a flying leap…
Let’s face it, none of us enjoy failure. You don’t. I don’t. Our family and friends…they don’t either. It’s just not where we enjoy landing. Failure is, however, part of life. It’s the foundation for many life lessons and often times it’s a means for motivation and perseverance. Still though, it can be a tough.
In Vision Therapy we really work to remove failure as a concept. We work on process over product. We focus on the race rather than the finish line. We celebrate the effort over the outcome. Most of us approach our patient care in this way because Vision Therapy really is a process of learning. It’s learning how to look hard and look soft, it’s learning how to use our eyes together, and it’s learning how to understand what we see in a way that removes as much confusion as possible. Our approach seems to have evolved in this direction because of the risks involved. To be clear, none of us is putting our patients at risk; rather, we are asking them to try something new, which to them can seem risky. Stepping out of our comfort zone can be scary, especially when failure seems like it’s knocking at the door. This is why, in most VT rooms, failure is removed from the equation. As I tell my patients, “your answer IS the right answer”, which truly gives them license to say anything and report what they may really be seeing or thinking. In different terms, they are being asked to take a risk, with the comfort in knowing that they have a safe place to land. Most successful VT programs are built this way.
From the Vision Therapist’s side of the table, this has always been a managed risk. We arrange the conditions so failure really is not an option; at least that’s our hope. There have been times when I’ve struggled to remove failure from the picture, and every time that happens, I’m reminded of one of my favorite Randy Pausch quotes:
“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”
Win or lose, the experience is valuable. Rather than beat ourselves up, please remember that there are lessons in failure. Take three wrong turns on the ride home and spend 45 extra minutes lost in a random neighborhood and tomorrow you’ll try a different route. Study for an exam in a lighthearted way and score a 60%; perhaps next time you’ll adjust your study habits. Ask a patient a question that causes an unintended emotional response and perhaps next time you’ll find ways to be more delicate. We learn from our mistakes, and it’s OK. Ostensibly, it’s how things are suppose to work.
Setting up these conditions for a patient can be challenging, and if a session doesn’t go as planned, try asking yourself three very simple questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What might we do differently next time to improve the outcome?
We are asking our patients to risks, and to be good Vision Therapists, we must take risks too, and sometimes those risks are scary. But if we remember that there is ALWAYS room for improvement and ALWAYS a lesson in each failure, we will grow, mature, and refine ourselves. If we keep that in mind, there’s nothing to look forward to but continued success.