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Being Certain

certainty.jpgEven with brilliant chiropractic marketing strategies, one of the things that distinguish busier chiropractic practices from those less so is the level of certainty exuded by the chiropractor. What makes this difficult to self-diagnose is that chiropractors with certainty issues either aren’t conscious of them or think they are successfully hiding them from patients.

Nice try. If you were that good of an actor, you’d be in Hollywood.

Besides being inauthentic, acting certain when you’re not is classic symptom treating. Better, is to actually be certain. That way, the nonverbal, insuppressible language of your body will send the messages patients want to receive. Then, your influence can mount, patients respond in ways that are more positive and your practice begins to fulfill its potential.

Consider some of these strategies for becoming more certain.

First, realize a major contradiction: if you want to enjoy greater certainty, you’d probably like to know what to do to get it.

But that’s the problem.

Doing, so that a certain way of “being” results is a flawed strategy. True, our culture seduces us into believing this is possible, but it’s a lie. (“Buy this and you’ll be beautiful, happy, successful, admired, etc.”) In chiropractic, it’s more like, “Buy this gadget, say these words or do this procedure the way I tell you and patients will behave properly and you’ll be beautiful, happy, successful, admired, etc.”

Doing, in an attempt to achieve some state of being, is a recipe for unhappiness. Because it doesn’t work.

True, this also runs counter to the self-development crowd that floods cable networks with their late-night infomercials and gorges the self-help section of bookstores. The “act-like-someone-who-has-what-you-want” and “fake-it-‘til-you-make-it” strategies simply create imposters who fear they’ll be found out. And, by the looks of those with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of inactive patient file folders, but empty reception rooms, they are being found out. Chiropractic patients have an uncanny ability to detect the subtle cues, ticks and body language that reveal fear, disclose uncertainty and give away the “I-hope-you’ll-like-me” longings that undermine assurance.

If you want to radiate self-confidence and certainty (which is what patients crave almost as much as relief) without acting classes, you’ll want to actually be confident and certain. Too bad that confidence and certainty are symptoms. Results. Effects. And like most symptoms, you’d want to address the underlying cause. But that’s the rub. Like most patients, regardless of their head bobbing at your “here’s-the-cause-of-your-headaches” report of findings, many chiropractors aren’t really prepared to face the underlying cause of their uncertainty. At least not until the discomfort of changing is eclipsed by the embarrassment of an underperforming practice.

What is the underlying cause? In a word: doubt.

Doubt comes in many flavors. But doubt is at the root of this certainty issue. It shows up in quiet whisperings, a seductive voice or a flat out lie that is believed because it comes wrapped with just enough truth to make it palatable. Here are a few of the more popular beliefs that produce chiropractors who doubt:

“Chiropractic may not work.” That’s correct. It may not. Imagining that you can control what happens is the doubt-producing part. Chiropractic principles work. Period. However, the application of chiropractic principles may not produce the outcome you want. Why? Because of countless factors outside your control. Be 100% certain of what is your responsibility (offering optimum recommendations, explaining the possible outcomes, delivering an intentioned intervention, etc.) and what is their responsibility (showing up, changing unhealthy habits, wanting to heal, etc.).

“What others think is important.” This may be a holdover from your high school years. Today, it’s holding you back, requiring massive amounts of energy trying to be someone you’re not or becoming a chameleon and relinquishing your identity and power. Take heart that there are only three businesses. Your business. Other people’s business. And God’s business. Be 100% certain that what others think of you isn’t your business.

I couldn’t afford the care I’m recommending.” That may be true. However, this is a classic case of confusing price and value. In other words, what makes something affordable is how much value is placed on it. The ability to avoid liver damage, evade the surgeon’s knife, obtain some hope or be able to get back to work and support their family could be worth thousands, maybe millions. Be 100% certain that you’re not projecting your financial circumstances onto patients or minimizing the sacrifices you made to become a chiropractor.

“I’m not enough.” True, you’re not enough. And never will be. Good thing you’re in partnership with the power of God who is actually capable of doing the healing. A shortcut to uncertainty is to overstate your control or take credit for something that’s not yours. Be 100% certain that every patient sees you as a facilitator who simply knows how to revive and help express what their Maker already put in them. (Read The Key or the Car? for more about this.)

“I’m supposed to be the doctor.” One of the most common personas that chiropractors adopt as a proxy is that of being a doctor. Drilled into them at chiropractic college, many student doctors emerge trying to act like medical doctors, but hamstrung by a lack of high-powered pharmaceuticals, meager social authority, dependent upon the unpredictable, low-tech intervention of adjustments and the cooperation of patients. Be 100% certain that when you assume the role of doctor, you’re doing so as a verb, not as a noun.

“Patients can’t be trusted.” It’s true that some patients won’t show, may inadvertently sabotage their care, make poor decisions, drop out of care prematurely or not value their health as highly as you do. It’s tempting to hold back, protecting your possible disappointment with a detachment that patients perceive as aloofness, or over compensate with heavy-handed procedures that overstep your authority. Be 100% certain about your inability to control patients and the importance of first accepting and then honoring their free will.

“Being a chiropractor is hard.” Yes, you chose a more difficult career path than your undergraduate classmates who became dentists, physical therapists or gym teachers. Thank you for that. You may have forgotten that fulfillment is proportional to the difficulty of the task and the return is proportional to the risk. You might want to remind yourself of why you choose the narrow, difficult, rarely traveled path in the first place. What was it about chiropractic that touched your heart and moved your soul? Be 100% certain about your career choice.

All things being equal, certainty trumps the weather, office location, practice hours, adjusting technique, grade point average, competitors down the street, insurance coverage and even the economy. Be certain and you will certainly prosper. Of that, I’m 100% certain.

(If you resonated with this, I’m certain you’d find something I host called The Conversation immeasurably helpful.)

Comments (7)

Bryan Siegel, DC:

Yes, we Chiropractors have chosen a more difficult path. This is something to forever be proud of... as Bill said, do not whisper.... speak loudly and proudly. Thank you for your unwavering love and support of our profession Bill!

The most right on message that you have ever written.

Jason Harrison:


You're so on point it's scary! I don't know if there's anything you mentioned that I haven't dealt with. Someone mentioned that the air seems so much lighter's so true because we realize that we're not alone and we don't have to feel guilty having had thoughts similar to what you vividly described so eloquently. I've heard Dr. CJ Mertz mention that we as chiropractors aren't perfect, but chiropractic is...right in line with what you're saying...stop doubting and start sharing by communicating with as many people as possible. Dr. James Chestnut mentions that if someone eats better, thinks better, and moves more that 100% of the time they are going to benefit from that, there are no exceptions. We all need to realize that what we can do is limitless, but the patient/practice member has to be ready mentally to accept wholly the experience that we as chiropractors deliver. Deliver it CONFIDENTLY, should there even be any other option??? Happy Holidays to all!

Eric Beistline:

Dear Bill,

I appreciate the time you take to help us think outside the box so that we can see the true cause of our symptoms (just like we try to do for our patients). Thank you for continuing to be a source of inspiration to those of us who are willing to listen.

Timely and thought provoking. Thank you very much and all the very best for the season.

John Jarolimek:

Thank you for your wonderfully insightful and profound blog post! Thank you for telling the unabashed truth! There's freedom in it-I feel lighter, already.

Tony Russo:

Oh my Bill,
Very profound. I find the freshness of your advice delightful. You hit straight into the heart of the issues we Doctors of Chiropractic try to sweep under the carpet with every breathing moment of our life. But you, yes you shove it right back in our faces and make us eat that proverbial humble pie. And it sure doesn't taste very good. But no real medicine tastes good. And if it did, it's just candy. You keep 'em coming Bill and I'll keep reading 'em.
Thank you for "your" passion.

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From December 15, 2009 7:59 AM

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