“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” -Douglas Adams
This past week was a little difficult for me. I spent several days watching patients deal with the consequences of years of indifference toward their health. I hated watching them face the pain of neglecting to take the necessary measures to avoid completely preventable complications. It broke my heart that these patients were in so much pain, but all I could think was, “How could you let yourself get this far?!” I was almost angry that they could value their body and health so little. I don’t know how to feel about this reaction I had, but I’ve given it a lot of thought. We all face the daily consequences of our actions, whether this is in regard to our health, relationships, careers, etc. Unfortunately, some consequences are more painful and visibly noticeable than others. Who am I to feel frustration with these individuals when I make poor choices for which I have to face the consequences of each day? All I can do is learn from their circumstances and strive to make healthy choices in regard to my physical body. After all, that’s the beauty of mistakes- the opportunity to learn and better one’s condition.
With this said, what can we take from this? How is it possible for us to learn from and makes changes that stem from an awareness of another’s consequences? I think it is important to let this serve as a motivator for change. After seeing the excruciating pain one man endured because of a lifetime of poor diabetes control, I can guarantee you I am motivated to take the necessary precautions to avoid developing diabetes and encouraging those who have this condition to care for themselves. The sight of that poor man’s wound will forever be in my memory. I think it is important to intentionally take notice of the results of our own decisions and the decisions of others and use this knowledge to promote change in our own lives. Be aware of how one decision affects your own life and the lives of those around you and allow this to influence your actions.
Often times it is hard to be influenced by consequences that will result years, maybe decades down the road. We may say, “Oh it doesn’t matter if I _______, because I won’t have to deal with ________ immediately… I can deal with it later.” I’m so guilty of this! Take school work/projects, for example. I sometimes think, I’ll go out and have fun today and finish up the work tomorrow. But then tomorrow rolls around, and something else comes up. So I push back what needs to be done yet one more day. As I keep pushing back what needs to be done because it doesn’t conveniently fit into my schedule, I minimize the effort I will be capable of putting into this important project. We tend to prioritize our comfort and convenience over our health all in effort to make life easier for ourselves in the here in now. But, I’ve come to believe, a true sign of maturity is being able to see past your present comfort and possess self control in order to allow for a better future for yourself and your loved ones. I believe this relates to physical health and to the “mental” and “spiritual” health I’ve referred to in my past few blog postings.
My last thought in regard to this topic has to do with putting aside our foolish pride. Pride can be a huge hindrance to learning from ours and others’ mistakes. Think about it… by making a change we are admitting there is something about us that isn’t worthy of keeping the same. I hate to break it to you, but no one is perfect. Yes, that’s right, not even you. I have such a hard time with this. I try so hard to be perfect, but we just aren’t! We are human and we will make mistakes and poor choices. We have an entire lifetime ahead of us to make changes to become healthier individuals (in all aspects of health). You are never too old or too young to put aside your pride, look to the future, and use the consequences of past faults to better the coming years.
Developing the ability to learn from mistakes isn’t something that comes easily to us, for the reasons previously described. Unfortunately, this is the most effective means by which we are influenced. I’ve seen in my own life that many lessons my parents tried to teach me through verbal instruction, I haven’t been able to fully learn until experiencing the consequences for myself. We are each given one life and one opportunity to make the most of it… don’t neglect your physical, mental, and spiritual health for immediate satisfaction, or you may be the one providing the lesson for others.