In a recent survey by the North Carolina Dental Society (NCDS), the #1 concern facing dental professionals right now is Work/Life Balance. The stress to find balance is the greatest concern for all professionals, stay at home moms, students, and others. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has declared stress a hazard of the workplace.
I saw first-hand what the stress and pressure of running a dental practice had on my dad. Shortly after a dinner with my parents at UNC Chapel Hill during my senior year of college, I received a call from my mom that would change my life forever. My dad had collapsed from a massive heart attack and died in my childhood home in High Point.
In the midst of the grief and devastation, my dad’s words from dinner that evening kept running through my mind; “Audie, I can’t handle the stress. I just can’t handle it.” He wanted less stress. He wanted something different.
Sadly, when dentists and other professionals want to address work stress and “to turn the ship around,” it can feel like turning the Titanic. They do not know where to begin. I will give you a place to start; ask yourself, “Is my life really working at the level that I want right now?” Let’s consider the elusive goal of Work/Life Balance that everyone is chasing. Now, take a moment and do a little exercise. Please stand up and balance on one foot. What are you actually doing? Are you “balanced?” Or are you “balancing?”
You’ll notice that the muscles in your leg, ankle and foot are actually straining and adjusting because you are actually in an act of balancing. A better description would be that you are “counterbalancing,” meaning that your muscles are firing on and off to keep you from falling. The point is, the Work/Life Balance sounds like an endpoint when in fact, it’s a process.
So let’s get started to help you get Work/Life Counterbalance! Here’s part of the simple process when we work together:
1. Make a list of everything you want. For example, work 30 hours/week, travel overseas, take four weeks vacation every year, a deeper connection with your spouse/kids, sell your practice, attract new patients….
2. Prioritize the list. #1 – create a deeper connection with my spouse, #2 – find/create a committed team, #3 – sell my practice, #4 – travel overseas, etc.
3. Describe the reason behind your #1 priority. For example… my spouse and I are ships passing in the night. If it continues it could lead to something that would be devastating to our family. I want to fight for my spouse and develop true intimacy with her/him!
4. Plan and execute the next step that you can take right now toward your goal, e.g. send my spouse a small gift along with an invitation to a special dinner date.
5. Keep up your momentum! Pick one thing and do it for 66 times to make it a habit. This will will reinforce your commitment to your Step 2 list: weekly 1:1 date with your spouse, 1:1 date with your children, read, practice gratitude, exercise, professional growth activity, etc. For example, you might pick exercising which could help you feel better and be more attractive to your spouse.
In the bestselling book The ONE Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan point to Australian researchers Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng who found “a kind of halo effect around habit creation. In their studies, students who successfully acquired one positive habit reported less stress; less impulsive spending; better dietary habits; decrease alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption; fewer hours watching TV; and even fewer dirty dishes.” If you sustain the discipline long enough on one habit, not only does it become easier, but so do other things as well. The point here is, doing the most important thing regularly makes everything else easier.
I wish my dad would have known this process, because he would have been here enjoying my daughters today.
Audie Cashion is a business consultant, Certified ONE Thing Trainer and Work/Life Balance Coach. He has a diverse business and time management background with 31 years experience in international consulting, coaching, real estate investing and brokerage. He earned a BA in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill. Audie currently lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and two daughters. He enjoys mountain bike riding, facilitating men’s growth groups, and speaking on Peace & Purpose through his educational nonprofit, the World Peace Center, 501c3.Speaker, Business Coach and Certified ONE Thing Trainer.