Tired Out or Turned On?
by William D. Esteb
At the end of the day, are you wired or tired?
This is an important measurement since it reveals your health and the health of your practice. If you’re tired, used up and exhausted at the end of the day, it’s probably not from excessive physical activity. Of course, adjusting patients all day long requires strength and endurance. But those who are often most tired are those seeing the fewest numbers of patients! No, the fatigue reported by many chiropractors has little to do with the physical aspects of adjusting. It’s the emotional toll that is the most draining.
It’s striking that many chiropractors who report feeling “sucked dry” at the end of the day are those who see fewer than 50 patients a day! Their practices are seemingly stuck, as if hitting an unseen wall. The wall they’re bumping up against is more than likely an emotional blockage. After all, chiropractors who see twice as many patients rarely pay this emotional cost. It generally takes them an hour or two to come down at the end of the day! It may be that mastering this unseen emotional dimension could be the key to advancing your practice to its next level of influence.
When You Care Too Much
If your emotional reservoirs are empty by the end of the day, it probably means you care too much. You’re siphoning off your emotional bank account each day by investing in something that you’re powerless to control: what your patients do.
This parental approach to practice, caring about the patient’s health more than they do, is tiresome work. It keeps the practice comfortably small as you spend the day shepherding your modest flock towards health. If you’ve been deceived into thinking your identity, value and/or worth is based upon what patients do, you become hyper-vigilant, and take missed appointments, unexplained patient dropout and unhealthy patient habits, personally.
How do you know if you care too much? Generally speaking, caring is about expectation and reciprocity. If you are being or doing something, and you anticipate a particular response, you’re caring instead of loving. When you love, judgment disappears and there are no strings attached. (Love comes from a spiritual reservoir with an infinite supply.)
The key is to care, but not to care too much. This is an aspect of the “art” of chiropractic and one of the issues requiring mastery if one is to have a significant, lasting career as a professional caregiver.
Unclear Professional Boundaries
Related to caring too much is having unclear boundaries between your job and the patient’s job. If this distinction is blurred, misplaced energies can quickly sap the passion out of even the most motivated chiropractor.
Simply put, you can only be responsible for those things to which you can “ablely respond.” You can ablely respond to the need to create a care plan for each patient. But you cannot ablely respond to making sure the patient follows the plan. In other words, you can make recommendations, but you are powerless to ensure that a patient acts on your recommendations. Patients have the freedom to abuse their bodies, behave in ways that sabotage their health and longevity and generally to undo your efforts to help them. The only power you have is to make the decision to offer your services to them or not.
This problem often shows up among chiropractors who have confused or reversed the roles of servant and master. The patient hires you. They alone decide what a “good” adjustment is. And at some point, especially if it is their first brush with chiropractic, the patient is likely to fire you. Sounds like they’re the master and you’re the servant. Switch these roles, because of your education and experience, or because you mistrust that the patient values their health as much you do, and you suffer the consequences.
Why Did You Become a Chiropractor?
Another way to squander your emotional bank account is to lack a clear purpose for your practice.
Your purpose is not to adjust as many patients as you possibly can. That may be what you do, or are trying to do, but that’s not your purpose! Confusing what you do for your purpose is a common mistake that burns up incredible amounts of emotional currency.
No, patient care is merely a means for you to fulfill some higher purpose. If you don’t know what that is, it’s worth taking the time to discover it. If you don’t, your education, license and daily malpractice exposure has merely landed you a well-paying job and, after the cynicism, burnout and resignation set in, you’ll be left bitter and angry.
How can you tell if you’re on purpose? Do you need motivational seminars and tapes? Are you still searching for something, a shortcut or some secret to grow a large practice? These are signs that you’re not clear about why you were placed here, now. No matter. Get busy! Many people go to their graves not knowing their purpose. If you’re still warmer than room temperature, there’s still time!
Articulate your purpose in language. You must not allow it to remain a vague idea or feeling or someone else’s purpose. This is the solitary work we do on ourselves. It is the mental preparation that is the precursor to action and being, the cause in one’s life. The resulting purpose or mission statement, consisting of a sentence or two forged by your own vision and creativity, can be a wellspring of unlimited energy. Not just the kind of energy you need to weather the disappointment of working with patients, but the kind of energy you need to celebrate the deep, soul-satisfying moments when a patient “gets it.” Those “catch-your-breath” moments that make it all worthwhile.
Balance your emotional checking account. Are you in the “red” because you allow yourself to get “nickeled and dimed” by each patient? Are you unknowingly seeking their approval? Do you have expectations that are unrealistic, parental or merely selfish? Or, is your emotional balance in the black because you have defined your purpose, know your responsibilities, and truly love (not just care for) your patients and what you do!
Connecting the Dots
Published in 2005
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