Earlier this year the CEO of Medibank Australia, George Savvides, came to speak at a leadership retreat for young people that I was hosting.
George told a story that stuck with me about a heart surgeon that he knows – one of the best in Australia. This heart surgeon was telling George about the patients he regularly sees for heart bypass operations. The surgeon described how these people, most commonly men, would come in for surgery in quite a bad state. Often these men were smokers, would regularly drink to excess, and never exercised.
The surgeon would perform the bypass operation, and the patients would always be extremely grateful for the chance to regain their health. They would tell the surgeon how they felt like young men again, and eagerly agree as they were instructed that in order to reduce the risk of complications and not fall into further health troubles they needed to stop smoking, drink only in moderation and exercise regularly. Without fail, they would all agree to do these things.
A year later, when the patients came back in for their final check up, they would regularly tell the same story. They had tried to follow the surgeon’s recommendations, but now were once again living the same lifestyle. In fact, over 80% would once again be smoking, regularly drinking to excess and not exercising.
This is a staggering statistic, and even more incredible when you consider the fact that these men were given a chance to dramatically turn their health, and indeed their lives around. George ended the story with the surgeon’s observation:
“You know, you can fix the heart – but you can’t change the heart.”
Now there’s some real truth in that.