Happy practice step 3: Money

Earlier in this series I suggested we change our beliefs about ourselves and what we are capable of accomplishing. In this segment, I propose we change our beliefs about money.

Barry Polansky, DMD

Earlier in this series I suggested we change our beliefs about ourselves and what we are capable of accomplishing. In this segment, I propose we change our beliefs about money. In 1913, Arthur (Pop) Momand, a cartoonist from Cedarhurst, Long Island, introduced the popular phrase, "Keeping up with the Joneses." His cartoon strip ran for 28 years. His theme became a way of life for most Americans.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, "I never did a thing in my life for money." Few dentists can say they've never thought, "If I didn't need the money, I wouldn't take on this patient, do a certain treatment, or allow a third party to dictate treatment." Oh, how we compromise ourselves for money!

Does it have to be this way? We all know money can't buy happiness. But we also know we can be very unhappy without it. Maybe that's why Dr. L.D. Pankey advocates balance in both material and spiritual rewards in his advice about how to find happiness in dentistry.

I know many doctors who purchase brand-new sports cars right after graduating from dental school. I have nothing against Porsche, but I hope the thrill of the new-leather smell lasts after they go to work for the insurance companies. The joy from obtaining a material object can't make up for the drudgery of work we find meaningless. If we wait until we think we have enough money, our freedom from such work may never come.

Getting a better handle on the way we think about "enough" and on how we run the financial aspects of our practices might well be the first step to freedom. There's nothing wrong with rewarding ourselves, but not at the expense of selling out. There is plenty of time for the Porsche if you decide you really want it.

Even if you never overcome your fear of not having enough (let's face it, most of us always carry a little around with us), you can manage both your fear and your finances. W. Clement Stone, a philosopher who writes extensively about success, once said, "If you cannot save money, then the seeds of greatness are not in you." Getting control of your resources is the first step to creating a practice that will become the main source of all of your future happiness. The ability to save, manage, and invest money is a skill that must be learned.

Dr. Thomas Stanley, the author of the bestselling book, "The Millionaire Next Door," says that the average American adult spends only two or three hours per month thinking about finances. The average affluent American, in contrast, spends 20 to 30 hours per month thinking about money. How many hours do you spend? When we start thinking about money in a productive way, we can make our desired futures a reality.

I've observed that the most successful dentists spend as much time working on their practices as they do working in their practices. These dentists create budgets and adhere to them. They are cognizant of exactly how much money their practices require and set goals to cover their expenses. They view their practices as living, breathing entities. Of course, in order to fulfill the financial responsibilities of their practices, they must become very disciplined and take control of their resources. The financial discipline these dentists exhibit is what allows them to practice freely.

There's an old saying:
Sow a thought and you reap an action
Sow an action and you reap a habit
Sow a habit and you reap a character
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

The discipline we need for money management is defined through our practice systems. The many systems we put together define our practices. Next month, I will discuss some of those important systems needed to develop a happy practice.

Barry Polansky, DMD, practices dentistry in Cherry Hill, N.J. He is a member of the Visiting Faculty of The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education and author of the book, "The Art of the Examination: Why Patient Care Goes Beyond Clinical Correctness." Dr. Polansky also publishes a monthly newsletter titled Private Practice, and he may be reached toll-free at (866) 428-4028. Visit his Web site at www.drbarrypolansky.com.

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