Hey, chocolate chip cookie fans!

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

“Join me with free samples of the doctor’s homemade chocolate chip cookies in the optical from 3-6 p.m.”

Did those 18 words quicken your pulse? Perhaps cause you to smile?

Let’s get back to those chocolate chip cookies and the holiday you were too busy to observe (which was May 15, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day-something to mark on next year’s calendar). Smells and sounds trigger memories that often help us survive our worst days and lead us to form new habits.

Habits are comfortable behaviors that often save the day when our brains are somewhere else. For example, if I see free cookies, I will eat two before remembering any of the health reasons that should cause me to abstain. Stress can bring out bad habits, which can hinder goal achievement.

While stress comes from many angles, a lot of our anxiety comes from focusing on progress. Don’t get me wrong-measuring progress is an important step in goal achievement. But when we myopically focus on entering data, working up a patient, or neutralizing eyewear, we often lose sight of why we are pursuing our goals in the first place.

Even when we are passionately committed to pursuing our goals, we can become disenchanted by the reality of what it takes to get there. The fact is, the road to attaining any worthwhile goal is fraught with landmines, such as competing priorities and mental “busyness,” which take us off course from reaching our goals.

Steven Covey described taking time to focus as “sharpening the saw” and making room for the “rocks of life.” Peter Drucker used the analogy of a perfectly thrown football.  Charles Duhigg writes about the mind’s wonderful ability to reflect, ponder, and choose in his book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” Duhigg fleshes out the power of choice as mankind’s greatest evolutionary achievement. 

Reach your goal
Habits stand between where you are now and your goal. Especially when we are stressed or anxious, the power of our thoughts groomed into habits gives us the ability to operate on automatic pilot.

William James, (1842-1910) American philosopher and Harvard professor, summarized the brain’s ability to create habits as follows: “If practice did not make perfect nor habit economize the expense of nervous and muscular energy, he (we, that is) would therefore be in a sorry plight.”

From my own experience, I must confess changing a habit is not fun. Change, even when self-directed, feels uncomfortable, lengthy, and filled with anxiety. I find myself wondering if I have what it takes. “What are others thinking?” “Is this goal really in the cards?” This type of self-talk produces resistance and angst.

Bottom line: breaking an old habit and creating a new one will always be difficult. It’s crucial to at look at old habits through a scope of patience and perseverance. Once old habits are assessed, the creativity and cooperation process can pave the way for new habits to come.

The power of positivity 
Creativity and cooperation don’t come from nothing. Instead, we have to take a moment to intentionally “welcome” the positive. Patients are more open to following your recommendation of care and upgrading to premium lenses and eyewear when they are relaxed and in a good place. 

New habits create such an atmosphere. Just like serving a small sample cookie on National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, a little bit of effort in today’s task-focused world can create huge dividends of goodwill.

Deciding to create change versus reacting to events seems too simplistic, doesn’t it? I challenge you to direct your success using mind movies-seeing yourself doing the new task or project. Pair your visualization with a sound or a smell and increase your results.

Always look forward
If we are to grow as people, we must always learn new things, even it comes with discomfort. When we start to feel angst, that’s our cue to take a deep breath, reflect, and intentionally stave off our mental resistance.

An internet search of “Days to celebrate” provides a list of possible tie-ins that fit with your office culture and views of fragrant cut flowers, sugar, and health. Get excited about change by welcoming and acknowledging the discomfort as a harbinger of better things to come.

On that note, here are some upcoming small celebrations you can observe in your optical for a brighter work atmosphere:

June 1    National Doughnut Day (always the first Friday in June)
June 4    Applesauce Cake Day
June 9    National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day
June 12  National Peanut Butter Cookie Day and Red Rose Day
June 22  National Chocolate Eclair Day