Could Your Practice Use a Little Discipline?
I have been writing a book about starting a practice, and as I have been honing the framework of what I want to say, the word discipline keeps coming to mind. Discipline is a loaded word for me. It conjures images of rigid formations and punishment for infringements of rules. It reminds me of harsh school teachers and the worst of organised religion.
I am learning Spanish. I don’t have a particular gift for languages, but I like the sound of the language and I love learning. I also like to travel abroad, and some familiarity with other languages is always a benefit. So despite my minimal innate gift for the Spanish language, I persist. I try to do about 15 minutes every day. I’d like to say I do it faithfully every single day, but I do miss the odd one. However, the consistency of my application is paying off. In other words, the discipline is working. My memory for the words and phrases is improving, and my tongue and ears are slowly winding themselves around the foreign sounds. I still have a long way to go before I am ready to be let loose on the unsuspecting Spanish population, but even I can see that I’m better than I was a year ago.
Anyone who has ever set out to learn anything knows that consistency of application is a key factor in mastering anything, whether it’s a new language, a sport, a craft or hobby. And consistency requires discipline. When you set out to become a therapist, it was the same story. You learnt the basics, and then you practised, adding in nuances, skills and techniques along with your understanding of the theory and the experience of your own personal journey, until you had mastered the art.
So although I dislike the word discipline for all the reasons I set out above, I still hold that it is a useful concept. In the context of a therapy practice, we all employ discipline in relation to the client work. We turn up at the agreed time, we work in an appropriate way, we create and hold boundaries, and fulfil the obligations of the role as well as the subtleties of the work.
In the same way, we need to apply a discipline to the tasks of running and managing the practice, to establish processes and structures that support the smooth running and operation of the practice, and then apply them with a discipline that supports the practice. We also need to apply discipline to learn those skills which would support our practice, but which we don’t yet have.
Often, I see that therapists easily discipline themselves when it comes to meeting their clients’ needs. However, when it comes to the needs of their practice, they can find it much more difficult to apply themselves on a consistent basis. All sorts of things get in the way. I know this first hand from my own experience. I find it hard to be enthusiastic about the tasks that no-one sees except me, or that get pushed to the bottom of the list because they make me uncomfortable, or I dislike doing them.
And yet, often these are the ones that will pay off most in the end of the day, because the discipline of doing them calls me to grow into someone or something more. Whether it’s learning something about marketing or technology or working with figures, doing it once is not enough.
When I started writing this blog, I agonised over every last word, comma and sentence. But as time went on, the regularity of the activity of writing brought more ease to the process, and also more inspiration. The discipline of sitting down regularly to write, and the consistency of posting gave me confidence and helped to flush out my hidden resistance. The more I write, the more the topics suggest themselves to me. But the hidden benefits from the discipline reach much wider and deeper than that. Writing has helped me to clarify my point of view, to become clearer about what I’m trying to achieve, and to become much more comfortable with allowing myself to be seen. In turn, this has made me more confident in my therapy work, and helped me to identify blind spots I didn’t know I had.
Imagine if the same could happen as you spent a little bit of time each day or each week learning a new skill to support your practice? What would you choose? Where might your practice benefit from a little discipline? What aspect of running or managing your practice might be in need of a little bit of growth?
If I can help you to identify an area of your practice where some discipline might let you grow or develop, please contact me here. I look forward to talking to you!