Why Being In Control Can Either Give You Freedom, or Take It Away
It’s July, and from all of us here at DPT we are wishing you happy independence day. Owning my own practice, independent from the standards and practices of the insurance based system has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.
Each day, my staff is excited, and honored to be able to help people achieve their own version of independence and freedom.
When I was 16 years old, I remember telling my Uncle that this was what I was going to do. I was going to find a way to not only help people medically, but help them live a full life, where they could do what they want to do, without being held back by physical restrictions.
I had no idea at the time the challenges that I would face in doing so. I didn’t give them much thought, because in all reality my mind was made up and I knew that persistence would win the day.
The need for a clinic like DPT, really became apparent after graduation, once I started working at other clinics. The reality hits you like a smack in the face, when you have gone to school wanting to help people, and then you’re thrust into a system that focuses on high volume, and quantity of patients, rather than the quality of care you give them.
The more I practiced, I ran into even tougher situations. At one clinic in particular the owner would try to dictate the number of visits a patient would receive based on their insurance benefits, all done in the name of “this is what’s best for the patient…” I used to be frustrated at the owner for this, but over time I’ve realized that frustration was misplaced. After all, the landscape of insurance dictates that PT businesses are forced to a high volume game in order to survive.
This leads to clinic owners all around the US frustrated, because the only thing they can do to respond to rate cuts, is to increase volume. This is where I learned my first lesson in control.
Control can be a very good thing when focused within your circle of influence. But when we attempt to control things outside of our circle of influence, it leads to a life of frustration and anxiety.
When I started my practice, I thought we would accept insurance. In fact I tried hard to do so. There were unforeseen barriers that I won’t get into here, that caused me to shift within the first few months. Essentially I realized that I was about to join the game of being reactive, and that doing so would not allow me to control the most important thing that actually was within my circle of influence, and that is quality of care.
If my focus had been on starting a practice where I could easily get referrals from insurance companies and doctors because people go “where their insurance covers” then I would have been forced into the same high volume low quality game where quality was not in my control, and I would have to react to changes in insurance policy on a yearly basis.
Instead I chose to focus on quality of care, and although I’ve faced many challenges growing an out of network clinic, when my head hits the pillow at night I have no trouble resting easily.
The lesson here is that focusing to control things outside of our circles of influence leads to a life of frustration and being reactive, while focusing to control things within our circle of influence allows that circle to expand. As of writing this article, my circle has expanded significantly, and my clinic is proudly approaching our 1,000th patient.
Where in your life are you trying to control something outside of your circle of influence? Where could you instead focus your energy on achieving an outcome that makes all the challenges worth it?
The Role of Structure in Freedom
It’s almost comical our view of the world when we’re growing up. We can’t wait to be adults, so we have no rules. Only then to realize that upon becoming adults, that we’re the ones that have to make the rules for ourselves, otherwise we get nowhere.
The trouble is, we’ve spent most of our lives to that point following a schedule set by others, with rules set by others. We struggle to create a structure that allows us to achieve all of our goals. This applies to every area of our lives: relationships, health, fitness, finance, you name it. We often feel that success in one area means sacrificing in another, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
When we lack structure in how we want to achieve our objectives in each area, we’re at the mercy of whatever willpower we have remaining when it comes time to make a decision. You might be surprised to learn that willpower is actually a finite resource that is depleted throughout the day, so relying on your willpower to get you to the gym after a tough day at work will not work for everyone.
I often teach that you should work out and exercise so that you can be ready to do what you want, when you want to do it. I encourage you to train and exercise at a level above what you want to be able to do in your life, that way, when opportunity comes up, you’re sure to be able to take advantage of it. Not only that, but you can take advantage of it and not end up back in my office with an injury!
Where most people struggle with structure is rigidity. We create hard and fast rules without any flexibility such as “I will make it to the gym 5 days a week.” When something comes up and we can’t make that 5th workout, or even the 4th, we feel defeated and this affects the enthusiasm we had at the start.
What’s important to know about structure, is that it’s best done within a box. The box has boundaries and it’s ok to play within those boundaries, and go occasionally outside, but be sure to come back to the box. For example, in relationships, if you’re trying to have a date night with your spouse alone at least once a week, but you need to miss a day, just be sure to never miss two days in the same month. And if one month that does need to happen, don’t let it happen two months in a row.
Life has unexpected twists and turns, but having structure that’s built around what’s most important to you gives you freedom to work within the framework without feeling like you’re letting yourself or others down, and prevents you from feeling like your aspirations are an inconvenience.
Where in your life could you build some structure to better enable you to improve a certain aspect of your life? Where is your structure too rigid, forcing you to either feel guilt and anxiety when you don’t achieve it?
Make the decision today to let go of what’s outside of your control, focus on what you can, and build a structure that supports your happiness while achieving it.
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