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Seek Diagnosis, Not Prognosis

Seek Diagnosis, Not Prognosis


Patients often think that diagnosis dictates prognosis. There’s a clear difference between the two. A diagnosis is the identification of the problem and its causes. It labels the condition. A prognosis is the forecast of the outcome of a treatment or the course of an ailment.

You may hear both from a doctor, but it is really not the job of the physician to give you a prognosis. Yes, one can discuss statistics and probabilities, but with the major caveat and balancing factors that:

  1. You are not a mere number.
  2. It is not in the domain of the physician to predict the future—that is the realm of God.

Striking a balance between those two things is a challenge for any doctor.

Unfortunately, there are physicians who would tell you that something will happen to you in a certain period of time whether that is worsening of your health condition or impending death. What’s worse, we have been trained in our society to defer to physicians in white coats and take what they say as the final word. What an amazing disservice to the patient!

As one of my teachers Gerald Epstein, MD says, that is a violation of the first commandment that says that God is in control.  (I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage).


Be Your Own Authority


Physicians are helpful experts who are to be consulted in many situations, but they are not all-powerful and all-knowing. You need to be your own authority and see and use physicians as experts when you need them.

I was once on a blind date with a woman who was training to be a pediatric oncologist. As we spoke briefly about our respective work during the date, she seemed quite upset about an attending doctor who gave what she considered false hope to  parents of terminally ill children.

As she continued to vent, I asked one question which I already knew the answer to but wanted to hear from her. Would the parents resent the doctor if their child God-forbid dies? What do you think would be the answer to that?

The answer was, of course, no. Parents would express gratitude for the hope and support and the doctor’s compassion and ability to listen. Extinguishing all hope is the worst disservice you can do to a person, especially to a parent of a sick child.

All of us have experienced in varying degrees the negative spiral that lack of hope causes. As Hezekiah in the Bible says, even if a sharp sword rests upon your throat, you should still hold out hope that your prayers will be answered.


Focus on Small Changes


I talked about this topic because the internet is filled with prognostications and suggestions about what will happen to you, what you should be scared of, or what you should be doing with your health or existing conditions. There is always information that warns you about something and if you don’t follow or pay attention, you will be threatened with serious consequences.

Tackle your anxiety and stop living in the future. Focus on the small changes now. Keep an open eye for words like should, would, could and focus on a direction you wish to go in and what is in front of you and then get going in that direction.

It is the small changes that you make that may seem insignificant to you that add up to massive life changes that bring you more life, more energy, and more love.


4 Steps to Start Taking Control of Your Health and Life


  1. Change your beliefs.

Do you believe you have no strength or power to take control over your life? Being your own authority starts with changing this belief.

Remember this: Believing that you have no control over your life is a false belief and it is being reinforced over and over again in society that we have accepted it as truth.

The woman I went out on a date with may be thinking that the pediatric doctor she resented and I both live in a fantasy universe where an expression of faith and hope was lie and deceit. You will find this sort of thinking around you all the time and many will vehemently defend this belief because the world wants you to think you are just a mechanical being, much like a car that is predictable and fixable based on simple mechanical principles. Realize that this is not true.


  1. Do a small but revolutionary act.

Once you come to the realization that with faith and hope you do have more control over your situation more than you have ever thought, follow this with a small but revolutionary act. A revolutionary act is an act that goes against the common thinking.

It may take some time to come to a personal realization that you have more power and ability than you ever thought possible. Changes may seem so far away and there are so many forces that seem to be in the way. All these thoughts are also in the future and are best reigned in.

That first small change is a small bend that forms an arc towards a more positive direction. Each small choice creates another bend in the arc towards the direction you want to go. I can assure you that the small revolutionary acts that show the faith and hope you have in a healthier life, a slimmer life, or whatever your health goal is, will each bend that arc more and more towards the direction you wish to go and before you know it, you are moving in a totally different life- affirming direction.


  1. Get support from others who are on a similar journey as yours.

Accept that challenges on this path are always ongoing. That is where groups like our Weight Loss Awakening Friendship group are helpful so we can learn from people who are also moving in the direction we wish to go in.


  1. Keep hope and faith alive.

I once had a long time patient of mine with melanoma who came in to see me because his tumor had spread and he was coming in with nodules all over his scalp and body. It was awful.

Expressing hope for this patient was one of the most difficult experiences of my professional life. His probability of death seemed so high. As I tried to find something positive to say, my eyes started to fill with tears. It was very emotional for me and I was scared that my emotion was going to make things worse for him.

I sat and explained that the treatment he was going to get from his oncologist had a subset of patients who responded, but in the back of my mind, doubts appeared like an ugly monster that I couldn't get rid of. It seemed that he needed a miracle and I had my doubts.

Well, a miracle happened and it was one of the many miracles that I have been blessed to see. He was one of the few patients who responded to this treatment. Craig is alive and fine now some 10 years later.

That is not to say that miracles are the norm. Not everything is known or understandable especially when it comes to life and death, but we can make the conscious decision to make our choices based on the direction of life and that means keeping hope and faith alive. Most religions in the West express this as an obligation not a suggestion.

Any doctor who says they have not encountered something that hasn't followed what the textbooks say is either lying or just ignoring and dismissing these miracles as freak exceptions. It is in these exceptions that I have learned the most about what it means to be a doctor.

You are much more than just a predictable mechanical machine. When you claim the most human of birthrights to be your own authority to determine the direction you want to go, you start to move in a direction of reinvigorating your life. My hope is that I can communicate this to you.

You want to make a healthy change in your life but haven't been able to thus far? Start with the revolutionary belief that you can change direction and then make a small revolutionary act. You can change not only your life, but also those of people around you.

What is the number one thing holding you back from making the decisions that will bring you closer to the direction of your health goals? Share below.

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