The other day a woman walked into a doctor’s office and issued a demand that summed up what’s wrong with the world.
“Look, I know I got a million things wrong with me, but I really don’t want a lecture,” she announced. “I just want a pill that will make it all go away.”
The doctor, an old friend of mine, waited for the woman to laugh at her own joke. But she didn’t. Because it wasn’t a joke.
Looking for shortcuts to good health is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch denounced the army of quacks peddling miracle cures to the citizens of Ancient Rome.
Yet today’s on-demand, just-add-water culture demands a magic-bullet solution to every problem. This addiction to the quick fix damages more than just our health. It also takes a toll on everything from our relationships to business, society, and the environment.
Why? Because quick fixes seldom deliver on their seductive promise of maximum return for minimum effort. News flash: there is no such thing as One Tip to a Flat Stomach.
Of course, fixing things quickly is not always wrong. Sometimes you have to channel MacGyver, reach for the duct tape, and cobble together whatever solution works right now. The Heimlich maneuver saves many lives.
But more complex problems call for a “Slow Fix.”
That means taking the time to: admit and learn from mistakes; work out the root causes of the problem; sweat the small stuff; think long and connect the dots to build holistic solutions; seek ideas from everywhere; work with others and share the credit; build up expertise while remaining skeptical of experts; think alone and together; tap emotions; enlist an inspiring leader; consult and even recruit those closest to the problem; turn the search for a fix into a game; have fun; follow hunches; adapt; use trial and error; and embrace uncertainty.
Around the world, you see more and more examples of the Slow Fix in action: Couples rebooting relationships. Families ending feuds. Children resolving playground conflicts. Companies boosting sales and productivity. Designers building better stuff. Scientists making surprising breakthroughs. People are also applying the Slow Fix to global problems such as poverty and the environment.
What does the Slow Fix mean for health? It means taking time to work out the root cause of any ailment; learning what we can from the patient; taking a holistic approach to traditional forms of medicine; marrying medical treatment with wider changes in lifestyle; and treating the mind and body together.
People are already putting these principles into practice to forge lasting solutions to their health problems. By applying my own version of the Slow Fix, I am finally conquering back pain that has bothered me for more than 20 years.
Everywhere you look, we face problems that defy quick fixes.
The time has come to resist the siren call of half-baked solutions and short-term palliatives and start fixing everything properly.
Why not start with a Slow Fix for your health?
Carl Honore is the author of The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter, and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed, now available from HarperOne.