The Mentor's Mind column: "Growing Pains"

Many of us find change difficult so we avoid it at all costs. We tell ourselves we like our life just the way it is, and that becomes our justification for inaction. Why rock the boat? Yet, life gets stale and we yearn for growth and newness. What's a person to do? In order to embrace change, you must change the way you look at change. Change is an opportunity to create something new so that your life becomes more fulfilling. How wonderful is that?

Houseman

By Stephanie Houseman, DMD

Question: There are some areas of my life that I would like to make changes in. However, I'm not one who enjoys the process of change, and I find it easy to slip back into my old patterns. How can I see these changes through to completion?

Answer: Many of us find change difficult, so we drag our feet or avoid it at all costs. We tell ourselves we like our life just the way it is, and that becomes our justification for inaction. Why rock the boat? Yet, life gets stale and we yearn for growth and newness. What's a person to do?

In order to embrace change, you must change the way you look at change. Move away from the panic and fear that grips you. Change is an opportunity to create something new for you and/or your practice so that your life becomes more fulfilling. How wonderful is that?

Change involves three phases. First, you must take stock of what you want to change and explore what is stopping you from making those changes. Second, you have to answer the benefit question. Third, it's essential that you take action steps to bring the change to fruition (this may be the most difficult step).

Phase I: Grab a piece of paper and start writing. What are the changes you want to make? Be as specific as possible. Do you want to move into a new home? Describe in detail the house you want. Perhaps you want to change office locations or enlarge your current place. Design your dream practice. Or, do you want to incorporate new clinical procedures into your mix? Which ones? How's your health? If you're not feeling up to par and are lacking energy, describe the new energized you that changes will bring about.

Then you must become aware of what is stopping you from making these changes. Ask yourself these questions:

• What is happening in my life right now that is giving me the urge for change?
• What is it that I am resisting?
• What am I afraid of?
• What am I gaining from not making any changes? There usually is a payoff.
• What is my status quo costing me?

Phase II: Now ask the all-important benefit question: What's in it for me if I make the changes I want? The more benefit statements you come up with, and the more compelling they are, the easier it will be for you to make the changes. Paint the picture in all its glory of the "new."

What possibilities await you?

• An abundance of energy
• That feeling of contentment and well-being
• Increased production, referrals, and overall doctor, team, and patient satisfaction from a newly designed office
• Greater patient comfort and satisfaction from the new clinical skills developed
• Increased revenue
• More time with your family
• More peace of mind

Phase III: You are ready to rock the boat. Surrender to the change and begin to take action.

• Give yourself permission to proceed slowly — baby steps. Or, take one big step if that suits your personality better.
• Be patient with yourself. Rome was not built in a day.
• Make sure you have the right tools at your disposal to make the changes.
• Follow up with each action step. Is it working for you or not?
• Be willing to change direction if need be. That does not mean you've failed.
• Be open to feedback from others.
• Keep your eye on the prize (the benefits outlined in Phase II).
• Celebrate the successful change.

Change can be stressful, challenging, energizing, and revitalizing all at the same time. And yes, change can be painful. Yet, look at what is on the other side — growth, newness, and possibilities, all within your grasp. Go for it.

© 2008 Stephanie Houseman, DMD

See also Mentor's Mind column: "I'll Do It Tomorrow--Maybe!"

Stephanie Houseman, DMD, is the incoming president of the American Association of Women Dentists. She has practiced dentistry in St. Louis for 25 years. Dr. Houseman is married to a dentist, has two grown children, and understands all too well the demands we place on ourselves. Through her speaking, writing, and coaching, she now helps dentists and other professionals discover how to have more joy and more life in their life. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, creator of the 7 Steps 2 A Balanced Life Program™, author of "The Balance Beam," a weekly e-newsletter about balance and life, and the author of "Rings Around the Collar," her first book. Reach Dr. Houseman at www.7steps2abalancedlife.com or (618) 639-5433.

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