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December 14, 2017

Time Away for the Holidays

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It’s a season of holidays when our communities set aside time for family reunions, travel, giving and worship. Since the beginning of time, holidays are time away from the daily routine to honor the tenets of a given society. I am always inspired by the nuggets of wisdom and perspective I gather in relaxed conversation with people I know well or just met.

During the bustle of the holiday season, I revisit two lessons I learned as a member of the Center for Creative Leadership that still resonate with me today: Slow down to speed up, and go broad before you go narrow.

Slowing down to speed up may seem counterintuitive. One’s first reaction may be, “I don’t have time to slow down!” However, I challenge busy people to rethink their pace. Our work and personal lives are not just an unending series of making and executing decisions, a daisy chain that can inadvertently lead us far afield from our agreed-upon mission. Our choices should demonstrate our continued investment in why-we-do-what-we-do. (I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, to explore this idea further.) Slow down to revisit your larger mission (your “why”) and make sure you remain on target.

There was a time in my residency when we still viewed X-ray films on a light box. My peers and I huddled up close to the image in an effort to diagnose the patient’s problem until our physician mentor entered the room and told all of us to take three steps back. Then we saw it, clear as day, what afflicted our patient. When we go broad before going narrow, we resist the tendency to get pulled into overlapping choices and sub-level discussions before the most important decisions are recognized, made, and affirmed. Put another way, are you aware of your entire forest, or are you fixated on just a few trees?

Holidays afford us a change of pace. When we talk to people or visit places outside our usual circles of work and home, we have the opportunity to clarify our values for ourselves and to others. We uncover knowledge and understanding — sometimes in the most unsuspecting places — that can open up new pathways to problem-solving. The very existence of holidays is rooted in a set of widely shared values that give purpose and meaning to our lives. Make the most of yours — slow down and go broad.

Dr. Imran Andrabi is president and CEO of ThedaCare. To contact him, you can email