The power of words
I collect quotes. I have for years. I started when I was a teenager, filling small books with words of wisdom, pearls of insight, or even lines from movies that moved me to think about the world a little bit differently. Later, when I discovered computers in college, I transferred the growing pages of chosen words to a file on my desktop that has moved from computer to computer for well over a decade.
From an early age, I was always intrigued by the power of words to move people to think or to act. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) sums it up: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
There are those quotes that have followed me throughout my career, the ones we all know and often see in presentations or use in our work. These words remind us of the power and responsibility of our chosen profession: to create healthcare environments that positively contribute to the quality of healthcare. Take, for example, this quote from Winston Churchill, who said, “We create our buildings, then they create us.” It reminds us to think every day about the power the built environment has to shape behavior, reduce stress and, in the end, even contribute to the bottom line of business.
Or, how about these words from one of the beacons in our own industry, futurist Leland Kaiser, who said, “Everything great that has ever been created, was first created in the mind….” His words remind us that there is no limit to the inspired new care-delivery models we have yet to create. They are a reminder of the infinite possibility the future holds if we continue to push the envelope of healthcare design.
Then there is a favorite from anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I see this in action every day in my work as president of The Center for Health Design, from the small groups of committed individuals who volunteer their time throughout the year to serve on committees, juries, and advisory councils that support and make possible the work of The Center.
And then there are the many people who have made a long-term commitment to increase our industry's knowledge base of and access to evidence-based design research. It was almost five years ago when several of them stated publicly that they believed the physical environment did have an impact on outcomes in healthcare, and that they were willing to put their time and resources on the line to participate in the Pebble Project. This was long before the phrase evidence-based design was as common and fashionable as it is today.
I think of the early Pebble Project participants when I read this quote by Harvey Mackay: “Be like the turtle. If he didn't stick his neck out, he wouldn't get anywhere at all.” And it was their spirit that Helen Keller was thinking of when she said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
Then there is another quote from Mark Twain, who said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Now is our chance to make a permanent impression on the world and in our communities. It's not always easy and, at times, it seems as though we may be continuing to hit one brick wall after another, but as George Santayana said, “The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible that which takes a little longer.”
I'll close with a quote that has been up on my wall since I was an undergraduate design student. It's from one of my all-time favorite quotable guys, Albert Einstein, who said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” HD
The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California.