Greg Hood, MD, Internal Medicine, 01:37PM Oct 12, 2013
Benjamin Franklin once said, "When you are finished changing, you're finished." This quote is often applied to business learning and business application. However, if one combines It with this quote from Mark Twain, written a bit over 100 years later, then perhaps one gains a new perspective, "grown-up children are not the persons they formerly were; that their former selves have wandered away, never to return again, save in dream-glimpses of their young forms that tarry a moment & gladden the eye, then vanish & break the heart."
How often, growing up were you asked what you wanted to be once you had grown up? How often did you say "a doctor"? How often did you mean it? How often do you still think about what you wanted to do or want to do next? Are you satisfied to be, perhaps, at the end of your changes in life direction?
There are those who have always known what their life paths would be. Those individuals have the uncanny knack to pursue that life path with laser like intensity and focus. In this fashion, they are truly blessed. Yet, others who do not possess such prescience are not necessarily disadvantaged. Those who enjoy the pliability of childhood as adults often strive to retain such flexibility as a benefit, not a curse.
I never understood the impulse of J.M. Barrie's characters to remain children forever. I do understand the overall premise and the wonderful performances of Peter Pan. Nevertheless, to me, those Lost Boys were committing the same "sin" for which they blamed adults. The Lost Boys were being as inflexible about not growing up as the adults were being in insisting that the children grow up. Both were unbending sides of the same coin.
By virtue of electronic diversions directing/controlling thought processes, today's children may be missing out on the imaginative, creative experiences of childhood common to previous generations In developed nations, in particular, we may be experiencing a phenomenon unique in human history in which almost everyone, simultaneously, is missing out on the key perk of being a kid, being able to engage in free-form thinking and creativity.
Pressures to give up the flexibility of childhood are sublime and insidious. A simple example is visibly demonstrated in clothing. While putting some fashion styles behind us is undoubtedly a good thing the conformity, at times bland conformity, implicitly mandated in the workplace is a low level, but incessant pressure to leave fun and individuality behind. It's arguably tougher for men than women, but isn't it amazing at times how much difference it can make is one's day to express some personality in wardrobe?
One very important perk of childhood is the ability to make a mistake. If one makes a mistake as a child typically one is deemed to be "learning". As an adult the consequences of making a mistake can be painful enough, societally if not physically, and sometimes financially as to become a deterrent to continuing to make the effort. The magnitude of a decision to stop trying or to stop learning is implicit in Mr. Franklin's quote above.
Laughter is the lubrication of youthful spirits. How long do some adults go between laughing? Some seem to border on epochs. As adults we are concerned that to laugh will be perceived as being impertinent, unprofessional, or even salacious. Absent laughter, however, both the body and the spirit may ossify.
Handmaiden to laughter is the act of dreaming. Dreaming is fun. Dreaming is mind expanding and spirit calming. Dreaming as a child can be highlighted as a sign of vision and future promise but as an adult it "isn't something I have time for", say many. If one does not aspire throughout one's life to having one's head in the clouds how is one to ever reach for the stars?
If one stops dreaming then one can stagnate in his/her career, even if this career hasn't turned out to be what you expected. Physicians, more so than many others, view the practice of medicine as the destination rather than a part of the journey. Clearly, the profession has the ability more so than most careers of being both journey and destination. However, this isn't likely the case for all physicians. In particular potentially a substantial percentage of physicians who experience burnout do so in no small measure because of a mismatch in this regard.
Physicians are good at conforming. Rules, evidence based rules, unwritten rules, liability concerns and others all pressure physicians to conform. Kids are both flexible in striking out in a new direction, and yet also in conforming such that all of the classmates of the unique soul who has struck out on his/her own generally may be counted on to be right behind him or her, wearing or doing the same thing. Obviously there needs to be a balance between the two. One who conforms too much becomes inflexible, even if they are not initially aware that they have become so.
Physical and mental flexibility are requisites for living a full life. I encourage that each of you do something to be young, to feel young, and to live life. Have a glad eye. Be alive with a youthful heart.