Entrepreneur and public speaker Seth Godin once said, “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance over and over again.” This is especially relevant for DCs who are just starting out, or who are facing adversity in their practice. Anticipating failure can negatively affect business decisions and hinder your ability to care for patients. By using visualization and other techniques, learning to overcome anxiety can benefit both your health and your practice.
A few years after starting his practice, 2001 Life University graduate Carl Amodio, D.C., found himself looking forward to his regular Tuesday afternoon patient: William Harris, D.C., the university’s legendary supporter and benefactor. “I had the privilege of learning from his wisdom like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’” says Amodio, a sole practitioner at Whole Body Health in Roswell, Ga. “He had such a strong mind and was so focused on the positive. He talked to me about life, about starting out as a chiropractor and about how to be with your patients and how to pay attention to their needs. He was an angel on my shoulder.”
Harris, who had grown up poor during the Great Depression, was extraordinarily focused on continued learning. Even into his 80s, he was constantly looking for ways to improve the chiropractic profession. He believed that the mind is the most powerful tool when it comes to success. “He talked to me about the power of visualization, imagining what you wanted your life to be in order to create it,” says Amodio. “For him, everything was about being your optimal self. He recognized that negative emotions could have a deep impact on your physical health.”
Any high-performing individual—from small-business owners to chiropractors, athletes, executives, artists and entertainers—can sabotage his or her success in any situation with self-limiting belief systems. Negative thoughts can also take a toll on our health. “What we need to do is identify what those limiting beliefs are, eliminate those destructive thought patterns and then replace them with empowering thought patterns,” says Amodio. “Subconsciously, you have to be OK with being a successful doctor, exchanging services for money and being established in your community. If you are worrying about debts or attracting new patients, you are going to be hindered in your goals.”
What causes limiting belief systems? The subconscious remembers patterns of behavior and programs responses to how we react to different situations. “We want to respond to something positively rather than react negatively,” explains Amodio. “Reframe your thoughts. It’s not a ‘problem’—you have a ‘situation’ that needs to be addressed.”
In order to reframe your thinking, you must first identify what is causing your anxiety. Maybe, for example, it’s a lack of patients, your office location, insecurity over your business acumen, a heavy debt load from starting your practice, relationship issues in your personal life or your own unaddressed health issues.
To assess whether a person is emotionally congruent with statements about career success, Amodio asks that person to make a positive statement related to career like: “I am confident when speaking to audiences about the benefits of Chiropractic.” “I am ready, willing and able to have a successful chiropractic practice.” (Success should be defined and quantified based on the number of new patients to see in a day, week, or month and/or amount of income goal to make in a certain time period.)
“Dr. Harris was a strong proponent of setting goals, writing them down, being specific and then tracking them day to day with a chart or graph that showed your progress—measuring outcomes and then making adjustments if the outcomes were not what you originally desired,” says Amodio. “One of the things Dr. Harris taught was to have a visual representation of your goals with charts and pie graphs so you can see where you need to be, where you are on the path and what you need to do to get there.”
The next step is to identify the negative emotion and the underlying negative belief system that is causing the undesirable behavior or feelings. The triggering event is then eliminated from the subconscious using a simple, non-invasive technique. These emotional blocks, which our bodies store in different organs, are then deleted, much like deleting a corrupted computer file.
Amodio, author of the forthcoming “Optimize You: New Hope for Healing and Health,” warns: “Without getting rid of your negative thinking, you’ll operate in survival mode. You’ll make decisions based on what you need to do to make ends meet rather than making long-term decisions based on the health of the practice. For example, you might feel pressure to have a high-volume practice, but as a result you are not able to spend the time that’s necessary to build long-lasting relationships.”
Richard E. Shook, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Life University and a licensed psychologist and counselor, says that too often we allow our anxiety and depression to steal not only moments of our lives, but also moments in the lives of people we could be healing. He subscribes to the tenets of acceptance and commitment therapy designed by Steven C. Hayes, who suggested that people be mindful of anxiety or depression but commit to moving forward in their lives anyway: “Anxiety and excitement are closely related. Anticipation can be a building block to get a person moving. It’s the way you frame it.” Shook is also a proponent of visualization and positive psychology. “Positive images can energize our goals,” he says.
There are thousands of living examples of this philosophy in the chiropractic community. Thomas Taylor, D.C., graduated from Life University in March 2012, and after extensive demographic research, opened his practice in Summerville, S.C., a small town near Charleston in July 2012. “My wife is an educator, and we were looking for good schools where we could start a family and a state that has good laws for chiropractors,” says the New Orleans native, who grew up in a single-parent household with a “mother who was a very positive person. You had to be positive. She always found the best in people and in any bad situation and accentuated the positive.”
Because Taylor wanted to establish a family practice that focused on women aged 25−65, he selected a small, health-conscious town, with lots of walking and biking trails that was attracting retiring baby boomers. “My approach to all things is to turn anxiety into a positive emotion similar to excitement. I try to look at stressors as challenges,” he says. “I’ve seen over and over again that you attract more positivity in your life if you focus on the positive rather than worrying about space or the loan you applied for.”
Taylor has been living this philosophy for most of his life. While in high school, he contracted transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, and was paralyzed from the waist down. While he was wheelchair-bound, he used visualization to learn how to walk again. He’s since found visualization to be a powerful tool to help him overcome every obstacle. “The way my office looks and how my practice is going shows the power of positive thinking,” says Taylor. “It looks remarkably like what I visualized years ago. I’ve read Napoleon Hill and all kinds of authors who have talked about positive thinking. I’ve seen it manifest in my own life.”
About six months ago, he hit some roadblocks in his practice. “In those moments you can choose fear and you’ll attract more negative outcomes, or you can pray, stay spiritually grounded and focus on your vision,” he says. “Everything we do is focused through that lens.”
Similarly, Chris Warsiniak, D.C., who graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in December 2007, has used visualization and meditation to smooth the transition once he joined his father’s Somerville, N.J., practice in February 2009. Although his father was supportive and made it attractive for him to join the practice, the two often butted heads in the beginning. While the father was focused on the personal injury side of the business, the son loved being around athletic teams and sports chiropractic. “Talking to lawyers gives me indigestion. The biggest challenge was that we graduated at such different times,” says Warsiniak. “We’d have some heated discussions about patients. Ultimately, I’ve learned to pick my battles and respect his seniority.”
To reconcile the two different worlds and make his dream practice take shape, Warsiniak meditates and visualizes what he wants to achieve or create. He usually starts the day with an hour devoted to reading, meditating and working out. “It calms my thought processes and allows me to clear my mind and be focused. That’s especially important in the early years to have in mind what you want to correct. Nothing ever goes according to plan, but focus allows you to make sure you are aligned with your purpose in life and you love what you do.”
The end result can be powerful beyond measure, both for you personally and for the chiropractic community as a whole. The history of the profession is rife with people, like William Harris, whose positivity benefitted others. Throughout his career, Harris donated more than $11 million to chiropractic education and research, and The William M. Harris Foundation has donated more than $7 million to Life University, including some of the funding for the William M. Harris, D.C., Center for Clinical Education. By visualizing what was possible, Harris dedicated his life to Life University’s principle of Lasting Purpose: To Give, To Do, To Love, and To Serve – Out of a Sense of Abundance.