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A person is what a person does. What defines us is not what we believe, it is what we do. In life, the only thing that we truly own is our actions, everything else is on a temporary loan. While our homes, our cars and all of our material possessions add joy to our lives, only what we do affects the world during our lives and long after we are gone. What we do determines if we are important, irrelevant, famous, infamous, or eternal. What we do is the essence of who we are and a sign of our vitality; but is it a vital sign? I say that our performance, what we do and how we do it, is the most vital of all of our vital signs and here’s why.

The relationship between our Health and our Performance

Just as nothing in the physical universe has structure without also having function; our health and our performance are inseparable, linked by these same fundamental physical laws. Performance is defined as that part of our function that accomplishes tasks according to measurable standards which raises the question, what is the structure of our performance?

Our performance is an aggregate of behaviors and is executed exclusively by our bodies; our skeletons, muscles, joints and ligaments. Each of these behaviors, in turn, directly reflects the state of our ever-changing, plastic central nervous system (CNS). When viewed from this perspective, our health is defined as the sum of the forces, internal and external, that mold our plastic central nervous systems. The extent that any given facet of our health contributes to this molding process, is the extent that it will affect our performance; and only if it contributes to this molding process will any given facet of our health affect our performance. Our health and performance is our structure and function, respectively. Metaphorically, our health is the roadway to our performance  with our central nervous system being the final stop on the journey.

What our Performance (function) says about our Health (structure)

While we may not find and fix the problem, we all know that when our car stalls while we are driving (mal-functions) there is something wrong with our cars’ engine (a corresponding structural defect) and if you are like myself, you will call an auto-mechanic. The first thing an experienced mechanic will do before popping the hood is take our car for a test drive to see how it performs so that he can visualize what structural defects may be causing the malfunction. While I can’t take my patients out for a test drive, I can get a heck of a lot more information regarding their health from asking them how they are doing at school, work or home than by weighing them, taking their blood pressure, running a battery of laboratory tests or, dare I say, even looking at an MRI scan. Regardless of how thoroughly a pediatrician may examine a child during a checkup,  if she does not look at their report card she has no idea whether or not her patient is healthy. The same is true for the child’s mother and father when they go for their annual checkups and they are not asked about their work performance.

Our performance is, indeed, the most vital of all our vital signs. For more on this topic, please see my previous post,

A Tale of Mental Health in Two Settings

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP


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