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Dynamic Chiropractic Canada – May 1, 2009, Vol. 02, Issue 03
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Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

By Allan Freedman, LLB

Time is a relative matter. When we are very young, time goes by slowly and there is little consideration given to its passing. Even by the end of our teen years, there is still a lack of appreciation for just how valuable time actually is. But spend two, three or four years in undergraduate studies and then enter the world of chiropractic education; all of a sudden, time becomes a formidable foe. Packing 30 hours into 24 hours is a chore most students of a profession are required to attempt, yet none is able to achieve.

As you can attest, by the end of the four-year chiropractic program, it seems as if time has flown by - and yet an eternity of work seems to have been accomplished. And then life begins and you, as a professional, learn that all any of us has to rely on for our income and for the purposes of feeding our families is our knowledge and the time we can sell to our patients/clients. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

A professional life can start with considerable terror: how to attract patients to your office, how to cover all your expenses, etc. Knowing that it is not unattainable to treat 30, 40, 50 or even 100 patients a day, the question becomes what to do with the time when there are no patients. Giving full credence to the Chinese proverb, be careful what you ask for: In a short period of time, the newly anointed doctor of chiropractic will become busy dealing with patient and office issues. The patient base will grow and the time spent in practice, whether teaching, continuing their education or simply promoting the practice, will start encompassing the doctor's life. In fact, soon the doctor will be asking that all-important question each of us who has practiced our chosen profession for decades eventually asks: "Do I have a life?" Tick-tock.

I have come to realize that one of the benefits of being involved in a health care profession which embraces the concept of the body's ability to heal itself is truly understanding there is a balance in nature. If that balance is disturbed, chaos will result. Appreciating this concept is of enormous importance to every practitioner and should be important to everyone, regardless of their profession.

Almost all of us left our professional studies with mounds of debt. The obligations have been relative, the debts directly related to the cost of living in the decades in which you commenced your professional career. We all strived for success and a few of us might have been lucky enough to sustain a "life" in spite of the forces that directed us to climb the busy mountain of success.

Of course, the definition of success means different things to different people. To some, it is a matter of income. To others, it is a matter of collecting assets. To others still, it is the establishment of power, credibility or position. As it is said: "To each their own." But to some, the proverbial mountain involves a true balance: a professional practice, a good reputation in the community, service to that community, and a family with strong ties.

The chiropractic profession is blessed with countless individuals who have committed themselves to dedicated service of the profession while maintaining professional practices, providing service to the community and having a circle of friends and family. One might look upon these individuals and honour their commitment, envy their position or, more importantly, appreciate that their sacrifice is not based on DNA or some unique event that led them to become what they are. In many cases, their "success" in life is based simply upon their ability to appreciate that one of the purest and most valuable assets we have is time.

Each of us has been given the same 24 hours per day, seven days per week and 52 weeks per year. It is up to you to determine what is done with that time. Let no person rob you of your time or defraud you of its value. Whether you participate in charitable events; spend time with your children, spouse or significant other; write an article; read a book or watch television - that time is yours to spend. But what will separate you from your peers and bring you to the top of the success mountain is how you best spend that time you have been given.

It has been said that 90 percent of community service, whether within a profession or elsewhere, is done by 10 percent of the individuals. So, where are you? Look around and then look within. Ask yourself what you have done for the world around you. Did you just graduate? Have you been in practice five years, 10 years or 25 years? You may be collecting a good income or you may simply be paying back student loans. Perhaps you are collecting "things." But what have you done for others? Are you volunteering? Are you helping?  In short, are you a giver or a taker?

No member of any profession, chiropractic or otherwise, can or should be content with how they use their time if at least some of it is not given back. We are all asked for money. We are constantly approached by charities, and it is just and proper to dig deep and give. But anyone who can afford it can write a cheque. The money may well be replaced. But giving time is something much more valuable, since it can never ever be replaced. 

By now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with risk management and legal issues in chiropractic. After 30 or so years of acting on behalf of chiropractors and other health care professionals, I have come to appreciate the fact that those who appreciate what the profession has given to them, and who have the integrity and morality to give back and appreciate that life on Earth is a "time definite" experience, seem to excel professionally and personally. They appear to be more "grounded" in their approach to practice and life in general. Their understanding of professional standards and professionalism seems to exceed the minimum standards. Their practice mirrors their lives in general, and the results are of great benefit to their profession, their community and their family.

So, to all of us, two things: First, when visiting New York City, visit the Rockefeller Center, where you will see the following quotation etched in stone: "I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind, and only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free." Ponder those words and consider whether you have yet to walk through that fire. Second, give of your time. The chiropractic profession, the world and you will be the better for it.  Do it now, while you still have time. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Be well and be good.


Allan M. Freedman graduated in 1974 with a law degree from the University of Western Ontario and has been an instructor at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College since 1976. He can be contacted with questions and comments at www.allanfreedman.blogspot.com.

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