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The Folly of Goal Setting

Do you set numerical goals?I question the conventional wisdom about the value of goal setting and aiming for some arbitrary numerical achievement, whether weekly visits, collections, new patients or some other quantitative statistic.

I think it's unhelpful. Even damaging.

Having a numerical goal reduces patients to converts, conquests or mere spines. Besides dehumanizing them, it's among the most superficial ways of measuring one's success. And even less effective at measuring the quality and depth of your patient relationships.

Yet, many chiropractors still play this goal-setting game, putting their sights on some number that is somehow supposed to prompt higher levels of production. Once practice degenerates to this level, you've lost your way. Because numbers say very little about you, your practice or your significance. It merely measures your physical output while virtually ignoring the spiritual impact of your practice.

I understand that if you don't measure it, you can't improve it. I'm okay with that. Measure away! My concern is the chiropractor who thinks that because he or she is adjusting 000 a week, that they are somehow better or superior to a chiropractor adjusting 00 a week.

If you're seeing 000 a week, yet patients can hardly wait for their symptoms to resolve and their insurance benefits to be used up so they can stop seeing you, what value is that?

If you're seeing 000 a week, yet the way you treat them as they try to disengage from your practice is so heavy-handed that they shun you in the grocery store years later, what's the point?

If you're seeing 000 a week, yet your children don't know you, your marriage lacks intimacy and your only friends are the people that you pay to work for you, then your numbers are far too expensive.

When the dust settles, how many people you superficially touch during your career, is far less important than the number of people whom you profoundly touch. This is the "go-wide-or-go-deep" paradox. What's telling is that younger, less experienced chiropractors tend to want to go wide (numbers). Wiser, more experienced chiropractors are inclined to go deep (significance).

As you contemplate the New Year ahead, I hope you'll keep this in mind. Setting some numerical goal may goad you into working harder, but be careful. Once you reach it and experience a fleeting sense of achievement, you'll be confronted with the task of setting a still higher goal. Eventually you'll reach your own Peter Principle in which you can no longer rise above.

That's when frustration and feelings of failure show up to pollute your mind and steal your peace.

At the end of this journey, as you near your last breath, you won't revel in the egotistical memories of your biggest day or your most profitable month. My guess is your focus will be quite different:

1. The relationships you've made
2. The lives you've deeply touched
3. The opportunities you've created
4. The suffering you've alleviated
5. The people you've inspired
6. The significance you've made
7. The legacy you're leaving behind

More important than setting some audacious statistical goal that can be measured with mere numbers, is to be on purpose. The purpose for which you were uniquely created. Naturally, the only way to be on purpose is to know your purpose. And I'm almost certain it isn't "…to adjust as many people as possible." That vague, one-size-fits-all-store-bought mission statement may assuage your guilt as you pursue material success, but it's unlikely to fuel a meaningful career of service.

Ironically, when you attend to the seven items above, making them your goal, the numbers take care of themselves.

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Comments (2)

Jonathan Stewart:

That's why you must make "goals" personal for the people you work with. They can be your run-of-the-mill, plain goals. They must be tailored to the individual and something the patient is willing to seek out and work toward. Yes, indeed, people will remember momentous times in their life when they conquer something, even by setting goals. You can't throw them out the window. You must approach them at a different angle.

Dr. Schmidt:

Amazing. I was just sitting down to journal about this subject. I had your homepage pulled up in front of me, when this post popped up...I believe God is using you.

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From December 20, 2012 6:00 AM

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