I recently read that Hurricane Ian was responsible for a little over 100 deaths. This was the second deadliest storm this century. While even one death is sad and tragic, I got to thinking about the millions of lives that were saved by responding to the news of the impending storm and taking appropriate action to ensure their safety. Modern weather radar allowed forecasters to see the storm building, anticipate its course, and alert the public. Most people were able to either evacuate or take appropriate action to ensure their safety.
Anticipating a crisis allows us to take action ahead of time, which helps to minimize the harm or damage that problem brings with it, or helps us avoid those problems all together. Being proactive in life leads to much better outcomes than merely reacting to whatever is happening around us. It makes great sense to look ahead, think about what we want our lives to look like, anticipate potential problems and issues that might come up, and take action before those problems actually occur. To quote the great Wayne Gretzky… “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
People often don’t take the necessary steps, or do the work needed, because they don’t want to expend the time, effort, and/or money, only to end up having to spend more time, effort, and/or money later because of their failure to act. I don’t think it’s laziness (although it is in a lot of cases), but rather human nature to put off until tomorrow what we know we should do today. We wait until the pain is so great, and interfering with so much, then we react.
The very first habit in Steven Covey’s best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is be proactive. Taking action ahead of time is a much better strategy than merely reacting. And this applies to every single area of life… work, relationships, finances, health, etc.
Most new patients I see in my office show up in pain. And after doing an exam and taking an x-ray, I find that almost all cases started long before they knew they had a problem. Symptoms are what alerts us to our health problems. The truth is that symptoms are usually the last thing to come on in most disease processes. One of the first, most common, symptoms of heart disease is death due to a major heat attack. So, waiting for symptoms is a lousy strategy when it comes to managing your health.
Think about dentistry. There was a time when dentists only saw people in bad pain. They would often pull the troubled tooth because that was the only option. Over time, they realized that tooth decay was often present long before the patient knew anything was wrong. And they knew that if they could detect those cavities early and fill them, they could prevent the decay of that tooth, and thus prevent the pain and misery that comes with decay of that tooth. Hence, preventative dentistry was born. And today, we take our children to the dentist, without pain. We can prevent tooth decay, which was at one time considered normal, but was only common because no one knew to be proactive.
Why don’t we anticipate problems? Why don’t we work hard now? Why don’t we take the necessary steps to prevent bigger problems down the road. Primarily because we don’t think about how devastating it can be. We think we are getting away with something. We think we are saving time, saving money, and saving energy. We MUST put the effort in now to prevent bigger issues later on. One of my favorite quotes is from the great Jim Rohn… “We must all suffer from one of two pains: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” And of course, there’s the oldie, but goodie… “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I can tell you from my 25 years of experience caring for thousands of patients that prevention is a much, much, much better strategy than reacting to a health problem after the fact. And making the effort to prevent problems in any area of life is worth it. Waiting for the crisis requires so much more work, and in many cases, the damage done is not repairable. Anticipate problems before they occur. Be proactive, not reactive. Prevention is the best strategy for a longer, healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.