Published in American Urological Association News - April 2017

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 4, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.


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Questioning Assumptions


The longer you have been practicing, the harder it is to question your status quo.

It is hard to rock the boat. It is especially hard to rock your own boat.

You have invested so much time into being who you are...a surgeon and much more. You’ve spent time building up your conviction in what you do, how you do it, and, the more core issue, why you do it.

But we are able to stay more current and well when we are willing to question assumptions. When we think we have all of the answers we stop asking questions. Instead we say or think things like:

  • They will never agree to that.

  • I will be mocked if I suggest this.

  • That failed last time I tried.

These are assumptions - a belief that if something happened in the past, it will happen again.  Assumptions are more likely to lead to failure. When you apply a different approach and create persistent action, you are more likely to succeed.

Take a look back into the past. Did your past successes mostly come from persistence and challenging assumptions? I’m betting they did. Ask yourself, “Just because it happened before, why does it have to happen again?”

Let’s make it even simpler.

I propose that we should be regularly asking ourselves three simple questions:

  1. Why am I doing this?

  2. What if I change how I do this?

  3. What if I change what I do?

Please keep in mind that bringing up questions does rock the boat. I don’t love encouraging pain on others, so please be prepared to ask for help from others that care about you.

When in doubt, start challenging the assumptions on how you do things first. After you practice this a little more, you can start challenging what you do.

Lastly, cautiously challenge your why.  From personal experience and with many hours of working with other surgeons, I’ve noticed that energy expended tends to be reversely proportional. That includes physical, mental and emotional energy. If you are not challenging your “core WHY” or your purpose, it is not as stressful.

This is not restricted to challenging your own assumptions. You can ask these same questions of others (your hospital administrator, your partners or colleagues etc.). When you do challenge others, try to be just as respectful. Why? What if? If it isn’t at their core, they will be more willing to explore challenging the assumption as well.

Stay Well.