“Yes, but…..”  was a phrase I often came across when I was doing my General Practice training.

It occurred in the context of counselling the large number of our patients who have intractable health and social problems caused by poor medical and / or lifestyle habits. We all have patients with poor eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, gambling, alcohol excess or drug addiction.

Invariably, as an inexperienced trainee doctor, when I tried to counsel  these patients and advise them, things would proceed as follows:

  1. I would give them a long soliloquy on how they could improve their problem, giving them specific pieces of advice and a plan. During this one way communication the patient would sit arms crossed watching me somewhat disdainfully.
  2. When I finished, they would respond with a  “Yes…. but…..”. In fact what they would say was “Yes, doctor, that is a great plan….But, Dr it won’t work because of this …………….”.
  3. Then they would continue to look at me in silence, with arms still crossed, with the implied message : “You tried once, but that was not good enough. Try again doctor and see if you can come up with a better idea. You are the doctor and you have to do this, its your job, not mine. I am just going to sit here waiting, and not attempt to do anything for myself. You really need to do better than that.”

The reason I mention the “Yes , But” patient is because a number of doctors reading this blog will want a change in their lives, but will respond to the ideas here with the thought : ” Right yeah. Its is a great plan, but it won’t work for me because of…x,y, z.”

Don’t do that. Become a:

  • “Yes, Maybe…..” person,
  • or “ Yes, here’s my alternative……..” type of person.
  • Or a “ Yes, I know I should try something, but I am content where I am” person,
  • or even a “Yes,  I know I should try something, but I’m too scared to do anything”  person.

Please, anything but a “Yes , but……” person.

You may decide that you’re generally happy with your professional life. If so, you are fortunate.  You may decide these ideas have some value, and you will start work implementing them in part or in full.  Or you may feel that you need something to be done, but this is not the best route/ idea for you. In which case you need to find your own idea (of which there are many out there), which you can devise and implement yourself.

But what I don’t want to hear is a simple :”Yes, but…..”

Because, like my patients above, that is a passive, aggressive non-answer to your problem. It’s  passive because it implies that somebody else has to come up with a better idea to solve your problem, and it’s an aggressive non answer because it takes you nowhere further.

What I learned from my General Practice trainer, when faced with the “Yes,…. but….”  patient was this:

As SOON as I heard the “Yes…but…”, I would need to say:

“OK, since after all  we are working with YOUR problem, it is now YOUR  turn to come up with a solution. Please come up right now with all the possible solutions you can think of to YOUR problems. Especially as my effort was not good enough”.

And then it was my turn to sit back with my arms crossed, if necessary also somewhat disdainfully !

And that is exactly what you should do to yourself if you find yourself thinking “Yes, But…”

  • Firstly, do you have a problem? Are you wholly satisfied with the amount of money you earn, the amount of work you have to do, with the degree of control over your life and the stress in your occupation? If not – there clearly is a problem.
  • Secondly who owns the problem? The answer is clear – you do.
  • Thirdly, who will benefit most from this problem being solved – once again – you will.

So, given the fact that there is a problem, you have defined the problem, you know who owns the problem and who will will benefit from the solution, who do you think needs to take responsibility for solving it?

Yes – correct, you. Now you need to come up with the different options are available to you, work out which option suits you, pick that best option, and go and work on it.

I agree the solution being presented to you here on this website may not be the one that suits you or the system you work in. But it is only one  solution, and there are many other solutions. So before you go into a “Yes, but….”  frame of mind, remember-  if this solution is not right for you – there are other solutions out there.

It is your duty and responsibility, to yourself and your family, to find them, consider them, choose one and implement it.

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