Have you reached break point?

July 1, 2012
“Break point is what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change.

Control your practice or give up your future

Michael Schuster, DDS

“Break point is what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. We either adapt to the ways of today, or we fail. The currents of change are so powerful that they overwhelm institutions, shift our values, and cause people to become disoriented, fragmented, and paralyzed. Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.”

I often review Alvin Toffler’s words from his 1970 book, “Future Shock”: “In the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. Citizens of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, many of them will find it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes our time. For them, the future will have arrived too soon.”

The speed of change in dentistry has accelerated rapidly in the past five years. Approximately 90% of all dentists today are engaged in some form of managed care. Within the next five years all but a few “indemnity insurance plans” will convert to PPOs, as has occurred in medicine. We see three different groups of dentists:

Group I: This group is paralyzed. They are holding on to old belief systems from the ’80s and ’90s and resist change. Their revenues continue to decline, and they have done everything they can to cut costs. Advanced technical training makes little difference in this group. The distress and disorientation has put them into a fight or flight mode.

Group II: This group is going faster and faster in the wrong direction. Dentists in this group are ramping up, double booking hygiene patients, and buying expensive technology (and going deeper into debt) in an attempt to increase their production faster than the fees for services are being reduced. Dentists in Group II are out of time and they meet the breaking point in lost relationships at home and work. Disorientation and mental fragmentation move them further away from a natural way of living. Dentists in Groups I and II generally give away 30% to 35% of their net profit by reducing fees. The faster they go, the more disoriented they become. This group reaches a psychological and physical break point by being too busy and too fragmented. Their practices and lives are in chaos.

Taking action in the wrong direction always leads to pain, as well as emotional, physical, and psychological distress.

The breaking point is when you can’t take the emotional distress any longer. The good news is that the breaking point can become a turning point.

Group III: This group is going in the right direction. Most dentists in this group reached a breaking point when they said, “I just can’t do dentistry this way anymore.” The distress, the disorientation, and the feeling of being lost all lead them to the place I call the breaking point. Dentists in Group III decide to take action in the direction of more internal peace and take stock of their values. Remember, a person who has not determined his or her purpose has no real reason to form any kind of organization.

The best run companies know the exercise of going to work every day is fruitless without a purpose. When we practice in ways that don’t have meaning for us, we lose our purpose, and ultimately we lose our mojo.

You don’t have to reach your breaking point in order to create a turning point in your practice and life. Seems like most of us do, but others are more proactive. When people experience distress, chaos, and feel lost, they know that it is an important sign that they’re moving in the wrong direction.

Group III dentists are more alive and fulfilled. I see them living more energized and authentic lives through their practice of dentistry. Perhaps it has always been like this, but in these days of accelerated change, it has become more important to focus on what is real. Do everything you can to simplify your life and practice. Everything in this era is about making you go faster in an attempt to make your life more complex, when simplicity is the key.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, [your practice and your life], but not simpler.”
Albert Einstein

A practicing dentist, Michael Schuster, DDS, founded the Schuster Center in 1978. Guiding thousands of graduates to achieve wealth and freedom, the Schuster Center is the first business school created exclusively for dentists. Dr. Schuster is a cadre and former director at the Pankey Institute, and adjunct faculty at the Dawson Center, OBI, and LSU Cosmetic Continuum. He can be reached at (800) 288-9393, www.SchusterCenter.com, or [email protected].

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