Your Practice Choices Determine Your Success

Physician's Money Digest, February 2007, Volume 14, Issue 2

The most important choice you can make in your practice is not what drugs to write, what seminars to attend, or which IPO to join. The most important choice you can make is to accept full and total responsibility for every aspect of your practice. That is what separates successful from unsuccessful practices and superior from average doctors.

Resting It on Your Shoulders

Taking full responsibility for your practice means you refuse to make excuses or blame others. Instead, you focus fully on the best and highest use of your time as you develop your ideal practice. You set goals and measure your progress along the way. You work with a sense of urgency. Accepting responsibility makes you feel personally effective. It provides you with a tremendous sense of control over your life and your practice. You begin to feel capable. And you begin to create a practice you love to go to every day.

When you blame others, complain, or criticize, you give away your power. You weaken yourself and your resolve, and you give emotional control over to the people and situations you are focused on. But here's the irony: Even if you have abdicated emotional control by blaming someone or something else, you are still responsible. The only thing you have accomplished is to diminish your own level of control. You may begin to feel like a victim, which will further diminish your sense of autonomy and power.

Every situation—good or bad—in your practice is an opportunity to reinforce the fact that you are in control. This is an absolute necessity if you want to increase your income, increase your time off, and decrease your stress.

When you say, "I am responsible," you break out of the hypnosis of doubt and unhappiness. You are galvanized into action—you become focused on finding the best solution and implementing it. You switch over to macro thinking. You focus on your overall goals in practice: What you get and what you have to give in order to get it.

An Awkward but Powerful Exercise

Try the following exercise to accept more responsibility in your practice. Write down the reasons why you originally went into medicine. Tap into the emotions. Don't say "to provide high-quality medical care"—that sounds like a brochure. Think about how you saw yourself interacting with patients, staff, and community leaders; think about the kind of lifestyle you imagined for yourself and your family—go into detail. Don't prejudge your answers, just capture them as they were way back when you started.

Decide on the most important thing you could do to improve your current practice, the one action that would bring you closer to your "dream practice." It could be better patient satisfaction, more cohesion among staff, bringing on an associate, more time off, more income—whatever is meaningful for you.

Every day, before you go to the office, read the exercise above aloud standing in front of your mirror. The sillier you feel doing this, the more it will help you. At the end of every day at the office, reflect over the day's work, write down one action you can take that will move you closer to your primary improvement initiative, and resolve to work on that the next day.

David Zahaluk, MD, has been in primary care in the Dallas, Tex, area since 1998. He is the founder of Maximum Income for Physicians, a one-of-a-kind program that helps physicians find greater satisfaction and financial security from their practices. Through his teaching, consulting, and publishing, Dr. Zahaluk has helped physicians transform their practice lives by showing them proven formulas for practice building and staff integration.