Getting through scary times

by Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Lettuce."
"Lettuce who?"
"Lettuce not lose our confidence during scary times."

What follows is an excerpt from a letter that I received from Dan Sullivan, right after the events of September 11. Dan is the founder of The Strategic Coach Program™. The intention of the letter is to support your creative thinking, communications, and leadership in the scary times ahead.

1. Forget about yourself; focus on others. Fear can drive people into themselves, making them feel isolated and helpless. The best strategy here is to go in the opposite direction, expanding your connection with others. Focus on helping them transform their negatives into positives. The more you contribute in this fashion, the less you will need to worry about your own situation.

2. Forget about your losses; focus on your opportunities. Things you had, things you took for granted, may have disappeared. Some people never get over this. They keep trying to replay their old games. A better strategy is to start an entirely new game, using new ideas, new energies, new tools, and new resources. A big opportunity is suddenly available now for achieving far more than you ever did in the past.

3. Forget about your difficulties; focus on your progress. Things may not be as easy as they were. The new difficulties will either defeat you or reveal new strengths. Your physical muscles always get stronger from working against resistance. The same is true for the muscles in your mind, your spirit, and your character. Treat this whole period of challenge as a time when you can make your greatest progress as a human being.

4. Forget about the "future;" focus on your today. The "future" is an abstraction. It doesn't exist except as an idea. The only future that has any reality is the one that you continually create for yourself through each day's contributions, achievements, and results.

5. Forget about who you were; focus on who you can become. Many people define themselves by external circumstances. When these abruptly change, they don't know who they are, so they keep trying to be who they used to be. From now on, take your cues from the inside — from your dreams, ideals, values, and operating principles. These never change, regardless of the circumstances. Take advantage of the present external confusion to become self-directed, self-managed, and self-motivated.

6. Forget about events; focus on your responses. When things are going well, many people think they are actually in control of events. That's why they feel so defeated and depressed when things turn bad. They think they've lost some fundamental ability. The most consistently successful people in the world know they can't control events. These people continually work towards greater control over their creative responses to events. While things are uncertain is an excellent time to focus all of your attention and energies on being creatively responsive to all of the unpredictable events that lie ahead.

7. Forget about what's missing; focus on what's available. When things change for the worse, many desirable resources are missing — including information, knowledge, tools, systems, personnel, and capabilities. These deficiencies can paralyze many people, who believe they can't make decisions and take action. A strategic response is to take advantage of every resource that is immediately available to achieve as many small results to make as much daily progress as possible. Then, your confidence will continually grow.

8. Forget about your complaints; focus on your gratitude. This is one of those times when everyone has to make a fundamental decision: to complain or to be grateful. When things turn negative, the consequences of this decision are much greater. Complaining only attracts negative thoughts and people; gratitude creates the opportunity for the best thinking, actions, and results to emerge. Focus on everything that you are grateful for — communicate this — and open yourself each day to the best possible consequences!

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? — Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via email at paul@paulhomoly.com. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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