" for a specific purpose.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what we are doing is pointless or isn't having an impact on anyone or anything. But that simply isn't true.
What we are doing matters and is making a difference to somebody and we must never underestimate its significance.
2. Always remember the power of encouragement
I believe we grossly downplay our capacity to influence other people with the words we speak or how we act.
We have a natural tendency to go through our lives focused on ourselves, and as a result, fail to notice or recognize the hardships of others. We rarely take the time to find out what is going on with other people or how they are feeling.
When someone treats us badly, we immediately get defensive and it never crosses our mind what that person may be enduring. That being said, although I think it is important to speak words of encouragement or perform acts of kindness to ALL people when given the opportunity, we should start paying special attention to those we know are (or appear to be) going through a difficult time.
In our words and deeds, we must always remember the power of encouragement.¹
¹ The old adage reads, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This statement is simply false. It is equally important that we are mindful of the power of "discouragement" when interacting with others.