1. We are not all playing the same game
Some of us are moving through life to accumulate- wealth, renown, relationships, experience; these folks tend to reduce everything to that common denominator. Some of us move through life to push our boundaries; these folks like to be uncomfortable and tend to shake up the “norm” for those around them. Some of us move through life seemingly at the whims of circumstance or the decisions of others, falling “prey” to the whimsy of fate. Often these folks bemoan their lot, never fulling owning their own power.Some of us long for connection and spend all our days reaching out to fill a void inside ourselves that we feel lovers, friends, children or pets could fill. These are just a few examples.
Our motivations in this life have an undeniable way of shaping our experience of our time here, and our relationships with others on this journey.
2. You can’t force others to share your values or priorities.
As you would expect, therefore, you can not change the driving force of others you encounter. If connection is your raison d’etre, you will struggle with the boundary pushers, or the accumulators. You may find your relationships with them a challenge. You may feel like you are speaking different languages and that common ground is hard to come by. What we must realize is that these people do have values and priorities that resonate with them and to truly connect, it is the job of the evolved among us to recognize and speak to those values. Each of us has our own thought habits to overcome to allow us healthy and prosperous relationships based on mutual appreciation and non-judgment.
We may feel misunderstood, or frustrated when we try to appeal to others based on our motivators. That frustration is a foolproof indicator that we are not communicating in the ways the other person needs. This is not to say you should manipulate others feelings to get them to view things your way, but rather true communication can only occur when you are willing to occupy the other person’s thought space.
3. Sometimes the cost of doing the right thing makes the right thing impossible
In veterinary medicine, as in many areas of life, cost can be monetary, or emotional. To provide the highest quality of medical care, one must assume a sometimes not insignificant expense. And sometimes that expense is more than our financial reality can bear. We are forced to choose between paying for utilities or following the treatment recommendations for our dear furry friend. Other times, you may be asked to end the suffering of a friend although you are devastatingly, and gut-wrenchingly unprepared to do so.
Whether financial or emotional, we may find ourselves paralyzed by the “cost”.
4. There is often more than one right thing to do
This requires the kind of thoughtful appreciation of another’s values and priorities we have already discussed. We may offer an option that we feel is medically, financially or emotionally sound only to have the other person respond with “I can’t”. It is our job as empathetic people to dig a little deeper. We need to understand the motivating factors that drive the way others think and make decisions. We need to find out what is really important to them- carefully, and compassionately- through dialogue as equals.
In veterinary medicine we must consider: Do they want to ensure a pain-free end of life? Do they need to be strict with their money and make decisions based on other outside pressures? Are they uncomfortable with invasive or extensive medical procedures and treatments? Is there another family member whose desires they are trying to anticipate?
Remember- we are not all playing the same game… We have to allow that in any given situation, there may be more than one way to proceed.
5. You can’t care more for others than you care for yourself
One of my favourite analogies is that you can not pour from an empty vessel. You can not give to others when there is nothing left inside you. Veterinary medicine, like other caring professions, can take a huge toll on it’s professionals. They are placed in constant flux between the joys of new pet ownership, and the heartbreak of goodbyes bid to elderly companions. Many times we have been on the emotional roller-coaster of life, illness, treatment and passing right alongside the pet owners we serve. This job is very personal and can leave us exhausted, angry, jaded and even seriously depressed.
You must take the time to nurture your spirit. You must feed your body with healthy foods and replenish it with quality rest and vacation. You must seek help and support to navigate the ups and downs and you must always put yourself at the top of your priorities- regardless of the outside pressures to sacrifice yourself on the alter of Caring.
Above all we must remember that people- all people- have a deep desire to feel loved, appreciated and valued for their differences. By extending yourself just a little, you may change someone’s experience in ways you could never predict. Be willing to embrace that responsibility. The life you change may just be your own.