Want to be busier?
Many think when we're busy it means we're up to something. However, most of that something is often trivial. Busy work.
It's a convenient coping mechanism so we don't have to face an empty or painful aspect of our lives. (Digital screens are another.) Ironically, busy is what keeps us from the significance and meaning we seek.
As a recovering busyholic myself, I recognize this pattern when consulting with chiropractors. I rarely hear, "I want to be helping an additional 20 patients a week." More likely it's, "I'd like to be busier."
Far more helpful:
Know your purpose - Focus on activities that produce high impact and personal satisfaction. Delegate everything else.
Say "no" more often - Decline off-purpose opportunities. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Be still - Be more and do less. Be 100% present. Invest in the time to just listen.
Besides a convenient substitute for knowing our purpose, simply being busy can obscure our lack of clarity about our intent. Chiropractors making the greatest impact have coherence between their purpose and intent.
Less Appropriate Intentions
Here are some unhelpful intentions that I've seen hamstring chiropractors:
Wanting to be liked. The distinction here is the difference between being friends and being friendly. By all means be friendly. Just avoid saying and doing things hoping to please the patient and "win them over." Instead, show up as a compassionate truth teller. They get to decide whether to believe you, trust you or value your advice. What is within our purview is to tell the truth. Then honor the patient's choice—even if it's not the choice you'd make.
Getting the patient to follow your recommendations. By all means offer up your best care plan designed to produce the optimal effect in the shortest amount of time. But that's where your responsibility ends. You are not their parent. Nor are the choices they make a reflection of you, your skill or reputation.
Using adjustments to treat symptoms. This is a far too common intent based on the influence of insurance carriers, recent chiropractic college training and blurring the distinction between medicine and chiropractic. Once you intend to reduce the patient's symptoms with adjustments you've veered into the practice of medicine (alleviating symptoms) without a license. It's what put countless chiropractors in jail before licensure. Would your headache or back pain patients go down to the courthouse to post bail for you? Just saying.
Measuring success based on symptomatic improvement . When you treat symptoms using adjustments, you've surrendered your purpose to something you can't control. Namely, if arousing the self-healing capacity of the patient by reducing nerve interference will produce measurable symptomatic improvement. And whether it will happen before exhausting the patience of the patient.
Whether patients show symptomatic improvement in the time frame they've imagined or budgeted or not, is a huge burden to assume. Sure, you get the dopamine hit when the patient's body cooperates. But when it doesn't, for countless reasons outside your control, you get the blame. True, chiropractic works so well you don't get the blame that often. But why be seduced? Tell the truth.
Projecting your health values onto the patient. Imagining that pain relief patients want true health is among the most common hallucinations. When chiropractors project their health values onto patients it rarely ends well.
Many take on the task of winning over recalcitrant patients. They imagine that a video, lecture, X-rays or scary report of findings will convert the patient. Besides being manipulative, you've become a bully. Keep in mind that patients always start and continue (or discontinue) their care for their reasons, not yours.
Pursuing an outcome other than the patient's. A good example is chiropractors who try to sell patients on the objective of restored spinal curves. The chiropractor may salute this objective, but rarely do patients. I'm guessing you don't get patients calling for their first appointment in the hopes of restoring their cervical curve. This is a major disconnect.
Instead, deliver what patients want so you can earn the right to explain what they need. Don't take the limited value they place on their health personally.
More Appropriate Intentions:
What might be healthier, more sustainable intentions? Here are some to consider:
Reducing nerve interference. Granted patients don't set their first appointment with you in the hopes of reducing nerve interference. Instead, they have an ache or pain they hope a back doctor can alleviate. But just because that's their intent doesn't mean it has to be yours! This is where telling the truth in a gentle, compassionate way can be liberating. I promise patients won't storm out of your consultation room. More likely their surprise will be followed by intrigue. Many will be attracted by your passion and clarity—especially if you reassure them that while you won't be treating their symptom, you've helped a lot of people with symptoms just like theirs. Cleaner.
Offering a new meaning for their symptoms. It would be helpful to uncover the patient's theory of what is responsible for their symptom. What meaning are they attaching to their pain? Many think the pain is their problem. Reframe their headache or back pain as a crude language their body is using to communicate that a limitation has been reached and a change needs to be made.
Supplying explanations that give context to your intervention. Most patients think your adjustments are treating their symptoms. As in, cervical adjustments treat headaches and lumbar adjustments treat low back pain. And if you're "putting the bone" back into place, why does it take more than one adjustment? And why three times a week? Why not five? Or one? Or twice daily? Clarify the rationale for your recommendations. Remember, just because you tell them, it doesn't mean they understand you or believe you.
Outlining the patient's responsibilities. Unlike medicine, chiropractic is a partnership. You have a job and they have a job. If you're inclined to copy medicine's inclination to show up to heroically rescue patients, you might neglect to explain to patients their responsibilities. Why? Because most patients, trained by their experience with medicine, expect you to do all the heavy lifting. Singlehandedly. This causes many patients to assume a passive role. Like getting their haircut. Just remember that while you can assign home care duties, you have no control over whether they will perform them or not. Or even whether they will tell you truthfully that they did or not.
Caring in a professional manner. Patients expect you to care. The key is to have crystal clear boundaries. Their problem is their problem, not yours. You'll want to show interest, compassion, empathy and concern. Just avoid the temptation to take on their problem as your problem. Advise, recommend and encourage. That's it. The key is to care, but don't care too much.
Avoiding the credit for success. When you arouse a patient's ability to self-heal by reducing nerve interference they're likely to credit you for the results. Careful. Not to minimize the considerable time and expense you invested to become a chiropractor, the real hero is the patient. Not only their willingness to give chiropractic a shot, but having the self-healing capacity that could be unlocked with your adjustments.
When you have clarity about your intention(s) and they are understandably communicated to patients, a practice can flourish. It empowers you to have greater impact in several ways:
Decisiveness – With a North Star to guide every situation, making the choice between this and that takes only a split second. No hemming and hawing. Being grounded and centered is a quality that patients can immediately sense. Your certitude sends an inspirational message of hope that enhances their healing.
Timing – Many chiropractors overlook the fact that time is the primary inventory of their practice. Many think the fee they charge is the key to success. No, it's how you use your time. Time is a finite resource. Your fee is not similarly bound.
Those who sell their time rather than their talent put a self-imposed cap on their income and the number of people they can help.
It astonishes some chiropractors to learn that in some practices patients willing pay a rather robust fee (usually cash) for a 30-second check or adjustment. Once you sever the link between how much time you spend and the clinical outcomes that result, entire new vistas open up.
Presence – It's unlikely you'll pull off 30-second adjustments if you're handicapped by a lack of presence. The ability to remain present, in a healing consciousness, patient after patient, requires a rare mental focus. It takes years of practice and discipline to filter out everything but the patient in front of you.
When you're able to be more fully present, your higher amplitude permits shorter visits without shortchanging the patient's experience.
As you can see there's more to being busier than simply being more fully occupied.
Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 chiropractors each week.