What You Can’t Do For Yourself

About a year ago I scheduled myself for an eye exam for the first time in 10 years. I knew my vision was still great since the last time I had my eyes checked when I had better than 20/20 vision, but Erica needed an appointment so I figured I’d go too.

I sat in the exam chair and answered all of her questions, anxious to get to the actual examination where she tested my vision. I couldn’t wait to wow her with my 20/15 ninja-like eyesight.

She went through about 10 minutes of that whole, “which looks clearer A or B?” routine and I was zooming along. We got to the end and she said, “Bryan, in all my years of optometry I’ve never seen a 32-year old with better eyesight. If you don’t mind, I’m going to call a few of my optometrists friends so they can come down and take a look at this. Your vision is breathtaking.”

Okay, so that’s not what happened.

She took away all the lenses and had me focus on some writing on the wall, about 10 feet away. “Can you read the 5th line?”, she asked.

“O K H D N R C S” I said confidently.

“What about the next line?”

“Um…not really. V A D H…I don’t know.”

“What about now?” she asked as she dropped down a lens in front of my eyes…

I couldn’t believe it. “V H D N K U O S R”.

As it turned out, my vision had been deteriorating over the last 10 years. I was stunned.

She wrote me a prescription for glasses to wear when driving at night and when on the computer. Then she told me that she had seen an abnormality in one of my eyes that was a risk factor for Glaucoma. I needed to come back in a year for a checkup, something I’ll be doing in a few weeks.

As I thought about the experience over the past year a few obvious life lessons have smacked me in the face. If it’s okay, I’d like to smack you in the face with them as well.

1. Get Feedback from People You Trust – If you want to know how your eyesight is, you need to see an eye doctor. And if you want honest feedback on how things are going in your life, don’t ask your dog or your 6-year old son. Or the goofy guy at work you play fantasy football with.

If you want good feedback, talk to someone who really knows. Talk to your pastor, your spouse, or a friend you admire. And when you do, prepare to be surprised and uncomfortable. I waltzed in to the eye doctor expecting a Nobel Peace Prize for Vision. What i got was a dose of reality that left me better off in the end.

2. Don’t Fall into the Comparison Trap – Want to know the biggest reason why I thought my eyesight hadn’t slipped? Because every once in a while Erica and I would play the ‘Can you read that distant sign’ game and I’d always win. The thing is, Erica has needed glasses for longer than I have. Comparing my vision to hers was a game I was always going to win.

If you find yourself saying things like, “I could do a better job with that, but at least I’m not like that guy.” then you need to be careful. The problem with the comparison trap is you’ll always find someone a little worse off than you.

3. Understand There are Small Signs You can’t see that can Predict Big Problems – I don’t know if I have glaucoma or not. My next checkup should give the optometrist a better idea. But had I not gone, there’s NO WAY I would have known it was even a possibility.

Truth is, there may be habits or patterns in your life that have you on a path to something big and not so pleasant and you have no idea. Maybe your headed for divorce, addiction, a terrible relationship with your kids, losing your job, an affair or something else. Many times we can’t pick up on these things ourselves, but someone else can.

This is already too long, but I’ve been wanting to share these thoughts for a while in the hopes that someone out there might need a nudge to get a checkup. If you think there’s an area of your life that could use improvement, talk to a trusted friend, go see a counselor, or have an uncomfortable conversation with your spouse. There are some things you can’t do for yourself.

And if you haven’t been to the eye doctor in more than 5 years, go schedule a checkup.