Your Thoughts Are Things

Your Thoughts Are Things

After I published a recent Burleson Report: A Weekend Update for Orthodontists, a private client whom I consider a friend and mentor to many of the younger members in my coaching groups, Dr. Ron Barnett, wrote me a kind note, thanking me for the insight in the articles and echoing something he’s taught his employees for years: “Your thoughts are things.” I couldn’t possibly agree more.

Every great invention began life as a thought. The iPhone or Apple device you’re likely reading this article on, began as a simple thought in the mind. If Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do,” then I’d like to take it a step further and suggest that we do what we repeatedly think. Our thoughts literally build the actions around us that shape our lives.

In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers at the University of British Columbia examined the power of our thoughts to determine our actions. In the study, 154 Parisian men were were given alcoholic beverages in the exact same quantities of vodka, fruit juice and Red Bull Silver Edition. But, the drinks were labeled as “vodka cocktail,” a second as “fruit juice cocktail,” and a third as “vodka-Red Bull cocktail.”

After consuming the drinks, participants were given three tasks: playing a gambling game on a computer where they won money if they inflated a balloon a little farther without popping it, rating their likelihood of approaching 15 different women at a bar based on their photographs and finally describing how drunk they felt and how long they would wait before getting behind the wheel of an automobile.

Not surprisingly, the placebo effect of “knowing” they had consumed vodka and Red Bull, even though all three groups had the exact same ingredients and quantities of each ingredient in their cocktails, showed a clear trend with the Red Bull group taking more risks with the balloon group, reporting they felt more drunk, being more confident in approaching the 15 women and reported the would wait longer before they got behind the wheel than all of the other subjects.

This new study links to a large body of evidence about the placebo effect. The altered behavior in this study was “not because of what the drink contains, but because of what you believe it does to you.”

How often do you allow the placebo effect and your thoughts to impact decisions in your practice? Do you rush out and buy a new gadget for the clinic because you believe every competitor in town has one and is taking your new patients away because you’re not using one? How does your belief in that product impact your perception of the results?

If you just bought a new $20,000 digital scanner, will you tell yourself it’s more comfortable for the patient even though you don’t notice a difference in patient behavior or clinical outcomes? Could the same be noted for self-ligating braces, direct vs. indirect bonding, computer-assisted treatment planning, etc.?

What if a new competitor opens in your town. How does that news impact your confidence in making important decisions about your office hours, staffing, product and service mix, training and value creation?

Your thoughts are powerful things. They have the ability to impact your behavior and create everything (good and bad) inside your business. Protect them, question them, give them room to wander and, at all costs, hold them accountable to produce the results you want. Otherwise, change your thoughts.

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