Sometime in my past a quote was shared with me, ‘The greatest evil of good is better.’  I’m not sure why it stuck in my brain for over 15 years, but it did, which is odd because I truly enjoy and receive great pleasure out of improving things – all kinds of things whether it is improving a work flow, determining a better approach to working with someone, analyzing a better way to load the dishwasher or just generally improving myself in some manner.

Perhaps the quote stuck because the context of the quote was a situation involving an individual’s ego negatively impacting a situation. The quest for being better did not seem to be particularly driven by quality as much as a personal ego to chalk up personal wins through an organization.  It is possible in our drive for being the best we leave some bodies in the road. It’s possible. Sometimes change does need to be exponential or transformational in nature to achieve a goal. But sometimes, improvements can be incremental and over time, these small rapid improvements create significant change in our daily, routine interactions with our patients, families and colleagues. They can transform the patient/provider moment into a collaborative, trusting relationship.

Last week, a friend of mine gave me a lovely lavender plant as a hostess gift. I was truly touched by her thoughtfulness. I love lavender and the moments of brief pleasure I receive rubbing my fingers along the leaves, capturing some of the fragrance and remembering my mother who enjoyed the herb as a personal favorite too. But my friend took an ordinary lavender plant and made it special or an “extra” ordinary plant. Not too much, just popping in one simple metallic wire with a few rainbow stars to make the plant more festive. Maybe she took a few minutes to locate something at home to “pretty up” the gift. Not overwhelming, not a “wow”, an “OMG” or an “a-m-a-z-i-n-g” just a little something to say “I took a few extra moments for you.”

Our service cultures are built upon creating the “WOW!”, the “A-MA- ZING” and the “FIVE STAR” service. Perhaps we can get bogged down a bit with thinking we have to hyper-extend or overextend ourselves to create that “wow” experience when perhaps we can create exponential patient memories by each of us taking the ordinary moment and making them “extra” ordinary. Perhaps being “extra” ordinary is as simple as gently “prettying up” an ordinary interaction or encounter.

We may experience potentially ordinary moments many times during the day; delivering meal trays, filling water pitchers, straightening a room, taking vital signs, just “checking” on a patient, passing a colleague in the hallway, being on the elevator with a family member, answering the phone, making a bed, helping a co-worker, or simply answering a question – all opportunities of ordinary moments to make a small change, a small improvement, a small connection through compassionate interactions to be “extra” ordinary.

As the service bar continues to rise, and it will, and we may find ourselves losing personal energy in hyper-extending our level of service.  Compassion is relieving suffering by attending to the essential ordinary, a small act of kindness, listening authentically and adding a brief moment of connection showing you truly care.

Who are your individuals on a daily basis who, in their gentleness and thoughtfulness, move the ordinary to the “extra” ordinary from accruals of little touches of care?

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