Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we?
Yup, I said it. And we all experience it - maybe even more so now, with the pandemic and looming uncertainty. In these crazy times, you can bet your bottom dollar that people are making panicked decisions, which are certainly not always the best.
But I’m not here to tell you to stop experiencing fear. Heck, I won’t even try to give you “The Top Ten Ways to Overcome Fear” like you may be seeing elsewhere. I’m not going to do that because it’s not necessary, nor will the whole get-rid-of-fear-altogether thing ever actually work.
I’m here to tell you that fear is actually a gift.
Yes, a gift.
It may not be wrapped in a pretty bow or labeled with a big Amazon smiley face on your front porch, but it’s a gift nevertheless.
Let me tell you why.
See, fear is powerful, like a bull. And if harnessed properly, it can be steered in ways that are positive, uplifting, and driving your progress.
But it’s tricky. In times like these, when there’s a pandemic raging across the globe and people are overwhelmed, uncertain, and affected in ways they never anticipated just a short time ago, it’s easy to let fear overrule anything else.
It’s in these times that you have two choices. You can either panic or plan.
As you read this, you might be biting your fingernails down to the nub and thinking, HA! Too late, I’m already panicking, Eric!
Well, don’t worry, my friend. I’ve got you. I’m going to share a process to help you slide from panic to plan - should you choose to take this path (and I certainly recommend you do, for the sake of your sanity...and your finger-nubs).
Well, what is it? Tell me now!
It’s based on a practice from our friend Tim Ferriss called Fear-Setting. The reason why I’m talking about it and not just kicking you out to go learn it from Tim, although his stuff is great and you should definitely read it (after this post of course) is because I’ve got a unique perspective on fear-setting that is first-hand and specific to our dental-industry. So, as a dental professional, you’ll definitely want to hear how this practice has worked most effectively for me and my coaching clients, whether they’re solo practitioners or mega-groups.
Let’s do it.
A Bit About Fear
No matter how big your business, leadership is necessary — and leaders are either taking action inspired by fear-based panic or a plan.
Fear is one of the most powerful forces in our universe. And it’s not by chance or accidental. It exists for a reason. I believe that fear exists to force us into transition, into action, to escape it. As humans, our natural inclination is to move away from pain and move towards pleasure. Well, fear is painful, so to move away from it we must do something, make a change, and elevate ourselves from where we were before.
Think about it.
How driven were you to make changes in you life when everything was easy? Probably not very. I mean, why would you? Everything was sunshine and rainbows.
We’re experiencing something no one ever has right now. And because of it, we have the chance to reach new heights that no one has ever seen.
And fear is helping catalyze that opportunity. That’s why it’s not a problem, it’s a gift.
The Fear-Setting Process for Dentistry Professionals
The concept of fear-setting is to face your fear head-on, so it shifts from being dangerous and painful (and working against you) to extremely powerful and profound (and working with you). To do this, there’s a nifty step-by-step process. Here we go.
Step #1: Name Your Fear
The first step is to name your fear. Give it a name. Like in one of my favorite all-time movies The Neverending Story, when Bastian realizes that all he’s got to do is call out the name to make the craziness stop.
Name the fear, put it out there, and establish what that fear really is.
When you’ve got your brain on spin-cycle with a full load of negative thoughts and fears, it’s hard to reach in there and grab just one to assess. The idea behind defining your fears is that it allows you to pick them out, one by one, and lay them out on paper so you can really give each one a good examination.
When you’ve got your fears trapped on the page, you can own them.
Don’t cheat yourself here. Go deep. As you write your fears, ask yourself, “And what else?” to dive into your truest emotions and pain points. An accountability partner, business associate, or advisor can help you get under the surface to really call them out.
Step #2: Prevention
Now that you’ve got your completed list of fears, take the time to think about what you could do to prevent each individual one from actually happening. List out the action items you’d need to take and don’t stop writing until you’ve exhausted all the prevention measures you can think of for each individual bullet.
Trust me: You don’t want to skip this step. By forcing your brain to think in this organized way, you break its pattern of frantic fear-based worry and allow it to shut-up for a second so you can sort everything out.
Step #3: Repair/Response
Enough dominoes have already fallen at this point in the economy, so you may already need to repair and respond to challenging situations that have already happened or are happening. And repairing and responding is applicable to every fear, including death.
For example, the response (it’s safe to say there’s no repair) to death would be insurance for your family, estate planning, and a succession plan.
You can’t plan for everything. That’s life. Many successful dentists out there have been blind sighted by this pandemic, just like the rest of the world, and now they’re needing to repair and respond quickly in a situation no one in our lifetime has ever experienced.
It’s tough. No one expected this. And no one’s still living their Plan A. But that doesn’t mean your Plan B can’t be even more beautiful.
Identifying the Cost of Inaction
Now that you’ve got your fears defined, you’ve broken down all the possible modes of prevention, and you’ve figured out some possible repairs and responses, you’re probably feeling much better already.
After all, instead of your fears running amuck in your head they’re now neatly lined up right in front of you where you can see them. And now maybe a path, or even just a shimmering hint of one, is starting to emerge from your potential repair and response list.
it’s time to go into phase two.
This is where it gets real because this is where we talk about the cost of inaction.
Challenging situations and getting caught completely off-guard sucks, but remember that these situations are what allow us to grow in a way we never could’ve if life was always easy-peasy.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re the taking-action type of person. Even so, do this exercise with me. Now that you’ve completed your lists in phase one, consider if you did absolutely nothing.
Quantify the cost of inaction.
What would happen? Is it any better or worse than if you took any of the repairs or responses you listed above?
Like I’ve said before, this moment in history is game-changing for the dental industry, which wasn’t perfect to begin with. This challenging time is forcing us to reconfigure for the betterment of ourselves, our practices, and our patients. We are being forced to change our behaviors and the way we do things, and we can either ride the wave that’s here anyway or get pummeled by it. Our choice.
Personally, our practices were doing just fine with the way they were. But we had our ways and our traditions, and this pandemic has forced us to look at what no longer serves us or our clients so we can be better on the other side.
So, don’t get overtaken by panic. Control your media intake and take the time to focus on getting your mindset balanced so you can take powerful calculated action. Name your fears, work out your prevention measures, and map out your repairs and response. Take ACTION — because the pain of inaction is way worse.