As the Christmas season winds down and the new millennium gets under way, most of us fall into the ritual of making New Year's resolutions. We think about what we would like to accomplish for the coming year. Many of us resolve to lose weight and exercise more; some of us make a pact to quit smoking or spend our money a little more wisely, or to spend more time with relatives and loved ones.
In addition to the personal resolutions we make, some of us look beyond our immediate surroundings to see how we can make changes that will affect our livelihood. We set goals for ourselves. "This year, I'll see 10 more patients a week." "I'll join an association." "I'll subscribe to a new journal and keep up on what's happening in my profession."
While most of the goals we set are easily obtainable, we often dream about what it would be like if we had the power to correct some of the issues that divide and hold back our profession. What would you do if you had the chance? Would you have acupuncturists be licensed in every state? Would you give us the same rights as MDs and chiropractors? Would you make acupuncture and Oriental medicine part of everyone's health benefits? Would you increase our scope of practice so that we could see patients when we want, without having to get a referral from someone else?
Mark Victor Hanson, a co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, has a somewhat unique way of looking at dreams and goals. Unlike most of us who only jot down two or three ideas (and then usually forget about them a few weeks later), Hanson encourages his readers to write a list of 100 goals for themselves and to adjust those goals from time to time.
According to Hanson, there is a big difference between a goal and a dream. A goal, he says, is a dream with a deadline.
Effective goal setting is the groundwork for success. When you claim something as a goal, no matter the scope, you are stating that you have the confidence and commitment required to make it happen. By establishing clear goals, you are programming your brain to be more aware and to notify your conscious mind of the information and opportunities available to help you achieve what you desire.
In the summer of 1999, I, along with a few other people, had a relatively simple goal: we wanted to publish a monthly newspaper for the acupuncture profession. It was something we had dreamed about for years. We realized that dream when the first issue of Acupuncture Today was published last January. We've modified our original goal by adding an electronic version of the publication (acupuncturetoday.com), and we plan on maintaining and expanding that goal for many years to come.
Getting Acupuncture Today up and running was a personal goal that took years to achieve. I think the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession should likewise set some short- and long-term goals for itself.
One short-term goal I would like to see achieved is for every licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Oriental medicine join some type of association, be it state, local or national. This is a symbiotic relationship in which both parties can benefit.
Associations gain strength through increased membership. With increased membership (and therefore, increased revenues), associations would have more political power. They would be able to market the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to a larger audience and offer more benefits to their members.
Providers also gain by joining an association. In addition to the normal benefits of membership (such as discounts on products and seminars or a free newsletter), being part of an association gives you a chance to network with other practitioners. This increases your referral base and improves the lines of communication with acupuncturists in your area.
Another goal (one that may take several years to come to fruition) is a greater effort by the leading acupuncture and Oriental medicine organizations to work together to address the issues most important to our profession's success and growth.
Recently, a brochure for a one-day conference came across my desk. The conference centered on the exploration of professional opportunities arising from a new proposition passed by California's voters in last year's elections.
I looked at the brochure and noticed that representatives from the state medical and nursing associations were listed, as well as the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. Noticeably missing, however, were any representatives for acupuncture and Oriental medicine. A valuable opportunity to provide information on who we are and what we do was lost, if for no other reason than the failure of our organizations to seize that opportunity and make sure we were adequately represented.
Remember that acupuncture is not yet recognized throughout the U.S. There are still several states in our country that don't even have basic licensure laws. Many of the laws that have been passed are so limited in scope that they aren't allowed to practice some of the procedures they learned in school. And while some states stipulate that insurance companies must include acupuncture in the basic health plans they sell to employers, most do not.
These problems could all be solved if the handful of national acupuncture and Oriental medicine organizations in this country could set aside their differences and work toward a common goal (or goals). The challenges facing our profession now - scope of practice, licensure, managed care, competition from MDs and chiropractors - are far greater than the contentions that have separated us in the past. We must work together to fight acupuncture's battles side-by-side. We must learn from each other and replace the bitterness of past differences with new relationships and shared experiences.
We have come so far in the past quarter-century, but there are still many goals to be accomplished, and many dreams that have yet to be realized. Let your excellence come forth. Be compassionate. Respect each other. Agree to disagree. Look for a common band that will bring you and your fellow practitioners together. Work with each other, not against each other. This is how we will help the world. This is how we will achieve our goals and, in time, see our (and the profession's) dreams come true.
Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.