Moments of self-doubt have halted progress for all of us. Questions like “Should I open a private practice?” and “Will I be successful?” can cause significant worry and stress. Some are plagued by such questions more than just briefly; they are incapacitated by self-doubt for life.
Most get past the barriers of self-doubt that stand in the way of decision-making and personal and professional progress. What strategies have they implemented for overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of making clear, confident decisions?
It helps to “know thy enemy.” Three obstacles that stand in the way of making firm, confident decisions are fear, confusion, and mind-set.
Look Fear in the Face.
Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill identifies six basic fears that hold many people back, fears that keep one from making a firm decision. Three in particular rear their ugly head early on in life and can persist if not confronted.
Fear of Poverty — The fear of making a “wrong” decision that will lead to financial challenge can be paralyzing. You can’t think about not losing and expect to win. You can’t think about not being poor and expect to be financially successful. You have to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. A fear is a goal in reverse. It’s focusing on what we don’t want, thus making it the object of our action. That’s why fear is so dangerous and so paralyzing.
The cure for fear of poverty is to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Focus on the picture of success, what you want and what it looks like. Ignore the what ifs…
What if I run out of money? What if I don’t have enough patients?
What if the bank won’t loan me any money? What if I can’t pay the bank back if it does loan me money? What if? What if? What if?
Planning for the unexpected is wise, but that type of planning has its place, only after the decision has been made to pursue what is wanted in the first place.
Fear of Criticism — Approval addiction, the need to be liked and approved of by others, is a rampant disease in dentistry. In an industry where sentiments of “I hate the dentist” are heard on an almost daily basis, the desire for approval can be intensified to the point of causing decision paralysis.
You would be a lot less concerned about what people think of you if you knew how seldom they do! Self-centeredness leaves little time to think of others. Even in a day of being obsessed with social media likes and followers, most really do not give much thought past the split second of a click.
Besides, there’s one opinion that matters most, and that’s yours! If you are going to entertain any fear of criticism, prioritize the criticism you would have of yourself for not making a decision that’s in alignment with your own values and vision.
Fear of the Loss of Love — This is another form of approval – addition or fear of rejection. We naturally want the approval of those who are nearest and dearest to us. Millennia ago when the human race lived primarily in tribal communities, exile was the sure sentence of death. Without the protection of the tribe, individual extinction was almost guaranteed. There was no such thing as the self-made man or woman. Each depended on the other for survival. The instinct to stay connected is as much a part of us as our arms and legs.
Modern science reinforces the fact that connection is essential to our survival. Harvard University researchers have identified the one over-riding factor that has a bigger impact on longevity than any other. It is not diet, exercise, or low cholesterol. It is having long-term meaningful relationships. So the fear of the loss of love is a real thing. Fortunately, you get to choose whom you love, so choose carefully and work at it. It matters!
Once you have addressed the fears of poverty, criticism, and loss of love, it’s time to tackle the next two obstacles that stand in most people’s way of making a decision: confusion and the wrong mindset.
Confusion Dissolves in Research
Before Dr. Wick Alexander became one of the most wellknown orthodontists in the world he had to decide where to open his private practice. Wick knew he wanted to practice in Texas, but he wasn’t sure where. With only a map in hand, lacking the tools of today’s market research and on-line apps, he set out on a cross-state journey to survey different communities firsthand, talk to the people, and meet other orthodontists and dentists to figure out the answer to his question.
By the time he arrived at his conclusion, his final decision was fueled by the confidence he had gained from months of research and mountains of facts. With the courage of his convictions, he knew it was the right move. He had done his research; he had walked the land so to speak. Decades later, he has proven it was the right decision. With nearly four generations of patients, Wick has accumulated one of the richest databases of patient records in dentistry. His original patients, their children, and now their grandchildren have been his patients. He has served his community and dentistry has benefited from his initial and ongoing research.
The Wrong Mindset
In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author and psychologist Carol Dweck identifies two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes that the hand they are dealt is all there is. They just have to live with it. A person with a growth mindset believes that nearly everything can be changed, improved, or grown; the starting point is exactly that, a starting point, and it can only get better from there. The fixed mindset tends to settle; growth mindset strives and thrives.
Decisions are harder to make with a fixed mindset because the underlying fear is that once the decision is made, it cannot be changed. That’s why the questions of “Will I be successful in practice?” or “Can I own a successful practice?” are symptoms of a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset believes that environment has more control than ingenuity or effort, so it is paralyzed with the fear of making the wrong decision.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, looks for good initial conditions to build on. It knows that there is no perfect decision or set of circumstances and that every situation is an opportunity to grow, progress and improve. Those with a growth mindset have an easier time making a decision because they know that there is no decision that cannot not be improved.
Which is Your Mindset?
It is a choice, not a condition. Choose to face your fears, do thorough research, and develop a growth mindset and your future decisions will be much easier to make.