Insanity Is Repeating the Same Behavior…

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straightjacket… and expecting different results. It’s a favorite saying of mine, which I used to have posted just above my desk as a reminder that if I wanted to improve my work (or my life!) then I needed to take a fresh look at what I was doing and make adjustments. It’s a similar sentiment to another favorite saying of mine which is: If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Both these sayings came to mind this week as I responded to several advocates and almost-advocates about challenges they were having.  A sampler:

  1. One APHA member contacted me because – once again – she had spent an hour on the phone with a potential client, only to have that person say, “Well, thank you. You’ve been a big help.  I’ll call you if I need you again.”  But – no contract. No paid work. Her question to me, “What am I doing wrong?”
  2. Another APHA member contacted me because he had been asked, yet again, to help a potential client with a service he didn’t offer.  He wanted to know what he was doing wrong. Should he go back to school?  Or was something wrong with his marketing?
  3. A non-member who had applied for membership months ago, but had received a reminder from me because she had never paid for her membership, wanted to know what kinds of jobs I could guarantee her if she quit her job.  She hates her job, but can’t afford to go without one.  She’s willing to send the dues, but only if I could guarantee she would get a job because of it.
  4. A PACE member is just an inch away from launching her practice.  Everything is in place, and she has even received a few phone calls from people who wanted to hire her.  But she turned them down because she hasn’t yet paid for her advocacy E&O insurance.  She just isn’t ready….  She asked me what she’s missing.

It’s not a huge leap to see why those sayings above came to mind as a result of these conversations. In each case, these folks are stuck in a rut. In each case, they are making their “same old, same old” choices. As a result they keep repeating the same behaviors…. Member #1 is stuck because she keeps giving away the farm. Instead of proactively looking for ways to improve the outcomes from phone conversations, she is just complaining, then doing the same thing all over again.  She needs to sit back, realize that there must be a different way to handle these phone calls (because other advocates seem to convert them to paying clients just fine!), and begin looking for resources to help her figure it out. (In this case, her resources are this article: Conversation Strategies for Engaging a Client, and The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook.) Member #2 is stuck because he thinks he has to “do it all” all by himself. He hasn’t made the leap yet to the idea of working with subcontractors.  Once again, instead of trying to solve the situation, he’s grasping for alternatives to his current knowledge base or thinks he needs to change his marketing.  What he really needs is to collaborate with someone who already has the expertise he lacks.  In this case, his resources are to identify others who can contract with him (do a search at the AdvoConnection Directory to find them, find the contracts and forms needed on the APHA website, listen to the podcast about working with subcontractors or learn the “rules” for working with subcontractors using The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook.) Contact #3 is stuck because she is unwilling to figure out how to get out of her current situation. Many people changing careers look for ways to balance employment with going out on their own, no matter what new career they are choosing.  That situation is not unique to patient advocates!  But as anyone reading this post knows, there is no guarantee of a job anywhere, least of all in advocacy.  (Further, neither AdvoConnection nor the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates offer any employment at all.)  Truth is, if this person can’t figure out how to make the shift herself, using her creative thinking capabilities and her willingness to work harder than she has ever worked before, then she may not be cut out to be an independent patient advocate anyway. Finally, Member #4 – this advocate is stuck because her head won’t let her make the leap – and that’s it. I’ve written before about the Paralysis of Analysis – and that’s precisely what this advocate is faced with.  The greatest rewards come from big risks – and she just needs to make the leap.  There’s nothing anyone can do to help her – she just needs to do it.  But she continues to behave the same way (denying herself the leap) because she thinks that’s more comfortable than the unknown of what’s on the other side.  She’s getting what she’s always got. Are you faced with similar kinds of dilemmas?  Are you stuck in a rut that’s not getting you where you want and need to go? If so, here are a few alternative points of view to get you thinking:

  • Take a hard look at those parts of what you ARE doing that either aren’t working, or aren’t working the way you wish they would.
  • Figure out what needs to happen differently.  It might be that you need to handle a type of client differently, or you need to answer an oft-repeated question differently.  It may be that you need to charge more money (or less) or keep track of expenses differently – anything at all.
  • Find a resource to assist you, like another person, a “how to” article, a website, a book, a business coach, or anything in between. APHA members should just begin poking around the site to see what’s there. I guarantee you there are resources you have yet to uncover.  As for finding other people – that’s when the Networking Center comes into play.  Post in the Forum or set up a Pop Up Conversation.
  • Then act!  Change that behavior!  It’s the only way you can truly expect different results.

It’s true – some people would rather choose the insanity of repeated behavior than let themselves expect – and therefore earn – those different and wonderful results! But among those who have learned how to make the adjustments they need to make by seeking out the resources and support they need – they are (OK – let’s invoke Nike now) just doing it! – THEY are the winners who are building successful practices, and helping patients find great outcomes everyday.

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FOR PATIENTS | FOR ADVOCATES | FOR POTENTIAL ADVOCATES

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