The Life Unlived.

The Life Unlived.

Adam Phillips is a brilliant writer, psychologist and regular contributor to The London Review of Books. The closest I can come to the kind of people who think at this level, is that they let me subscribe to The London Review of Books. Barely.

Although I don’t agree with Phillips on a lot of issues, I take particular delight in his assessment of couples who come to him with a desire to change something about their partner. He says, “It is not unusual for each member of a couple to know exactly what is missing in their partner; and to know, by the same token, how their lives would be different, that is, so much better, if their partner would change in particular ways.”

I see this with clients and the relationship they have with their businesses. They live as if they know more about the experiences they haven’t had, than they do about the experiences they have had.

They speak in great detail and with great longing about more new patients, employees who perform better, patients and colleagues that respect their work; how life would be easier and how it would make them happier. And yet, when I ask about the existing data in the practice, they can’t provide itThink about that for a moment.

Smart doctors sit across the table from me and pay me tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege to do so and for my assistance in helping them achieve what they want to achieve, but they are completely disconnected from the reality of the situation, while simultaneously recounting to me in vivid detail all the benefits and pleasure they will derive from something that has not yet happened and might never happen.

Listen. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward. We can’t help ourselves. Simply realize that when you do, something in the present moment is always being overridden.

Make your list tonight. Where in your practice and in your personal life are you overriding something important in the present, so that you can day dream about what might happen in the futureFreud might label many of the things on your list as “repression,” or the burying in oneself of what one prefers not to know or feel.

In 2008-2009, when I met Dan Kennedy, I knew I needed to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t rely on general dental referrals to grow my specialty practice. Yet, it had taken me nearly three years to come to that realization.

I was burying in myself the fact that I was horrible at positioning, marketing, managing a business. I just wanted to work on teeth. Dan told me there was a simple solution: to get out of business and go work for someone who knew how to do the things that really mattered. Wow. That stung but he was absolutely right.

Some doctors are pissed off at the fact that their future hasn’t arrived by now, but I think they deserve everything in their lives, both good and bad. Harsh but true.

A powerful solution is to bridge the gap between what you’re looking forward to and what you’re burying in yourself that needs to be known and felt.

Get to work.

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