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Life Lessons: Part Two

This column represents part two of the “Life Lessons” series I began in the Feb. 1 issue. In the first part of the series, I spoke about the importance of respecting yourself and others, and why one needs to stop and assess where he or she stands in terms of work environment, family and self. Confidence is a core attribute and must be cultivated rather than shied away from, and it is important to tread carefully as you climb the corporate ladder and stand tall rather than lean. Finally, I cited the value of balancing work and life, of understanding that lessons learned and passed on are of far greater value than trinkets and fame. In the end, most people regret not spending more time with their family.

Important lessons

In this month’s column, I want to continue with some additional lessons that I have learned along the way. Part of the reason I wanted to write in the O&P profession was to share my experiences with others. I wanted to do this because I recognize one of the greatest tragedies in our profession is the disappearance of invaluable knowledge that is kept close to the vest by the retirement or passing of prosthetic and orthotic veteran practitioners. I have had the unique opportunity in my career to work with countless numbers of upper extremity patients. With this experience also came the social and professional responsibility to not only share my knowledge and experiences but also broadcast them in such a way as to ensure the internal lessons were not just heard by many, but rather absorbed, retained and put to good use.

This is something that by its nature is not offered in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks. The value of the “big picture” cannot be overstated. This column allows me to gather insights from the far corners of our practice and of our profession, and knit them together into what I hope is a multitextured, multicolored mosaic of ideas, philosophical musings, inspirational stories and clinical education that leaves a positive and lasting impression long after the words fade from view.

In the previous article, I discussed lessons about the more personal side of life – self-respect, confidence and balance. I wanted to save the last lesson because it is, I believe, the crux of our existence here on earth. In short, it is bigger than all of us. I apologize in advance to those readers uncomfortable with the metaphysical, or in simpler terms, things based on speculative reasoning and unexamined assumptions that have not been logically examined or confirmed by observation. If you have the courage to read on, then I hope you enjoy this lively discussion.

Spreading good karma

 
It is important to tread carefully as you climb the corporate ladder and stand tall rather than lean.
© 2008/Darren Hopes/DigitalVision/Getty Images

I have always believed in the power of karma, but whether you believe in karma does not really matter. As most scientists do, you can believe that things have no cause or a random cause. You are convinced that consciousness arose through a limited number of random combinations of matter. Or you can believe that things have a sole cause, a single entity such as God. This does not have to be necessarily a religious or faith-based concept. You feel confident there is an underlying structure to reality that is simply not yet fully understood or explained. Or you can believe that all things are caused by past events or actions you have taken; in short, your behavior is deterministic.

Actions and consciousness

Whether you fall in one particular category makes no difference. What makes a difference is simply the actions you take while here on this earth and the impact of those actions on your consciousness and on those around you.

I believe in karma, but what I have not figured out is whether good or bad things happen as a result of a single entity, an underlying structure or simply just a manifestation of how you talk to yourself about the actions you have taken. I would not be surprised that if I did something I regretted, a future ramification would hinge on how I described the event in my mind.

For example, if I promised myself never to do it again and understood that it was wrong, then I believe thoughts that point me in a positive direction will result in future positive events. Whereas if I attempted to justify the action as defensible but did not really believe that in my heart (therefore recognizing I was in fact lying to myself), I would bring about future negative events as a result of having thoughts pointing me in a negative direction.

I can think positively or negatively and either way I direct my future accordingly. This is why I say your formal stance on which category you fall into does not matter – or at least does not figure in determining your destiny as significantly as your actions and your inherent interpretation of them over time.

You do not have to be a mystic to appreciate that certain actions you take will have an impact on your future. Knowing this, it is your choice on what side of the line you choose to walk. The beauty of this is that you are your own best friend or your own worst enemy.

Power of karma

I have a particular experience I would like to share, with the hope that you will learn, as I have, that things eventually work out for themselves. There is no need to let something eat away at you. Life might not seem fair at the time, but it is only a snapshot.

When I created some of my interface designs for upper extremity prosthetics, just about everyone I taught them to either attempted to learn them verbatim or took these concepts and applied their own style to them. They thanked me for the detailed explanation or the spark of insight, respectively.

As I have stated before, my goal always has been to share my experiences and innovations with the prosthetic profession so both prosthetists and patients can benefit. However, a few people chose to usurp the information for personal gain rather than simply to help their patients. While they may have convinced themselves their actions were justified as a part of doing business, what they do not realize is that it is personal. But rather than affecting someone else, it affects them personally and in a negative way.

Witness to karma

Having been convinced this is how things work, my initial anger has subsided into more of a feeling of being an eventual witness to karma, kismet or destiny. It may not happen today, tomorrow or even in the near future, but it will happen. I feel this with more certainty than eagerness for it usually is not pretty and entertaining to watch such events unfold. I am more disappointed and saddened by their actions, rather than outraged, because of the consequences they will reap.

I recently watched “The Secret,” and have to admit that, prior to watching it, I had low expectations because I heard or read about its supposed message many times. There was one concept that struck me as different, however, and it was presented near the end of the show. In essence, it was that, while the law of attraction involves remaining focused on your goal or outcome, your disposition determines whether you attract or repel your goal. More simply, if you remain in a positive mood then you increase the attraction. If you are angry, even though you are focused on that goal, you are in essence driving it away. This explains why we have been told to look on the bright side of things or think positively.

Being positive

Being positive is always better than the alternative. But without a defined target, there is nothing to draw toward you. It is not just for the sake of feeling good, but in feeling this way and having a specific focus, we are in fact drawing our aspirations closer and at an accelerated pace. This is a much more powerful concept than simply being positive for positive’s sake.

Having had clear and defined goals my entire adult life, this hypothesis has crystallized for me the need to see the silver lining in everything I do or experience. I do not want to reach my goals at the end of my life. Rather I would like to enjoy having attained them for as long as I can. To do that, I must not only remain focused on my goals, but when the chips are down, my chin is up, my eyes are bright and I am smelling roses in everything.

Overall moral

I have wandered off the clinical path for a moment but there is a moral here. I think we have a responsibility to spread good karma to not only ourselves but also to our patients, peers and anyone else we interact with. Positive karma is contagious. If you set the example, your family, friends, employees, coworkers and patients will follow your lead and in turn begin to help themselves.

Much of what our patients accomplish or choose to accomplish is a result of their attitude, determination, confidence and beliefs. Only part of their accomplishments stems from their physical abilities or the direct result of the technology they wear or use. With more positive karma floating around, who knows what we can all accomplish together.

For more information:

Randall Alley, BSc, CP, FAAOP, CFT

Randall Alley, BSc, CP, FAAOP, CFT is chief executive officer of biodesigns inc. He is chair of the CAD/CAM Society of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, an international consultant and lecturer, and a member of the O&P Business News Practitioner Advisory Council. Alley can be e-mailed at ralley@biodesigns.com.

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