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Dynamic Chiropractic – December 16, 2009, Vol. 27, Issue 26

Are You Motivated to Shape Your Professional Future?

By Louis Sportelli, DC

I received several calls recently from officers of the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations (COCSA) because the organization is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

They asked for the names of some of the individuals involved in starting the original congress. Some of the names that came to mind were Dr. Malcolm MacDonald, who was the editor of the New England Journal of Chiropractic, which chronicled the tumultuous events of the times in a most incisive fashion; as well as Richard Vincent, Peter Flaum, Arnold Cianciulli, Marino Passero, Donald Moon, Ed Saunders, Richard Carnival, Jerome Auerbach, Rex Wright, and many other doctors who participated in the first COCSA organization meeting. Dr. MacDonald is still serving as a delegate to the American Chiropractic Association, and a number of those dedicated and fiery doctors are still active in the profession in some capacity, though some have passed away in recent years.

An Era of Apathy?

One of the COCSA officers who asked me about the early days of the congress later remarked that when he spoke to several of the doctors mentioned above, he noticed a passion and energy in their voices, and a clear dedication to their profession, that he has not experienced in discussions with current members of various organizations. I hear this lament regardless of whom I talk to - state association executives, national association leaders, alumni groups or convention coordinators. There seems to be an apathy that is simply unexplainable, particularly to those who are still very active and engaged in association activities.

My response is usually the same: It is not only chiropractic that is afflicted with terminal apathy. It is universal, from volunteer firefighters to Lions Clubs to chambers of commerce, and it seems that most of these organizations are having difficulty attracting new volunteers. I have tried to understand this phenomenon, and gain some insight into the thinking of individuals and organizations. Maybe understanding the basis of why people respond as they do could be instructive for all of us.

How to Change the Future

The Three Laws of Performance, by Zaffron and Logan, suggests that there are three laws of performance: 1) How people perform correlates with how situations occur to them. 2) How a situation occurs arises in language. 3) Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. Zaffron and Logan suggest that why you do things makes perfect sense to you, but when others do things, you ask, "Why are they doing that?" Essentially, the reality that arises from your perspective on the situation is the way the world appears to you. They suggest that people's performance will always correlate with how situations occur to them, which means the future is already written. Unless associations can change how things occur or are perceived by doctors, the predetermined view held by these doctors will prevail.

When people change how something occurs to them, they change their behavior. Much of the language used by associations and groups appears to represent things as they are, or have been in the past. We tend to look back to predict what will happen in the future. The problem is that you cannot create something new by describing what occurred in the past. Perhaps what we need to consider is using future-based language, which has the power to create new visions for the future and new possibilities for which to strive.

The best example of this kind of future transformative language is the "language of change" from the last political campaign. People live in the future they see, not the actual future they will experience someday. Unless associations and leaders alter their message to one of change, the message heard will be one DCs have pre-programmed from past experiences. We need to replace the current model of doom, gloom and despair with messages of hope, clarity and change chiropractors can believe in.

Learning From Our Mistakes

As a profession, we have experienced success and failure. The "old-timers," such as the dedicated individuals who started COCSA were not discouraged by failure because they had learned from the failures of the past. But as the profession began to mature and had more success, we did not learn as much from our failures. As we look at some of the events of today, we realize that our failures may actually have been some of the worst learning experiences we could have encountered.

There are some who blame others for failure, rather than taking responsibility. They never really learn the underlying causes of those failures and move on to other endeavors with the same predetermined results. Unfortunately, in the past few years, a litany of events has influenced the entire field as well as the associations who try hard to create successful programs.

Take, for example, the enrollment and mobilizing of patients for the national effort to influence legislation. This effort was destined to be hampered and impaired because there were two organizations essentially doing the identical thing. The message to the field was mixed and confusing. Any wonder why enthusiasm was less than wholehearted? That said, it is difficult to understand why all of the individuals affected by such a program would not participate in that program.

Why is there such dismal involvement by doctors in the field for something that will change the face of the health care delivery system? I don't have a good answer, but I am as curious as everyone else. Are we simply not reaching these doctors? Is there some hidden, underlying reason for nonparticipation by such a large percentage of our colleagues? Could the answer be simple? Is our leadership just missing the signs and signals?

Motivation: A Prerequisite for Participation

Perhaps this column could initiate some dialogue by those who are not participating; dialogue about how and why they feel like they do. What would it take to change their current mindset and motivation? What can be done to shift the paradigm of thinking from today's "I don't want to be involved" attitude to that of the pioneers of 40 years ago who are still working hard today?

Every association seems to be in the throes of budget crisis, declining membership, less participation and contributions at almost nil. Obviously, there are issues that require political action dollars to bring about change. There are, however, many things that paid lobbyists cannot begin to do, and participation by individual DCs in the process will speak volumes.

I can draw a distinction from now and 40 years ago, when we did not have funds to hire lobbyists and high-priced consultants. So much of the grunt work was done by volunteers. The message was clear to those we were trying to influence: It is important to our patients and to our profession to get this job done. The fact that we were willing to do it personally was heard loud and clear. Our patients were also supportive because they knew we took time to do what we were asking them to do. I wonder if the reluctance of patients to become involved is in direct proportion to the passion and enthusiasm of the request.

Whatever the reason for the lack of participation, it does not change the circumstances with which we are currently faced. The chiropractic profession is challenged in the new health care model by forces never before encountered. Our national and state organizations do not have the funds to adequately battle these forces. They do not have the funds because membership is down. Membership is down because there is no desire to participate.

Maybe the national and state organizations might consider how they can become more participatory in permitting the voices and comments of members and potential members to be heard and understood. We have moved on from the early days of COCSA, when telephone calls, letters in the mail and the monthly journal were the only news outlets we had. Perhaps we need a conference on how to reassemble the old Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, figure out their secrets for enthusiasm and passion, and create a new COCSA to incorporate the technology of today to reframe our tomorrow.

If you have any ideas, send them to me ( ) or your state and national association (whether or not you are a member). It's the only way this dialogue can begin.

Click here for previous articles by Louis Sportelli, DC.

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