The Certainty of Change

By Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC
This is the third of a series of articles based on Dr. Sanna's book, Breakthrough Thinking.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Benjamin Franklin said, "Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." If Ben had a chance to revise his list, he'd certainly add change. Unfortunately, wet babies are the only ones who look forward to change. The rest of us are hardwired to favor predictability over surprise.

That doesn't mean change won't happen. We can get ready for change and accept it as an inevitable part of life, or we can hold our breath and wait for change to stop. Do you embrace change or are you more content with the predictable? Try the following exercise: Cross your arms across your chest. Notice which arm is on top. Release your arms. Do it again. Most people will do it the same way each time. Cross your arms a third time, but make sure the arm that's usually on top is now underneath (changing your usual pattern). How does it feel? Uncomfortable? Awkward?

For another quick assessment of how static (unchanging) you are, consider these breakfast tasks:

  • Do you always stir your hot drink in the same way?
  • Which hand do you use to lift the mug, and do you use the handle or not?
  • When you spread something on your toast, which direction do you spread it first - away from or toward you, left to right, or right to left?
  • After breakfast, do you travel the exact same route to the office every day?

Most people wake up on or inside of a box, eat their breakfast out of a box, ride to work in a box, work all day in a box, come home at the end of the day and watch the box, and then try to get their relaxation out of a cylinder! Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, did an experiment in which they taped four fingers on a monkey's hand down and flexed its index finger 10,000 times. When they removed the tape, the monkey continued to flex its finger. A pattern had been established.

You create the illusion of security through the patterns of your habits, attitudes and activities. You feel comfortable and secure in the "reality" that you have created. Experimenting with unfamiliar habits, attitudes and activities threatens this sense of security. Change creates the anxiety of ambiguity and the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty.

Mentally glance at your desk calendar and check where you were professionally exactly one year ago. What were the biggest changes you made or didn't make that have affected your practice during the past 12 months? You may well find yourself in a dramatically different situation from a year ago. It's not the changes themselves that have made the difference. How you dealt with transition and innovation is much more significant to your success.

F + F + A = Results

Activity doesn't equal results. If it did, you could put your fingers on a computer keyboard and start typing away without ever having taken a lesson. What you'd end up with is gobbledygook unless you placed your fingers on the right keys.

Results come from your personal involvement. The formula for success today is as true as it will be tomorrow: Focus + Feeling + Action = Results.

First, you need a focus for change. The focus of your change can be toward a goal or away from something that you are dissatisfied with. Focus on what you want out of life. Life will pay you whatever you ask of it. Then add feeling to the equation. Until your feelings reach an intensity you cannot bear, you will not change. Feeling is the fuel in the engine of change. Finally, take action to achieve the results you desire.

Change What by When?

You are always moving toward something you like or away from something you don't like. Identify three things you are moving toward or away from in your practice or personal life. Set a time frame of three months to complete this movement. Make beginning each change easier by breaking it into smaller chunks. Change is hard by the yard, but it's a cinch by the inch!

Reframe Your Experience of Change

One of the most helpful things you can do to embrace change is to learn how to "reframe" how you experience the change. Become open to interpreting what is happening from a different point of view.

Let's say you are frustrated with the constantly changing treadmill of reimbursement rules and regulations. Take a minute and list all of the emotions that you experience when you think of insurance reimbursement. There are 38,000 words in the English language to describe emotions. Most people will list fewer than 12 - and they still feel stressed! Reframing won't alter the situation, but it will alter how you feel about it. Alter your attitude toward change and you'll speed up the results that you produce.

You could say to yourself, "It's getting harder and harder to get reimbursed for the work we do." You could feel frustrated, angry and powerless. On the other hand, you could say, "I can't change this situation, so I'll attend a seminar on reimbursement to learn how to become more effective at it." Focus on the potential benefits that change offers you. Choose optimism over pessimism. Optimism is a learned trait. Successful people are relentlessly optimistic!

Change can be difficult to accept, but never more so than when it impacts our physical health. Fortunately, most of us will never experience the intensity of change that a chiropractor named Kyle confronted, but his example serves as an inspiration to anyone who is contemplating change. Over a decade ago, Kyle experienced a series of life-altering events that began with a routine visit to the doctor for an annual check-up. The doctor palpated a mass in his abdominal cavity and ordered a series of tests to determine the cause. The diagnosis was a rare autoimmune disorder, which had resulted in the uncontrolled growth of tumors on all of his internal organs. He was placed on the waiting list for a complete heart, lung and liver transplant operation. His prognosis was dire, and he was given only six months to live. This would be an insurmountable obstacle to most, but today, Kyle refers to his diagnosis as a gift, because these events "helped him to change his life for the better!"

Two months after diagnosis, while he was undergoing one of 15 surgeries to save his life, Kyle had a dream about his youngest son, Timmy. In the dream, Timmy beckoned to him to cross the finish line of a marathon race he was running, "You can do it, daddy!" he cheered. The doctors told Kyle he would never practice again, but he refused to accept their prognosis, and instead started his own rehab with Timmy, and his three other children, as his main motivation.

"With a lot of sweat and pain, I used visualization and whatever exercises I could do while lying in a hospital bed," said Kyle. "Timmy inspired me to go on, something I will never forget." Two years from the date of his first surgery, Kyle was back in practice, stronger than ever.

"I did a lot of soul-searching to find the positive in what happened, and as a result, I realized that I could share my personal story of accepting change to inspire others to overcome whatever adversity they may be struggling with." Kyle's perseverance and hope serves as a model for what it means to take action in our lives. In his words, "It's my way of not just talking the talk, but also literally walking the walk!"

Find Role Models

Be a change role model for your practice team, and find role models for yourself as well. Embrace change to show your team how it is done. If you want to bring change to your practice, learn how from someone who has already made the change you desire. Ask about every emotion that the person went through, and how he or she overcame the fears associated with the change. Enlist support, but not from people who will crush your plums. Family and friends can support or subvert your efforts. Discuss how the change will affect your life and theirs. Don't spring a big move on them and expect immediate support. If your friends and family cannot support your projected change, find a coach or mentor to serve as a trusted, impartial confidant. This will help you clarify your vision and move prudently in the right direction.

Commit to Embracing Change: F + F - A = 0

Focus plus Feeling without Action equals Nothing! Combine focused action with intense feeling and you will create breakthrough changes in your practice and your life.

Act! Accept that change is a lifelong process and that you cannot "control" change. Realize that you are not alone. Take the focused action with the intense feeling that change requires. The only thing you can control is your attitude toward change.

Mark Sanna, DC
Miami, Florida

Dr. Mark Sanna, a 1987 graduate of New York Chiropractic College, is a member of the ACA Governor's Advisory Board and a member of the President's Circle of NYCC and Parker College of Chiropractic. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching (

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