I recently returned from a conference where a colleague spoke about what motivates dental patients (and people in general).

He shared that Johns Hopkins conducted a study of heart attack victims. Within twelve months of having a coronary event, ninety percent will have done nothing to implement a plan for long term, sustainable lifestyle change.

A Portland doctor named Dean Ornish thought he could reverse these disturbing ratios.

He gave 300 survivors a sheet of paper and asked them to write down everything in life they enjoy doing that they’d like to do more of, without limitation.

When they completed the task, Dr. Ornish said

Our job together is to make that happen.

Traditionally, patients were essentially told that, “If you don’t want this to happen, you must CHANGE or you will DIE.

The lesson here is that a ‘problem solution focus’ is ephemeral and for this reason, doomed to failure. It is the key factor behind the ‘yo-yo diet’ phenomenon, that is, why 85% of those who successfully achieve a healthy weight will gain it back within two years.

To effect lasting change we, as health coaches and professionals, must not focus on the opposite of an idea. In other words, we cannot expect anyone to “live with death on the brain” and be successful.  Put in Buddhist terms, instead of fearing death, why not trust life?

Changing ones frame of reference, for example, from life threatening to life giving, can make a huge difference in one’s prognosis.

And, we must constantly work on the frame we communicate to others constantly, as what we believe will frame our behavior too.

A good first step is to evaluate what is your and your dental team’s frame?  Recognize too that establishing and maintaining a positive frame is a process, not an event.  It represents a commitment to improvement that is continuous and never ending, the acronym for which just happens to be ICAN!

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by Danny Bobrow



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