The Cycle of Life
It happened again. In spite of your best intentions, you forgot or postponed, or you put it on the back burner till later. But you are busy. You’re just spending all your time planning that great vacation, or new house, or a new hobby. In fact, we statistically spend more time on planning a family vacation than we spend on setting and executing goals for our practices. We have prioritized the minor things to the top of our “to do lists” in order to postpone the uncomfortable task of planning for the future. Time spent on your practice translates into choices for the future. Saving money and expanding your profitability opens avenues that most doctors will never be able to enjoy. It’s as if we believe that there is no hurry, we can always do it tomorrow. Guess what, tomorrow is today, and has been for every day you delay prioritizing your choices in life. No one graduated from dental school hoping and aspiring to be a mediocre dentist with a go nowhere practice of high stress, low productivity and no patients. The super-successful begin with the end in mind. They live today, but stay future focused.
This may just be me, but it seems like the seasons or time of the year dictate our moods and in some ways our motivation. It always seems like the end of December or first of January brings thoughts of renewal. A desire for a fresh start pops to the top our minds. Don’t you always think about losing weight at the first of the year and then by March you figure out some way to let your goal slide or you demean its relevance to the point of unimportance. Your desire to lose weight turns into thinking that because you sweat less than any other fat person you know, that’s good enough. I think we can all think of things related to a birthday, vacation, month, or holiday that pushes our goals to the surface or pushes them to the back of the line while replacing them with some less important but more pressing topic that usually won’t mean very much in the cycle of life.
So here we are again. It’s the end of December and the year is over and once again you’re no closer to your goal of improvement than you were at this time last year. Overhead has gone up, staff are turning over, patients are not calling, productivity has waned, and you never did go to that course that would allow you to add implants, ortho, sedation, etc. All the grand plans we had at the first of the year for our practices have melted into the constant nag of responsibilities that life throws at us. Once again we have modified our priority list to eliminate the squeaky wheel. Well, even the great practices and super successful doctors deal with the same problems. We all just have 24 hours a day. We all deal with the same obligations and problems with the same set of talents and experience any other dentist has. So what’s the difference in the super achievers and the average doctor? It is systems.
The cycle for all of us begins with Expectant Positivity, where we are excited about implementing change and looking forward to a better result. For a moment we see ourselves the way we want to be. The way we thought we always would end up. That can quickly turn into a Reality of Struggle, where we forget that nothing important comes easily. We all struggle to change our momentum and our direction in order to improve our results. Success is not a matter of talent. Success is a matter of will and persistence. Time is the only variable. Sure, people with natural ability may arrive first, but they lost something by not having to struggle: Kind of like taking a trip by plane but arriving without any bags. You drove, and it took longer, but you arrived safe and sound with everything you needed for the trip. Arriving first is just a matter of time. That’s not the important part. The folks that were always the football star or the straight “A” student, where everything came so easily, missed out on the most important part of life. Focus, struggle, desire, and persistence are a legacy that only those who have experienced it learn to value. That struggle created a joy and a sense of value and ownership of the process that can never be taken away. So struggling can be good. This Reality of Struggle can last months or even years until the “average doctor” enters a familiar area. This is where the average doctor begins a slow death spiral into Negativity and Acceptance of Failure. Right here, just a short distance from success, we find the Mediocre Majority. This is the road most traveled. Once you enter this area, you live with limiting beliefs that, while not true, become truth to you. For as long as you hold these limiting beliefs, you will struggle, fall short, and resign yourself by shifting the blame for your lack of success to the wrong location, too much competition, a public that doesn’t appreciate your talents, terrible staff, and the wrong economy. This is blame shifted to anything but yourself and your lack of persistence. This Shift of Blame allows you to resign your life to mediocrity. The Shift of Blame is the number one reason for good people to never realize their potential.
Keep in mind that none of these mile markers are destinations. This would include super success. Goal attainment is not a destination either. All of these are transient waypoints that we all encounter. It is part of a Journey. The problem with each of these is that at some point during the year, we get the last of the cycle before it all starts again. This is Desperation Pain. We are back at square one. The pain of realizing that you can’t pay your bills, you will never be able to retire, that you once again failed to launch: Your goals never took off. This is the late November or December of your year, or even your life. Reality creates a pain that makes you seek change. This is about the time that you call a coach or make resolutions and formulate goals. You bail yourself out one last time with a credit card and a commitment to do better next year.
As you can see and most of you have experienced, this does not work. So what do we do? Let’s take a lesson from professional football athletes. They have a diet, trainer, workout schedule, full contact practice, coaching, strategies, and then the actual game. They know everything is important, and while their season may only last 3-4 months, they know the cumulative effect of inactivity on the quality of their performance. Athletes train year round. They cross train to avoid injuries, they study films and strategies of their opponents, and work with coaches to improve their mental state of readiness. They have a playbook that is constantly changing each year in order to insure success on the field. Nothing is static and nothing is won by inactivity. It takes a person who is in great shape mentally and physically to win each year.
Max was working with a super successful practice when asked by the doctor what he needed to personally be looking at each month to insure that he spent his time productively without wasting what precious little time he had. Max came up with this outline of what we feel is imperative for each of you to get a handle on. Hopefully you will find it helpful by creating a foundational system of monitoring in your offices. In a sense, this is the start of your playbook. Let us know what you think.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. If, for whatever reason, you failed to click on the link in the last paragraph above, go back and do that right now. Then print out the checklist and get started on it. It’s still just the first week of the new year. Start on this today and remain diligent with it throughout the year, and next year at this time you can look back at how much more in control you feel and what a hugely better year it was. In fact, it could possibly be your BEST YEAR EVER!