I'm reading Malcom Gladwell's book, Outliers (worth reading). It's about why some people succeed, go on to live very productive and sometimes extraordinary lives, while others miss the opportunity. About half way into the book, he points out three things that, from his perspective, go into making work meaningful. If something is meaningful, you tend to work at it harder; longer. So, your chances of success are better. As I read it, I noticed the parallels to recovering from an injury or surgery.
Gladwell thinks that you need a certain amount of autonomy in your job; that you need some freedom to direct your self, make decisions, and be out from under too much scrutiny. When a physician, untrained and completely inexperienced in my profession, told me to do something very specific for a very specific amount of time regarding a client, such as "hot packs, ultrasound, and massage only, once per week for three weeks," I wanted to scream. Well, what I did was refuse to do what he (or she) said and that of course is a really good way to ruin a professional relationship. I didn't care. For my work to be meaningful, let me do my thing. I want autonomy, thank you very much. Gladwell is right.
This issue of autonomy is true in rehab when it comes to your involvement. If you're passive in the process or don't have any say in the decisions, not only is the rehab less effective but you may end up doing things that just don't make sense, or that hurt, or are boring. And you won't learn anything. You might spend 3 to 5 hours a week in therapy. If you just do what you're told and you're not making some of the decisions, at some point, your recovery will be short lived once you leave rehab. Of course, there's a period of time where you're not in control but even then you should still have some input into the process.
Complexity is next on the list. Gladwell makes his point by suggesting that if you were offered $100,000 to sit in a toll booth and make change all day versus $75,000 as a lawyer, that most people would choose to be a lawyer. I think what he means is that the work needs to have a certain amount of challenge. You can only do quad sets and straight leg raises for just so long before parts of your brain turn to mush. You need to be challenged; pushed. I refer to this as "edging". Push until you find the edge and then push a little more. Your body will not change on it's own. Sorry but every body is inherently lazy; always seeking the path of least resistance; spending the least amount of energy possible. Edge, edge, edge.
But, if you take responsibility, have some autonomy, work hard, are challenged but the reward is insufficient, you're more apt to be burn out than lit up. There needs to be a link between your effort and what you get in return. It doesn't have to be a huge sum of money necessarily. Sometimes it could be recognition. A promotion. Or even just a thank you. It just needs to make you feel that the work you're doing is worth it. In rehab, sometimes it feels like you just bust your butt and get nowhere. You need something that can show you that all the work you're doing is worth it. In rehab, one way we create that link is by using metrics. Data. Knowing where you started, where you need to go, and where you are at regular intervals creates the link between effort and reward. Other ways are simpler. Like telling you how awesome you really are (and I mean that. People amaze me with their dedication and patience.).
To increase your chances of success in recovering from an injury or surgery, remember, you need these three things:
- A link between effort and reward
Get these in place and rehab will be a lot better.
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