The entire health care system is once again – or perhaps I should say still – in a state of flux, and our profession is not immune to the brouhaha. All the stir about the Affordable Care Act has opened the door for medical associations, third-party payers and politicians to question, yet again, the degree to which chiropractors are integral to the health of the population.
We know, of course, that the services and care we provide are needed and valuable. Those of us who have been around for a while also know this current storm will blow over. We've ridden these out before and have lived to practice another day.
But the challenges we face require that we do more than hang on and wait for the clouds to part. The challenges require that we remain resolute and come through stronger than before. The key to thriving in the years ahead does not lie solely within our professional organizations, although they are certainly in our corner (as we need to correspondingly be in theirs), working hard to ensure the future success of our profession. The key to thriving lies within each of us. It's up to you, the individual, to firmly take the helm and set your course for professional success, regardless of whatever outside forces attempt to thwart that success.
Let's discuss five habits for you to cultivate and hone that will help ensure you have a thriving practice in 2014 and beyond. If you are truly interested in doing more than hanging on and riding out the current storm, it's essential you take the time to invest in yourself and develop these habits to enhance your personal and professional competence. Trying to adopt all five will likely feel quite daunting, so choose one or two to focus on initially. When it feels as if you've fully integrated those habits, work on another one or two.
If you're serious about being one of the practices that is successful regardless of the challenges presented as a result of outside forces, it's imperative you have a purpose for your business and set clear goals to work on; goals that are aligned with that purpose. Set aside some time to answer some big questions about 2014 (and beyond), such as:
- Why did I become a chiropractor?
- What's changed since I first went into practice?
- What would my ideal practice look like at the end of 2014?
- What will keep me engaged and enthusiastic over the next few years?
- What can I control? What is outside of my control?
- What do I want to be known for professionally?
From your answers to these questions – and others you come up with on your own – try to come up with a purpose for your practice that you can state in one sentence. Then, based on the content of that sentence, write down two or three important goals you want to work on in 2014.
Habit #2: Optimism
It's a mistake to pigeonhole people – especially ourselves – as either born optimists or hopeless pessimists. You may have a tendency to lean one way or the other, but the truth is that an attitude of optimism can be learned and developed to the point it becomes the default position.
In his best-selling book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, author Martin Seligman says: "Habits of thinking need not be forever." Research on neuroplasticity strongly suggests we all have an innate ability to continue to learn and change, no matter our age or stage in life. Functioning in a perpetual state of pessimism can and should be turned around. Constantly swimming in these waters is both exhausting and detrimental to professional success. Work on developing the habit of optimism using these four practices:
- Observe your thoughts and language. Listen to yourself and notice when you find yourself complaining, bemoaning your circumstances, and assuming that the worst is about to happen. Practice self-awareness.
- Pay attention to what's working well. At the end of each day, spend a few minutes thinking about (and even writing down) what went right and what you are grateful for.
- Focus on what you can control. Instead of spending time fretting about what ridiculous stunt your elected officials are likely to perform next, stay honed in on what positive steps you can take today to make your practice more successful.
- Surround yourself with positive people. You know who they are – and who they aren't. Make an effort to spend time with friends and colleagues who lean toward optimism. It's contagious.
Habit #3: Resilience
Resilience is critical to thriving because it helps you view challenges from more than one angle, recognizing both the risks and the opportunities. Resilience boosts confidence, stress hardiness, emotional strength and hopefulness. It also combats exhaustion, depression and career burnout, so you can manage your practice with greater ease and produce better outcomes.
Research has shown that individuals who tend to be resilient have caring relationships with others and treat themselves with compassion. They believe in their own competence and have high expectations for success. They also have clear boundaries and know what they are and are not willing to do in most situations. Resilient people view setbacks as isolated events with a cause and a solution, instead of viewing them globally (e.g., we had a slow month vs. my practice is failing).
You can build resilience by cultivating optimism (see above); developing the skills you need to do what needs to be done, such as those related to communication, emotional intelligence, leadership and technology; and by practicing good self-care (see below). Resilience can also grow out of seemingly simple practices such as good time management, and maintaining perspective and a sense of humor when things don't go your way.
If you find yourself repeatedly feeling defeated and beaten down, working toward becoming a more resilient person will help you be happier and more successful – not just professionally, but personally as well.
Habit #4: Curiosity
Being curious about the future and open to making changes based on that curiosity has the potential to not only make your practice more successful, but also make your professional life more engaging and interesting. Think about chiropractors you know who are mid- or even late-career, but not ready or able to retire and who are, more or less, doing things the way they've always done. These doctors are likely falling behind in terms of technology, not keeping pace with changes related to practice promotion, and won't survive moving forward unless they become more willing to embrace change.
Practice scanning the horizon constantly for what's new and different; not just within the realm of health care, but in broader facets of business and life as well. Ask yourself "what if" questions – even some seemingly far-fetched ones – such as:
- What if I took on an associate next year?
- What if I joined forces with the group across town?
- What if I converted to an all-cash practice?
- What if I went back to school and added acupuncture to my skill set?
- What if I wrote a book?
- What if I did a job / house exchange with a chiropractor from Australia for a year?
- What if I learned Spanish and opened my practice to that patient population?
- What if I closed my office and became a mobile practice catering to geriatric patients?
- What if I dropped my three worst-paying insurance plans?
- What if I hired a marketing director for my practice?
- What if I formed a "dream team" advisory board to get new ideas and advice?
Habit #5: Self-Care
You've heard it time and time again ... because it's that important: Doctor, heal thyself. If you're exhausted, out of shape, poorly nourished and constantly stressed, then how can you expect to manage your practice and thrive? Do what you advise your patients to do: eat well, exercise regularly, practice work-life balance, maintain healthy boundaries, say no when you need to, and get enough sleep, rest, relaxation and downtime.
I know you're busy, and practicing self-care is easier said than done. But consider the cost of not doing what you know you should do to take care of yourself. When a client tells me they don't have time to exercise, I always ask if they have time to get sick (and also how much time they spend in front of one screen or another). Set a good example for your patients, your staff and your own family by putting yourself first when it comes to taking care of your body and mind.
So, having read through these five habits, what will you do next? You can set this article aside and go check your email again, or you can pause for a few minutes to let the message sink in. That's actually a sixth habit to cultivate if you are serious about success: slowing down and taking time to really think about what you want and what you need to do to get what you want.
Click here for previous articles by Shelley Simon, RN, DC, MPH, EdD.