At my age, I don’t like anything that mentions “terminal”. Just this one time I will assume we are not talking about my “use before date”. With every end of a year, we face a new beginning. For a few, it might be a time to recommit to keep doing what you are doing because the results are so good. For some it may be a time to re-engage with a full-on commitment to finally own your results and take this time to change and adapt to the new Dental Economy. For the largest group of doctors, it is a time for the holidays and January 2 is just another day of work. This last group is composed of the “settlers” who seem to never change, adapt, or own their performance. These doctors just settle for average or even less. So, if you are in the last group, you can probably stop reading. Actually, I assume that if you were in that group you wouldn’t have even opened this Blog. So, never mind.
I always have looked forward to closure of one year, a clear unbiased assessment of how I did, and a new commitment to do better. I want to look at my performance and reset the bar for a better year. One area I start with is new goals and a vision for both my short-term and long-term future. Key to this is always sitting down to work on written goals that I transform into a vision for my staff. We have spent time in the past going over goals and planning, but I want to get you to think about “terminal goals”. Beginning with the end in mind brings reality to where you want to end up. When I think of terminal goals, I include the big picture things and then go back and get more detailed. These terminal goals would be the ones that write your legacy. The big picture got to get this done kind of commitment so your story ends with: They lived happily ever after. Here is a starting point for each of us to take and add our personal touch and to define what each means. The point here is that if you can see, smell and almost touch these goals, you will order you life and commitment to fulfilling them. These are the “do what ever it takes” kind of goals.
These terminal goals are:
- Health: All us want an active life and the overall health to enjoy our retirement. The problem is that the decisions you make right now will affect what this area of your life looks like at 50 or 60. You need a consistent exercise routine without going overboard (one of the trainers I used had to have bilateral knee replacements at 32 because he competed in squat and dead lift competitions at an early age). Consistent moderation in drink, activities and follow thru win the day. There are obese people and there are old people but you rarely find obese elderly people. Take the responsibility of staging your day to include healthy activities. Money will not take the place of health.
- Financial Security: The average American needs to save 14% of their income if they ever hope to retire with any dignity and security. For dentists it needs to be 20%. Our profession is rife with individuals that live way beyond their means because they think they deserve it. This always turns out bad. There will never be a time in your life when swinging for the fence in the financial arena will lead to success. Coming to terms with you own mortality and understanding that the last few years of your career will never compensate for a lifetime of abusive investing and spending is a lesson well learned and the sooner the better. For the younger doctors (26-32) I would set a goal of saving $1000 for every year of life, each year. If you are 26, I would save $26,000 that year, and the next year, $27,000 until you are able to save 20% and still support your lifestyle with out consumer debt piling up. This strategy will guarantee you live well within your means while being able to retire with an income the same or greater than when you worked full time by 62 years of age. Be bold, be specific and plan now for a sound future.
- Great relationships and marriage: I probably should have included this under financial above, but successfully ending several marriages over your lifetime is not a sound wealth building strategy. Add to that the toll on your emotions and kids, and you quickly see that time spent balancing your life to include working on your marriage and other relationships will pay huge dividends. You not only will live longer, but you will tend to have better overall health.
- Emotionally stable: The ups and downs that we all experience should be tempered with the attitude of: This too will pass. Grasping a feeling of your glass being at least half full will weather many a storm, and there will be many. On a personal note: For me, my faith has given me joy when I wasn’t very happy.
- Hunger for continued growth: Staying engaged in life seems to keep you young at heart and healthy. Looking for challenges and striving for success will give you purpose. Understanding that you never will actually arrive, but that you need to enjoy the journey, will focus your engagement on today.
- Children with a legacy: Self-reliant, educated, socially adept, intellectually competent, and financially secure.
- Investing in guarantees: Life insurance, disability, investments and savings are like wearing a belt and suspenders. Do these and you will never lose your pants.
- Timing: Understanding that you have only today, and that the future is not a certainty. Do what you can today, there will never be perfect timing. Robert Hastings in The Station says: “It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of our today”. Relish the moment when coupled with Psalm 118:24 is a good motto to live by.
This is how you Summit. Life must be lived as we go along.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. One last thought: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela