My wife is an Optometrist (an eye doctor) and has a practice she started at the height of the economic doom and gloom in October 2008. Since she began, she has dealt with uncertainty in the economy, hiring problems, surprises by competition and the day to day chaos of running a small business.
As her practice grew, she noticed an interesting phenomenon every now and again: Patients crying in her chair. And it wasn’t a result of eye drops.
For example: A few weeks ago a man in his late 60’s sat down in her examination chair (see photo on left) and my wife (the doctor) began her eye exam as she always does, by asking a simple question: How do you use your eyes?
This man in particular responded, “I use them to cry a lot.” With heavy emotion, he continued to tell my wife how he hasn’t seen his grand kids as much as he used to because of family misunderstandings and a disagreement between him and his son’s wife. He sorely missed his grand kids. Despite the chaos of a busy doctor’s office with patients in the waiting room, phone calls every 5 minutes and UPS deliveries outside the exam room, in a calm, sincere and reassuring tone my wife showed him empathy and continued to listen.
After a while of patiently listening, she conducted her eye exam and addressed his medical issues. As he’s about to get up and leave, my wife says with an encouraging and soft voice, “You know, I bet your son doesn’t really know how badly you miss seeing his children. Why don’t you talk to him? Just tell him how you feel. Life’s too short to leave words unsaid.”
A few weeks later the same man stops by to let her know that he took her advice and had a heart to heart talk with his son. Her words of encouragement made such an impact and he wasn’t afraid to move ahead and express his feelings. He wasn’t stuck in thinking of making a decision. He just did it. And now he’s able to see his grand kids again. He was so happy. He thanked my wife profusely and said, “You’re in the wrong profession. You ought to be a psychiatrist!”
About once every couple of weeks, she gets someone who opens up their life to her at times on the verge of tears. Some are holocaust survivors, others have lived difficult but remarkable lives. Once a guy told her that he used to, “Use my eyes for seeing life through the lens of my camera but on 9/11 saw death through it. And since then have stopped taking pictures.”
Remarkable stories…discovered by an innocent question. Answered by someone who listens well. Ending sometimes with a hug.
As I learn to deal with the stress and anxiety of an uncertain and disorderly life, her stories of tears in her chair from patients opening up have made me realize that those moments of meaning she happens to come upon – those clear gems of emotion flowing from another person’s eyes – IS THE REASON she keeps moving forward in her business.
The occasional hug and tear is a MAJOR REASON that inspires her to keep moving on this difficult path of running a small business in an uncertain and unpredictable life full of stress, anxiety and surprises. Running a business is often inviting chaos. But it’s not about trying to make lots of money per se. While it IS important to make money in a small business (we have a mortgage ya know!!!), it isn’t the only reason that keeps her motivated to go in each morning and embrace the chaos. She’s energized and reinvigorated by the rewards of a kind smile and a hug. Or the possibility of one. It’s what keeps here going.
Sometimes what keeps you going in the chaos of life are the little things that you don’t expect. An emotional conversation filled with tears. A thank you. A hug. An unexpected smile. A grateful boss or a thankful employee. The occasional pat on the back for a job well done. Or the pure satisfaction of just taking a step forward you never thought you’d take.
I believe deep down inside, we don’t do things for the money. It just so happens to be something we often chase to live a life we want. But somewhere along the way, we discover another reason to keep going forward amidst the chaos.
It’s a simple idea that we are driven forward by reasons other than the usual suspects. It might be a desire to prove something to ourselves or others. It could be a life long dream or a vision that propels us forward.
What I have realized from my wife’s story is that sometimes we may not discover the reason which moves us forward until we are in it and it happens to us by chance. And it may not be the original goal we intended to achieve. Rather it might be that moment of life where you feel good when something unexpected happens and you’re ready to listen, tissue in hand.
Don’t Over Think It. Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos! | Bob Miglani