Ever work so hard at getting to a goal and find the path rough or perhaps even unmanageable? If you’re like me, or just about anyone for that matter, you would love to hit your goals with a fast, smooth path. 

In this article, I will cover six tips on how to do this, and to make it more fun and memorable, I’ll put a twist on it! Here is the twist: ever wonder what motorcycle riding and hitting goals in your practice have in common? Keep reading, as I think you will be surprised at the insight you will find, and I bet it will help you with your goals!

Target fixation vs target identification: We all know we need to have targets or goals to hit in our practice, right? We also know we need to pay close attention to these targets or goals. While we need to keep track of them, there is also a danger in getting “target fixation” if we develop tunnel vision, rather than our goal being “target identification.” 

So what’s the difference? Ever see something in the road you don’t want to hit and you have stared at it? Of course you have - we all have! Hopefully we learned from it and stopped doing it. If we want to look at this as a higher level/higher risk example, let’s look at riding a motorcycle on a track. You have a finish line you want to cross as quickly as possible, right? We are going to call that finish line the target you have identified, meaning you know it’s out there; maybe you can’t see it, but you know you want to cross it, and preferably as fast and smoothly as possible. 

practice management dental tips

Sound like a dental practice? I mean, you set long-term goals you can’t always see immediately, right? I hope so. Diving deeper, both are often fast-moving or at least have a lot of moving parts and could be considered high-performance machines when doing their best. 

So if we think about our finish line as our long-term goal, we also know there are bound to be some obstacles along the way that we will hit if we are not careful. So what do we do? Ignore the hazards? No, of course not! We have to identify them and at the same time realize that if we fixate on them, we will hit them. So what do you do? The answer is simple.  

Widen your view!  What do I mean by this? Well, we have this great thing called peripheral vision. It works great to keep track of things you want to navigate around. Think about driving down the road and that pothole you want to miss. What happens if you stare or fixate on it? You hit it, right? If, on the other hand, you identify it but don’t fixate on it, you keep it in your peripheral vision, and you can simply watch it go by as you move along.

Reference points:  These are the sub-goals we identify along the path that we need to use to guide us to our ultimate target or goal. The key here again is that we identify, yet do not fixate on these points.  To do this, you need to look ahead and identify these different reference points as you move along, remembering that if you fixate on any one point too much things are going to get way less smooth. The key here is to move each reference point or sub-goal to your peripheral vision as soon as you know you are going to hit it and start looking towards the next (and, in some cases, the next few) reference points or sub-goals. 

To illustrate this, think driving or riding through a turn. If we break it down, you have the point you are going to start to break, then the point that you will start to turn, then the apex of your turn and your exit point, and somewhere in there you will get back on the gas. That’s a lot of different points at which you need to be doing different things, right?

So how does that turn look if you’re looking ahead as you identify each point (and the point after it, before you get to it) versus waiting to actually get to each individual point before you look for the next? One is smooth and the other is choppy at best. As a safer example, you could try walking through your home only fixating on one point at a time - it’s awkward, and you might even trip over something or take your shin out if you fixated too far out. So don’t do it in your practice! Looking ahead is not only smoother, it’s safer too!

Looking forward, not back: While we need to be mindful of our history and what worked and didn’t work in the past, we also have to realize what we can control and what we can’t.

If we look at riding on the track again while we pay more attention to our own history and learn from it, we also realize we can’t do anything about what’s behind us. In fact, this is why you see either mirrors that have been removed or taped over on the track. You can’t do anything about the rider behind you, and to focus on them is waste of time and attention. You need to be looking forward so you can control your path. The translation to your practice is: pay attention to what’s worked for you in the past while keeping your focus forward and in the direction you want to move.

A good team makes you better: This one is quick and easy – sure, you can do a lot by yourself. Yet you can do more, better and faster with a good team.  Every top-level rider has a pit crew and guess what every great dentist needs? A great team. 

Get coaching; How do you get better? Coaching, of course! Again, this one is super straight forward. Ever see a top-level performer of any type that did not use some form of coaching to get there? I didn’t think so!

John R. Carson, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Visiting Faculty and contributor to Spear Digest.