In his book Free Market Madness, Peter Ubel illustrates the risk many parents took in the 1970s by choosing not to vaccinate their children for polio. The main reason in deciding not to vaccinate was that 1 in 2.4 million could actually contract the disease from the vaccine. Parents overlooked the fact that the risk of contracting the disease, without the vaccination, was exponentially higher than 1 in 2.4 million. Yet, statistics don’t mean anything if you are convinced that your child could be the one in 2.4 million.

We all have a tendency to think more carefully about the potential harms of our actions than we do to the consequences of our inaction.

In the U.S. this week, we celebrate our 242nd birthday as a country. Certainly the founding fathers had much to consider in their action of signing the Declaration of Independence. At the same time, they had also considered the dire consequences of doing nothing. Luckily, they overcame their fears of action and dismissed the option of inaction.

How often do we make decisions in our own lives and in our practices that only consider the risks and benefits of doing something? Buying a new location, extending our hours, hiring an associate, investing in employee training and incentive programs, promoting the practice with more marketing, etc. All of these tend to strike fear in the hearts of most orthodontists.

But, it’s only half the story.

Instead of maintaining the status quo or staying the course, how often do you ask yourself what your practice (and our profession) will look like in 20 years as a result of our inaction?

One need not search far and wide to see profound examples. Dental insurance, corporate care, at-home delivery of clear aligners, Invisalign itself (they wanted to work with only orthodontists at first, until we decided taking action was too risky), etc, etc.

How often do you have your “RADAR up” and how broadly do you have it tuned so that you accept a wide variety of input that can help you consider not only the risk and reward of action but also the pitfalls of inaction? (e.g., How many orthodontists actually read Align’s quarterly SEC filings and earnings reports?) * Financial disclosure: I’m an Align shareholder

Here, in this place, my job isn’t to tell you what to do, but to help you thoughtfully consider how human nature and psychology shape your decisions. Your ability to solve the problems in our profession that have not yet surfaced and to answer the questions that have not yet been asked, lies in your ability to understand how choices are made – which must precede making them correctly.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.