The (Not Quite) Myth of Human Inertia


The need to be adaptable in radiology.

Longer-term readers of this column may recall that a big chunk of my fitness regimen is running. Every other day (ideally), I spend about an hour pedally pounding the pavement. Especially during warmer times of year, at the end of the process, I’m the human equivalent of a wet noodle. Circumstances permitting, I immerse myself ASAP.

In addition to cooling down and rinsing away some accumulated layers of perspiration, it’s simply nice to take some weight off my lower extremities. Sometimes, I’ll go so far as to sit in the water, but more often I move to a depth where only my head is above the water’s surface…and just stand there, letting my mind drift.

I’ve nearly dozed off under such circumstances, more than a couple of times. It never quite happens. No matter how still I think I’m being, I gradually start leaning one way or the other. The slightest currents in the water, breezes in the air, or just imperfect symmetry in my posture or muscle tone exert their influence, and eventually I have to consciously reposition if I want to remain standing in place.

This little routine, at some point or another, got me thinking: Simply maintaining one’s status quo is not just a matter of doing as little as possible. If one wants circumstances to remain as they are, it often requires more than a little attention and effort. Not only are external forces regularly (and often unexpectedly) influencing in this way or that, a sentient being is not a constant. Moods, motivation, and physical well-being all undergo fluctuations, and what constituted one’s comfort zone yesterday (or yesteryear) won’t necessarily be the case today.

Assuming/behaving otherwise is therefore courting surprises (often unpleasant ones). If, say, a radiologist has gotten good and comfy with his professional situation, and takes it for granted that he will always be able to show up for work at the same time, read his standard number and mix of cases, and go home at the same hour he has for the past few years, he’s liable to face some wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moments when reimbursements decline. Or when case volumes start perking up at hours after he usually heads for home, and the group starts needing later coverage. Or when referral patterns shift and he’s expected to pitch in with the mammo workload (requiring him to get re-credentialed).

Keeping in mind that we’re dynamic, not static, and with the circumstances around us even more so, it makes sense to pay attention to such trends. Maybe some of them are worth fighting against, but others are going to be losing battles upon which expended energy would be wasted. Some affairs might merit no investment of personal effort, if one is willing to “go with the flow,” and passively drift with the tide. Yet others should be embraced as opportunities, for personal if not professional growth:

• Developing new skills (radiological or otherwise) can make you more valuable to your group-or another, if a change becomes necessary.

• Being open to changes in your schedule might mesh better with your familial, social, or other obligations (or interests).

• Recognizing economic changes in your profession before they hit home with your personal finances can make them a less painful adjustment…and, if they never actually come to pass, you’ll have created a certain amount of “slack” in your budget.

• Noting shifts in the hierarchy, if you’re wanting to climb it, can clue you in to how others have done so…and even show you how some lose positions they had previously attained.

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