John D. Kelly IV, MD, is a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He focuses his blog on helping surgeons reduce stress while achieving balance in their practices and families.

Consider what kind of fall harvest you want

Resilient orthopedic surgeons bounce back from difficulty. They overcome adversity and emerge stronger. According to noted psychologist and physician stress expert, Wayne Sotile, PhD, resiliency is based not so much upon number of hours worked, but more so on how one manages one’s emotions and relationships. Essential to this self mastery is maintaining a “caring connection” in our lives. Our actions hold the key.

Sotile continually reminds other physicians in his lectures and writings that mastery of emotions and relationships is largely determined by how many “uplifts” one receives in the course of a day. A kind word, a generous act, a gesture of love or forgiving sentiment from another will enable one to negotiate the stressors of life and will yield huge dividends in productivity and happiness.

Sotile elaborates that the presence or absence of hassles in one’s life means nothing. The quantum of uplifts will determine happiness and resiliency. To be sure, resilient surgeons embrace several hassles daily. What distinguishes the resilient ones from the “burned out” ones is the presence of uplifts.

Accrue uplifts

We accrue uplifts by sowing the seeds of a “positive harvest.” I have written extensively on the power of a loving and kind disposition and the rewards of being a love finder rather than fault finder. Our disposition will determine the quality of our lives. What we spread around at work and at home will come back to bless or stress us.

Every action we engage in has consequences. The butterfly effect is real. The ripples of our actions are far reaching. When we bless those at work, we will, in time, receive positive energy in return. When we walk into the operating room, a loving or respectful gesture to the staff will literally transform the culture of the room.

Consider the words of Blessed Mother Teresa: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” When we criticize people at work and home, we will reap what we sow – negative energy. Emotions are contagious. Sarcasm, berating, undignified actions and words will converge to hurt us eventually.

Be positive

What if we don’t feel like being positive? It all comes down to an act of the will. If we intend to be kind, we will ultimately be kind. If our pain is holding us back, if we will to be kind, then we can be kind anyway. In time, negativity will dissolve and our pain will undergo healing.

The great Vince Lombardi once said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” Our brains are plastic and positive actions make each subsequent positive act easier. We can literally re-wire our brains to become more loving and kind.

If we take inventory of what we are spreading around work and home and make the conscious act of the will to be more positive, then we are on our way to resiliency. We will handle the lawsuits, insurance hassles, health care reforms and the complications. The uplifts we harvest will sustain us.

I would like to end with two of my favorite quotes.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.” – Albert Schweitzer

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart

Consider what kind of fall harvest you want. What seeds are you sowing now at home and at work?