We are all consumers. Not only by nature but by necessity. It’s one of the very few activities in life that is both essential for survival but can also give reason to survive.
It’s not just food, we consume information. We consume entertainment. We consume good wine and great company. We consume in order to provide. In my opinion the best part of being a consumer is not just the receiving, but choosing to participate in the process. We don't just walk in to Starbucks, grab the drink they decided to make for us, pay our bill and walk out. We engage while we’re there, and that choice is what shapes our experience.
When you think about it, life is essentially elective. And what I mean by that is that for the most part, everything we do or don’t do is a choice. Now there are always times when we feel the decision is made for us. Brake pads are down to the last millimeter in your car, you’re probably going to get new ones. A dark ring appears out of nowhere on your ceiling after a long rain, my guess is you’ll call a roofer. Your son calls you b/c he’s having a hard time finding a job and can’t afford rent. Your daughter gets engaged and wants to invite everyone she's ever known to the wedding. Your dentist tells you that there’s a crack in one of your teeth.
But what if even then we embraced our choices? What if we looked at the things we’d most likely categorize as burdens and instead saw them as opportunities to act on what’s important to us? It’s easy when the choice is whether we’re going to get the ribeye or the filet at our favorite restaurant, but what about the cracked tooth? I’d argue that it’s not really any different.
And I’ll even take it a step further. It’s easy to see what things we value when we’re sitting around the dinner table with family and friends. Those “burdens” though? I think they actually allow us to investigate our values a little deeper.
I drive a 10 year old car and I’ve never been one to stay on top of the scheduled maintenance of my vehicles. But I also have a 13 year old daughter. And in 3 years my 13 year old daughter is going to be driving. So a couple years ago I was getting my car serviced and I made the choice that I was going to do everything I needed to do to make sure that the car I had been driving for the previous 8 years was going to be safe and reliable when my daughter takes the keys to it. I may not have tremendous value for the reliability of a car that I drive, but I sure do when it’s hers. There’s power in a moment as mundane as replacing a timing belt when it’s a choice you make b/c you’ve found value in it.
So the cracked tooth. Even as a dentist, my advice isn’t to just fix it. Instead, take a second and think about the value you place on your teeth. Maybe you’ll find that it’s a procedure that’s not that important for you to have done. Or maybe you’ll not only want to fix it, but understand if there are other teeth that are susceptible to cracking and discuss the options that are available to decrease the chance of future occurrences.
But either way, you’ve engaged in the process. You’ve transitioned from a consumer to a participant, and you’ve done it b/c you chose to do it, not because someone told you to. If I can make sure every patient that walks through the doors of my office knows that they have the option to choose exactly what kind of dental care that they receive based on their value instead of mine, then I’ve done my job.
But you have to remember to choose.