If perception is Reality, who’s reality do you live in?
I find myself reflecting more these days than in past. Perhaps it is the changing world, the isolation of social distancing, the concern of life’s finality with Covid-19, maybe it’s just the process of aging and maturation... Perhaps it is the fact that my wife is 22 weeks pregnant. But my thoughts have migrated toward my expectations; my expectations for the future of my life, the life of my family and my expectations for the changing world around me.
Over the accumulating years, I have created my own system of beliefs and expectations founded upon availability of information (yay for the internet!), intellectual curiosity, and interpretation of human psychological responses, individually and in group thought. I believe there is rational, emotionless prediction and establishment of expectations based upon the interpretation of information/ data; and then there is reality. Reality is a compilation of rational and irrational emotional response to information we receive. Today, that information presents to us as a near-constant bombardment of data, through our phones, text messaging, e-mails, YouTube, Google searches, etc.
Perhaps most of us realize today that not all of the information we receive is valid or true and accurate. It would be interesting to speculate but I would venture to say that 20-35% of all information available to us as “new” is in fact inaccurate or not valid. As an aside, that percentage is near identical to the percentage of questions on a national database examination that are “test” questions. These test questions are presented to test the question itself and do not contribute to an assessment of a candidates knowledge. These test questions are placed to evaluate the questions themselves, for potential use in future examinations. I evaluate the current era of information bombardment in the same light; “Is this a test question?” If I were to immediately and emotionally react to what is presented to us today, a vast majority of time I believe I would be wrong.
There are rational responses to information. Let’s gather up the totality of information available to us at this moment and come out with a response that is justified and rational. The other side of humanity throws caution to the wind and just liberates themselves from the rational. They choose an instantaneous response that “listens to their gut”. I must admit, I am envious of those people at times. They seem so free and impulsive, guttural, dramatic and spontaneous. I emotionally aspire to be more reactive and less programmed and planned. But in my work and my life, I have chosen a different path. One that does not lead to pure speculation but one that seeks the truth through the fog of information; one that allows me to predict with high accuracy how others are going to respond.
What is challenging is when I make a decision, based upon all of the above, and I am wrong. I will ask myself, “How could I be wrong? I can’t be wrong!” I will often lessen my pain of being wrong with modification; “It just isn't the right time for my correct answer.” I want so badly to be correct. But ultimately, when does determination, pride and resolve turn into hubris???? If I were to believe the covid pandemic is nothing but a variation on the flu, with minimal statistical differences from other viruses, I could indeed be wrong. There is absolutely no question that this virus is highly contagious and communicable, far greater than a common flu. My expectations are that we, as a society, will be fine in the end.
We are all faced with many choices throughout the day. In fact, I did a personal survey of my average day and found that over a 2 week period, my average day involved more than 90 individual questions that I was asked to determine rational choices (for my patients- from facelifts to body lifts- and for my personal life). I made choices, I stuck to those choices with resolve. At what point do I continue with resolution to the end or realize an error was made? Am I in jeopardy of hubris in maintaining vigilance to my idealistic views of the world and others? What is the right time to correct a decision? Do I accept a vision of our world that is anything less than the thought of a perfect response to the information I obtain, a world with people playfully enjoying cruise ships, flying without masks, hugging at birthday parties and social events?
A very important philosophy of mine is to jump in with both feet, into the deep end and never test the water! Live and learn, but use information wisely to develop an intellectual analysis and to minimize emotion. Trepidation is a part of any important decision and a wise person evaluates the consequences of their actions prior to engaging them. Manage the emotion, manage the fear of failure. Go for it. My expectations are always that the outcome will be worth the effort.
My son’s school provides no grades or grade point average. The receive either an “M” for meets expectations, an ‘E” for exceeds expectations or and “I” for insufficient information to achieve expectations. I called the school directly, immediately after receiving this new system record and ask “Whose expectations are these that my son is either achieving or not? I want to know whose making these expectations for my son. My expectations are that he is perfect in every way; perfect attendance, perfect in his school work, his manners and behavior and his projects. Perfect. I would give an “M” if he was perfect. An “E” is impossible to achieve and therefore should not exist. An “I” is for inconceivable.
I had a patient this week present from California with a very bad problem. She had a rhinoplasty and received a nasal graft of Gortex (from a well intended surgeon) and it was now infected and had penetrated through the top of her nose. She had puss draining, swelling and disfigurement. I met with her and told her that I would be happy to help her remove the material immediately and prepare for the necessary steps to reconstruct it to its ideal shape with her own cartilage. She had been to 3 other cosmetic or plastic surgeons, all of whom declined to help her, likely due to a lack of familiarity with the problem or a desire to see her through the next year or two of reconstruction necessary to make her whole. Go for it! Do what is right for the patient. No hesitation at all. None. My expectation is that she will do great and we will forge a relationship for life.
Have no fear. Time will prove that this moment will pass. Love the ones you are with. Stick to your philosophy, minimize irrational and emotional responses. Take a deep breath. Our time is but a moment. We are blessed with a complex brain and have evolution on our side! We will not only survive this challenging time, but we will emerge stronger, faster, wiser and better prepared for the next event. My expectations remain steadfast; Life is good. We are all blessed. Soon, this too shall pass. Help others and minimize fear. Do not over react.