For those who have not had the chance to hear JK Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement address on “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination,” see the YouTube video below. She addresses the Harvard graduates with humility, wisdom and gratitude, as well as humor, and teaches all that the power of imagination reaches far beyond creativity, innovation and invention–it allows us to empathize with anyone, no matter where they come from or who they are. What an excellent reminder as we strive for more patient centered care!
Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
When did someone last give you a tool that added more time in your day, or provided greater clarity or calm? What if you were told that to achieve this, all it would take would be a 10 minute investment each day? Would you believe it? If you have 10 minutes right now, you can decide for yourself by listening to Andy Puddicombe, whose TED Talk on mindfulness follows. I share his talk because in healthcare, we are constantly being told to do more with less. Incorporate one more initiative into an already busy day. See more patients in the same allotment of time. Hopping from one task to the next, we are rarely in the moment for very long if at all, and in order for health systems to become highly reliable, mindfulness has been identified as a necessary standard operating procedure.
In this short talk, Puddicombe reminds us of the power in experiencing each moment exactly as it is–something we knew how to do innately as children, but have lost the ability to greater responsibilities over time. He refers to a recent Harvard study published in Science, A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind, by psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert who used an iPhone app to track thoughts, feelings and actions of study participants. Results showed that participants spent almost half their time thinking about things they weren’t doing–missing out on life happening right in front of them, resulting in reports of greater unhappiness.
The good news is that through mindfulness practice we can learn to regain command over consciousness and return to the present–experiencing the moment without judgement. It is this type of awareness — of ourselves and our surroundings — that will improve healthcare, as well as our experience while working within it.
Please share with a colleague —