In Diabetes by Design – Part 1, I wondered aloud about what would happen if we thought about diabetes (and by extension other chronic conditions) as “everyday things” in the context of design after reading Donald A. Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things.
Specifically, I wondered – What do we make of the fact or reality of diabetes in our life? What if we think of and adopt lifestyles that allow us to own the disease, rather than being owned by the disease? What would that look like? How would it work? So, let’s consider some possible answers. By the way, I don’t mean to suggest here that I have it all figured out – I don’t. I invite you to wade in and comment with your thoughts.
What do we make of diabetes – building a lifestyle framework?
Diabetes, like any aspect of our lives, requires that we make choices. Choices about what to eat, how much to eat, whether to take medication (or even fill the prescription), test our blood sugar, follow up regularly with various specialists and so on. The framework for how we make those choices is very important, which means we ought to think about that framework (I use the term framework to mean the overall physical, emotional and practical environment in which we live our lives).
In his book To Follow Him, Dr. Mark Bailey observed that “You can choose your actions, or you can choose your consequences. But you can’t choose both.” This means that once we have made the choice of which one we want to control – or at least influence in an intentional way – the consequence or the action, the succeeding choices that we have to make become very clear. This bit of wisdom is generally useful in life. I think it is particularly meaningful when it comes to living with a chronic disease because the stakes are magnified with every choice we make.
For instance, after being diagnosed with diabetes, I decided that one of the important long-term consequences I wanted was to be healthy. That fundamental choice became the foundation of my personal framework for dealing with the disease and made it very easy to make subsequent choices. So, if I want to be healthy, I know clearly that I should choose to exercise daily as opposed to not, choose the chicken more often than not versus the burger, choose to test my blood sugar regularly, and so on. If I fail to make choices that are consistent with the consequences I have chosen, then it becomes unlikely that the consequences I desire will be realized.
To own or be owned?
Another choice that I made was to own the disease, not be owned by it. This meant that I had to embrace diabetes and accept it as part of my life, rather than become bitter or avoid the realities that come with it. In other words, I decided I would not dwell on “Why me?” type questions (they don’t have an answer anyway).
For me, adopting this ownership point of view is an important part of the framework. Everyone will have their own particular way of responding to this question, but for me being in the ownership role means that I can think clearly about how I want the disease to work for me. That may sound odd, but it goes back to the earlier reference to an opportunity being on the other side of any problem. In my case, I have used the disease (the problem) as a catalyst to adopt and maintain positive lifestyle habits that are in my long-term best interest. Who could argue that eating right and exercising regularly are not good for you? All my life I have known these things to be true. But, I was never able to follow through since I did not perceive the need as real. Diabetes made it real and I use the disease to help me do things that I should have done already.
There are as many versions of this as there are people, but the point of this discussion is to encourage an intentional approach to how we think about life with diabetes. I can only speak to my experience and I encourage you to share your thoughts.
In Diabetes by Design – Part 3, I will take on the questions, “What does it look like?” and “How would it work?” when it comes to designing a life with diabetes.
Woody Runner is Founder and CEO of Three Questions, LLC which operates Project Diabetes as part of My Health Projects. Three Questions also operates Healthcare Fellowship Networks. Woody.Runner@ThreeQuestions.net