“Don’t miss the forest for the trees,” is a common saying we all are familiar with. It simply means that it can be far too easy to miss the big picture while obsessing over the details — over the minutiae. We utter this phrase, without cursory thought, as a platitude more often than not. But, I don’t think our problem is sacrificing the big picture for the sake of details. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite. So much of our lives we’re reaching for some obscure, hazy goal that remains elusive, just beyond our grasp in the future. What do we sacrifice while chasing the ‘big picture’? We miss out on all the beautiful details that the present has to offer — relationships, connection to your surroundings — the small things. If anyone is guilty of this, I most certainly am.
A topical piece of contemporary art I recently saw entitled:
“Wrestling With My Own Worst Enemy”
School doesn’t help the issue, because the point of school is accomplishing the far-off, arduous task of graduating and (hopefully) learning a thing or two about being a good doctor. The day-to-day connections and priorities tend to wash out in the blinding light of the big picture. It takes awareness and grounding exercises (meditation, yoga, prayer, whatever it is you do to re-center) to combat this powerful tendency towards interpersonal complacency. Not only do our patients need our emotional presence, our loved ones do, too. Complacency kills, not only literally, but figuratively as well. It can kill a relationship or a patient as readily as it can kill the pedestrian hit by the driver who wasn’t paying attention.
The patient’s well-being and health should always be our primary goal. It’s a goal that demands our presence in the here and now. Our loved ones should always be our primary goal, not some ambiguous far-off goal of personal gain or notoriety. It’s a mistake far too easy to make. Combat it. Don’t miss the beautiful complexity of each and every tree for the vastness of the forest.