Our recent episode on navigating conversations with unvaccinated COVID patients is one of my recent favorites. One reason this really resonated is that it brings up several gravity problems1: COVID is here, it’s sticking around for a while, lots of people are unvaccinated, most sick COVID patients are unvaccinated.
These issues are like gravity. You’re not going to solve gravity in the immediate moment. It’s a situation, not a problem. A problem can be solved. A situation cannot. A gravity problem is not a real problem because it’s not actionable. Not that it doesn’t suck, it just can’t be solved. It just is.
Some COVID related issues may be solvable over time and on a grand scale, but right there in the exam room, you’re not going to solve them. We can fight against reality, but will never win. Reality always comes out ahead. It’s a waste of energy to get stuck in something where you have no control and no chance of conquering. And stuck is exactly what we get.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when frustrated – Is this a gravity problem? If so, then it’s not solvable (at least immediately). Refocus on what is solvable.
Next, “Is this something in my sphere of control?” This is akin to the Stoic dichotomy of control. If the answer is ‘no’, move on and focus on what IS in your control.
When you are left with a gravity problem outside your sphere of control, try this mantra: I wish it weren’t this way, but it is this way, so let’s move on.
It’s OK to be irritated, pissed off, flustered, or whatever negative emotion you want to insert when staring a gravity problem in the face. You can’t control a visceral reaction. It just bubbles up.
The question is, what’s your next step? What is your response? This is where the choice comes in. This where you have control. Marcus Aurelius put it so well 2000 years ago:
You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength
- The phrase ‘gravity problem’ is taken from Burnett, William, and David John Evans. Designing your life: How to build a well-lived, joyful life. Knopf, 2016.
- Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations.