I have been fortunate to have been able to treat thousands of patients in my career. Looking back at my experiences of having a front row seat to watch and help so many people overcome their health challenges has been a real blessing. I found three characteristics that are common among patients that have overcome health challenges.
- Positive Attitude (Focusing on Positive)
Probably the first and most misunderstood characteristic: Positive attitude. This idea is commonly misunderstood to be unrealistic. This is not the case. This is the most common characteristic I have seen in patients who have overcome almost any illness. The patients will acknowledge negative issues and results but they never dwell on the negative. There is a large body of research from Carol Dweck, PhD on the importance of a “growth mindset” in the areas of education and learning. Ms. Dweck set out to find why some children were able to learn faster than their peers. What she found was that the children that were considered “gifted” and learned faster had one thing in common, they all had a certain set of beliefs. These beliefs she called the “growth mindset.” These beliefs were most evident when the children came across obstacles. For example, when the student failed to solve a problem correctly those students with the growth mindset would almost immediately attempt to solve the problem again. Often when faced with an incorrect answer they would say statements such as “it’s okay I will love to figure out this problem” and “I love challenges”. The growth mindset students would also be forward thinking and anticipate success with beliefs such as “ I am going to really love it when I get this problem correct” and “I can figure this out, I love challenges” This set of beliefs was the only thing that separated the “gifted” students from the average students. How can you apply the “growth mindset” to your life? How will looking at the world through the growth mindset lens change your thoughts and therefore your actions?
- Taking Responsibility.
When we give away responsibility we give away our power. Nearly all patients that heal and recover completely have always taken their healthcare as their responsibility. While they consult physicians and other healthcare professionals they take responsibility for getting better. When recommended a treatment they read about it and prepared themselves. Often I could tell the success of a treatment prior to the treatment because the patients would often be so focused on getting better. The patients would often come to a new patient appointment with many informed questions and would take notes. If there was an obstacle to their care such as an insurance company they would work on their end to handle it. If there was a problem with scheduling they would figure it out. What was very interesting is that by taking responsibility it would empower the patient and in many cases this would correlate with a faster rate of recovery. How often do we accidentally give our power to someone else? How can we take our power back by taking responsibility?
- Willing to Try
The final characteristic common to patients who were able to win back their health was a willingness to try. All too often, when we face a challenge we can default to blame or a “why me” attitude and give up. Those patients that overcome a health challenge have a willingness to try different treatments and therapies. Not all therapies worked and many did not work right away. It is the ability to persist and keep trying until the correct solution is discovered that makes the difference between failure and success. What I found most about patients who overcame illness was that by taking initiative and being willing to try new treatments this would produce results. When these results were analyzed it would provide information that would often lead to a solution. Without the initial attempt and failure, we would have never had the information to find the solution. The willingness to try was directly linked to the solution the patient was seeking. How willing are you to try new things? How willing are you to think “outside of the box”. I think this quote by Tobias Wolfe says it well — “We are made to persist .. That’s how we find out who we are”