I recently read a post from the Benevon website discussing some of the reasons that non-profit board members just can’t seem to get engaged with the organization. The excuses are many and varied but they all come down to a form of envy. We are talking here about a form of envy that is not just “stuff oriented”. Such as when we see the kid next door with a new skateboard or fancy bike and we want it, or want him not to have it. That’s envy in its basic form. I am talking about the envy we feel in dental school where we look for reasons why we did not get a perfect test score and our friend did. In our professional lives we see others who seem to easily achieve success and find ourselves making excuses about why we can’t achieve the same thing. What we often don’t realize is that it is easy to spend much of our day living with and talking about life from an envy point of view. Here are several examples.
Let’s say you are at a study club meeting and see another doctor from across town. You know she is practicing a high level of comprehensive care because she has shared some of her cases at your meetings. It is very easy to say to your friends, “We just don’t have the luxury of her upper income clientele. I don’t know where she finds clients willing to pay for multi-year cases.”
You attend a one day CE course and the speaker suggests that one good way to move your practice into a relationship based, values driven model is to take at least two weeks off. One week would be spent going back to school to learn more about emotional intelligence and relationship development. The second week would be spent with your spouse or significant other in a good location enjoying some time for self-reflection, planning and practice of the skills learned in week one. It is very easy to say, “I don’t have time for that. That is a big expense and too much time out of the office.”
You have a broken appointment and take a few minutes to look at one of the video clips on the SSC Facebook page. The clip is talking about the value of a comprehensive exam and how your staff is a critical factor in developing relationships and trust. You find yourself saying, “That is easy to talk about on a video but my staff is just not motivated. We don’t have time to do all those steps. Patients just want the minimum especially if it is not covered by insurance.”
You are looking at your quarterly reports from your practice management software and comparing your numbers to your last quarter, and to numbers in one of the myriad of dental publications. You look at your hourly production compared to the national trends and don’t like what you see. You say, “I can’t believe those numbers. Those practices must be charging higher fees than we do. I can’t imagine being able to squeeze in one more person in my day, and those Hygiene checks are a major interruption in my day. “
Do any of these sound familiar? They should. I have heard every one of these multiple times and many more interesting variations. In fact I have used a few of these myself over the years. These are just excuses for staying stuck in familiar unproductive patterns.
Rather than allowing yourself to become distracted by envy and comparisons with others, consider the fact that until you choose to make your situation better it will not change. Seattle Study Club members have demonstrated that you can practice comprehensive dentistry in just about any location and demographic if you are willing to take the steps necessary to achieve that goal. Goal is the operative word. You must be honest with yourself and those around you about your goals. And you must be willing to make short term sacrifices that allow you to move obstacles out of your way.
Getting out of the envy/excuse cycle is not easy. Blaming others for your lack of success in any venture whether it is business or golf is much easier than owning up to the fact that you have not done the necessary homework for success. Consider the following as an outline to get away from the envy/excuse cycle. It is not easy but it definitely worth the time and effort.
Make some private time to look at the big picture of how you would really like your life to be – personal, professional and financial. Think only about the outcomes you would like to see for you, your family and those who work with you. Don’t worry about how you will get there at this point. Just let your mind get out of the envy and excuse cycle and dream good dreams. Write down your thoughts and put them where you can see them daily. Give yourself permission to make changes for one month. You need absolute clarity of your personal philosophy, your practice philosophy and your goals for your finances long-term. This is the time to use a consultant if you are unsure of yourself. By consultant I mean anything from a psychologist, life-coach, mastermind group, pastor or dental practice consultant. You must be clear about the outcomes you want and honest with yourself about your commitment to reach your goals. Money spent at this stage on clarifying the outcomes that you want will save you from wasting time and money later trying to “fix” things that are not fixable due to fundamental lack of clarity and commitment to a strong personal philosophy.
Now share your thoughts with your family. This will take guts because you are letting everyone see more deeply into your inner self. You may need to modify some things based on family input. Most likely you will be surprised by your family support and desire for common goals. Let everyone know that at this point these are your dreams. You have no idea of all the steps that will be involved to make them reality. What you are asking is whether your family and later, your team are willing to be a part of going where you would like to go personally and professionally. You are not asking for excuses about why you cannot reach your dreams. You are asking whether these members of your life are interested and willing to join you on a new path. Again this will be difficult as you may get serious push back. You are pointing out that life as you see it is not what it could be. Members of your family and team will likely see change as disruptive and negative. Understand that at the family level you may get input that causes you to modify your dream plan. Only you can determine the level of changes that still allow you to reach your master goals.
At the team level you will need to accept that there will be only two options – buy in or move out. Again, this can be traumatic as what you might consider valued team members may be unwilling to move from their “safe” job position to accepting the challenge of change for the better. Now is the time to give people a chance to buy in or out. Don’t waste time trying to bring people along or implement change with a team that is not 100% committed to the practice goals.
When you have your family on board and clear about the long-term goals and your team on board and clear about the practice, it is now time to begin the real work. Sit down as a family and start to work out an action plan to get from where you want to be back to where you are. That’s right - work backward. Look at the obstacles at the end of the road and start breaking them down into smaller and smaller pieces. You will be surprised many of the things you thing are big problems are not problems at all. They are simply excuses that must be let go. When you have defined all the obstacles you have created an action plan to move toward success. Now and only now, should you begin the same process with your team.
Once you have your family supporting you and a plan in place your team will sense your commitment and comfort with the goals for your professional life. Get the team together and reaffirm your long-term goals, your willingness to be accountable and your commitment to success for every member of the team. Start the action plan process with reaffirming the big goals and begin breaking down the big problems into little pieces. This is the first point in the process that you should consider making any physical changes in the practice other than determining if there are team members who do not want to be “on the bus going to the new destination”.
At this point you should have a course charted for you and your family and a course charted for your professional life. Count on the fact that many course corrections will be required. However, you now have a plan, a family who is part of the plan and a team that knows you are committed to success for the whole office. Let go of the envy and excuses and enjoy working and living with a plan.