Counterintuitive

There is no doubt that Rhonda Byrne, the creator of the mega-success, "The Secret," didn't just think her way to a successful marketing masterpiece.

by Barry F. Polansky, DMD

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There is no doubt that Rhonda Byrne, the creator of the mega-success, "The Secret," didn't just think her way to a successful marketing masterpiece. Her achievement took hard work, lots of contacts, mucho dinero, and a significant amount of time. Actually, if you want to know a real secret of success, it wouldn't be a bad idea to ask her how she did it. One thing she understood was that a burning desire for most people throughout the world is to find the secret to a successful life.

For most of us, the time is certainly ripe because Americans today really want to be happy (check out the titles of books these days). Baby boomers are searching for new meaning in life, the younger generations (Y and X) are more self-obsessed and want to find that meaning now and faster, and today's technology has really expanded and accelerated that desire.

Now, I have nothing against the self-help industry, but what I have found throughout my years is that everything worth doing actually does start with a thought. Oh, and by the way, that is the coveted "secret," that "thoughts become things."

The problem comes when creating the action plan to act on that thought. It usually takes three times the time, three times the cost, and a whole lot more ambition and drive than was planned. So, if you think you can become successful, just be prepared to "pay the price," as our old self-help friend Napoleon Hill used to say.

Hill, as you may recall, wrote the greatest self-help book of all time if you exclude the Bible. "Think and Grow Rich," published in 1937, is still on the best seller list. In that book, Hill didn't call it a "secret" of success, but rather a "law of success." Now that Hill's work is in the public domain, it's fair game to reframe his work — but it's really the same wine in a new bottle. The burning desire, the intangible thought that will transmute into its physical reality through the law of attraction, still requires great planning and great strategy.

One great strategy to attract success into my life that I have learned is to get a better perspective on time. Unhook yourself from the future, because you live your life in the present. We are most attractive when we're living in the present moment — not living in the future, or striving for it, or trying to repair the past. I don't mean to say that we should ignore the future; after all, most of us wouldn't be where we are if we didn't create goals or put money away for a rainy day. I am also not talking about being a hedonist, living just about the pleasure of the current moment.

When we give up our present for the sake of a future that is more imagined than anything else, we may lose out on some of life's greatest treasures, like building wonderful relationships or enjoying our work much more.

Most great football players have to have a very short memory. They have to concentrate on the present moment. In football, they talk about the Midnight Rule. This rule claims that if you lose a game, you have until midnight of that day to get over it. It does no good to dwell on the past. Practice the next day must become the present focus, because a well-lived present automatically creates a fulfilling future.

Break your rearview mirror

How many of you are "Chicken Littles"? He's the character who ran around like the chicken with his head chopped off, proclaiming, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling." Sure, he was a pessimist, but he was also out of the moment and concentrating on a future that he had no control over.

How many of us scheme to create new marketing plans that are put into effect only because we are worried about an uncertain future, rather than concentrating on what is right in front of us? We all know what Mark Twain said about worrying: "I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." Being a Chicken Little and a worrier certainly can add stress to your life — and that's not very attractive.

One of the areas that many dentists concern themselves with is overconcentrating on production goals. Now, I'm not saying that production goals aren't important, but so many practice-management consultants tell us that this should be our main focus. Stephen Covey is fond of saying, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." (What is your main thing?)

When our focus is on production goals, we are thinking way too much about the future and less on what is right in front of us: the patient and the work. By focusing on the present moment, you will automatically achieve financial success because you are taking care of the main thing. You will become more human, and that's the most attractive quality you can attain. You will begin to enjoy people more — patients and staff and the dentistry.

Ten ways to unhook yourself from the future

The following are 10 ways you can unhook yourself from the future:

1) Give up goals that are seductive. Let's face it — money is seductive. The million-dollar practice is seductive. When the future becomes far more interesting than the present, the destination holds more importance than the journey. As Cervantes said, "The road is always better than the inn." Our imagination about the future is always more seductive than the reality.

2) Perfect the present. I used to be a big violator of this principle. I was a big planner … always taking myself out of the present moment. I really bought into time management. These days, I am much more relaxed about focusing on the present. It's must less stressful, and I get to really know people a lot better. My examination process really stresses the present moment. Most time-management programs teach taking a long-term view. I would rather look at my daily tasks first, with just an eye on "the end in mind."

3) Stop watching television. The average American spends 40% of his or her time in front of the TV. That much TV can really suck a lot of time out of someone's life. People ask me how I get so much done. Well, here's the answer: I don't watch television. Well, maybe a football game each week. TV is seductive and sedative. Watching ads can only get you into trouble.

4) Stop motivating yourself. Hasn't anyone ever told you that you're OK just the way you are? Stop striving and giving yourself pep talks. These are forceful measures that can yield some positive results, but at a price.

5) Stop trying to become a better person. This is similar to the above suggestion. You're OK. I have written many times about going with your strengths. It takes so much energy to force through weaknesses because you think you're not good enough. Stop trying to become the perfect human being. Just being human, flaws and all, is what is attractive.

6) Stop overplanning. Sometimes vision is overrated. When the vision is so clear, we make stringent plans to achieve it. That was always my problem. Lighten up about plans, but still continue to move forward. A vague outline may be good enough to see how the future unfolds. When we are in the moment, we can respond much better. Things change, and remember what Einstein said: "The problems that exist in the world cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them."

7) Stop hoping. Once again, hoping is about the future. If anything happens, it won't be because you hoped so.

8) Give up future-based possibility. One day I will write about my son Josh. He is at UCLA now getting his master's of dental ceramics in Dr. Ed McClaren's program. His incredible story is one of "following your bliss." He never knew anything about his future possibilities. He still doesn't. He just takes it one day at a time … opening each door along the way … and so far so good. You wouldn't believe some of his experiences during his very short career.

9) Stop associating with strivers. You've been to those meetings, haven't you? They're fun for a little while, then they demand so much energy just to keep up. Many strivers view success very differently ... and not necessarily in a positive and fulfilling way.

10) Stop using if/when formulas. The words if and when imply the future. Take those words out of your vocabulary. Everything hinges on you anyway, so stop iffing and whenning.

Unhooking yourself from the future will have its greatest effect on your stress levels. You will be more relaxed around people. You will be more productive. People will be more attracted to you and you will create your preferred future without worrying.

Barry F. Polansky, DMD, practices in Cherry Hill, N.J. Author of the book, The Art of the Examination, and publisher of "Dental Life," he is on the visiting faculty of the Pankey Institute. Send him an e-mail at Bond148@aol.com.

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