One of my larger challenges was learning how to manage myself. Before I could find sustainable growth, I had to get out of my own way. As you will see, it is a familiar challenge that affects most of us.
My Self-imposed Roller Coaster
As a solo practitioner, I found that I was caught in what I came to call my “self-imposed roller coaster.” This process often complicated my life more than it needed to. Generally what would happen is that I would get busy with seeing clients. I didn’t return calls until I had so many holes in my schedule looked like Swiss cheese. Insurance claims did not get filed until my income was suffering or a client was complaining. I would not return a referral call until I was embarrassingly late and then would have to apologize and sometimes miss an opportunity that would have been to my benefit.
I’m pretty sure I found every conceivable method of failing to do what the business demanded. Why? Because I found those demands very inconvenient. I fought complying with them out of my own desire to not be controlled by the business. Learning to manage myself took a while.
My bad pattern
All these failings had the pattern that went something like this:
A. At this point in the cycle, I would work hard to do the right things.
B. Good results would occur generally within weeks to months.
C. At this point, I would believe that I was “too busy” and so ease off or ignore doing the right things.
D. I would continue to fail to do right things by rationalizing with thoughts like, “Things are going pretty well right now. I deserve a break.”
E. Noticing that things are not going as well, a panic would set in, sometimes to the point of wondering whether the business was going to survive.
F. This panic would motivate me to start doing the right things again, and the cycle would repeat itself.
I lived with this basic pattern for years. I had to learn a few things. Truly it was a painful process with many false starts.
What the business demanded
Part of breaking out of my self-imposed roller coaster was the recognition that I was letting myself off the hook. I would say to myself that I was “too busy” to do what was needed at the time. Truly I was lying to myself. I was not “too busy”. Rather I was prioritizing the more pleasant over the less pleasant. My choices were based on what I liked or felt competent in and not on what the business needed. When I faced that my angsty roller coaster was truly self-imposed, then I was freed to look more honestly at what I was failing to do and why. Only then was I able to change my priorities. (For more on what business demands see: The boss’s boss or the unrelenting business demands in mental health practice.)
Learning to manage myself
Facing my messes meant learning how to control the parts of me that protested at prioritizing less pleasant or unfulfilling tasks. Just because something was not fun, rewarding, or I wasn’t good at it was no excuse. I had to learn to contain those inner voices that sought fun or fulfillment over all else. Rather I had to learn do the right things for the business all the time. My feelings could not drive the process. The business could not afford to wait until I was “in the mood” or “had the energy.” The business demands needed to be addressed on their time frame and not mine.
Interestingly, as I got better at quelling the inner protests and managing my priorities differently, I discovered enjoyment and fulfillment beyond what I thought was possible. For example, I discovered the satisfaction of seeing colleagues grow and develop within the organization that we had built. And I found great satisfaction in seeing that together we were having a much larger impact on our communities than I could ever have had alone. Yes, pushing through was not always pleasant, but the outcomes were worth it.