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December, 2013

Knowing Your Gift and Understanding Your Why

By Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC

"WHY fit in when you were born to stand out?" — Dr. Seuss

As a chiropractor, you already know that people hire based on relationships. The better you know and express your personal brand, your WHY, the more successful you will be. The challenge is most people don't even know that they have a brand – or at least don't think of it in that way.

Defining Your WHY

gift box - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark This is where your WHY comes in. It defines what you stand for, your personal brand. The better you are at expressing it, the more you will attract ideal patients for your practice.

Think of your WHY as your hard wiring. It's the way you think. It's why you do what you do. It's your unique gift, your driver, your programming. It's almost like a natural law, like the law of gravity. Whether you know about it or not, it still affects you.

For example, if you take a large rock, hold it over your head and let it go, you will get smashed. On the other hand, if you know about the law of gravity, you can use it to your advantage to avoid the rock.

Knowledge about the function of gravity enables us to fly around the world and even travel to the moon. Your WHY works the same way. If you know it, you can use it. If not, it uses you.

Where Your WHY Is From

Your WHY comes from your experiences in early childhood. If you are praised, rewarded or recognized for certain behavior, you will act a particular way to earn more praise. If you are ostracized, shamed or punished for certain behavior, you will act a particular way to avoid more pain.

Success comes to you in either case, because you get more praise or avoid more pain. A pattern of behavior is established that equates to success for you in those circumstances.

You learn that if you repeat this pattern, you will continue to have success. This becomes why you do what you do. This becomes clearer through examples.

Kathy G. grew up surrounded by politics. As the daughter of a prominent local official, she spent her early childhood mired in gamesmanship, empty promises, and untruths or exaggerations that plagued her to the point she finally ran away as a teenager and struck out on her own shortly thereafter.

Without any conscious realization, out of rebellion to this distasteful way of being, her WHY kept her isolated, with only a small circle of friends, though it made her extremely reliable in every job she ever took – the exact opposite of what she witnessed as a child. Kathy would prove to the world, that, unlike her father, she could be completely trusted.

Not knowing her WHY caused her to play small, to see the world with eyes of mistrust, to hide behind the scenes and not appreciate her own value – even though she proved that value every day.

Everyone else knew she would get the job done, lead the committee, show up on time, finish the project or whatever else she was called upon to do. Kathy's WHY was to "be trustworthy and create relationships based upon trust."

Today, Kathy is a chiropractor and her WHY remains the same; but because she knows it, she fully embraces it. It gives her a sense of value.

She still has a select group of friends, doesn't crave the limelight and prefers a quiet evening at home over a night on the town. The difference in the way she views and lives her life however, is astounding. Because she knows her WHY, she knows she can be trusted and is empowered.

Because she knows her WHY, she is quite happy hanging out in the background as the support person everyone can count on – in fact, she relishes and enjoys the role. It's perfectly aligned with her WHY.

Because all the members of her practice team know her WHY, she is appreciated and cherished by everyone she works with. Rather than playing small and choosing a role where mistrust can be minimized or managed, she takes on highly important tasks for which trust is a prerequisite, and her chiropractic practice has become one of the largest in her community.

Her work is congruent with her beliefs. What she does is aligned with WHY she does it.

Understanding Your WHY

When you know your WHY, your world begins to make sense. Not only that, it gives others, including those who buy your products or contract for your services, a reason to care about you.

People don't care about what you do. They only care about WHY you do it, who you are and what you believe: what you stand for, such as in Kathy's case, trust.

Nick R. also had a difficult childhood, but very different than Kathy's. As the son of an alcoholic, Nick knew from a young age that the slightest misstep or wrong move would set his father off and lead to a verbal berating or more often, a physical beating.

Nick learned early on how to assess his father's state within seconds when he came home from school or back from playing with his buddies. For Nick, it meant the difference between a tolerable evening or welts on his back.

Nick spent every moment he could away from home in an effort to avoid his father. At the same time, he did everything he could to keep the peace. If told to be home at a certain hour, he would synchronize his watch to Greenwich Mean Time in London to make sure it was 100 percent accurate, and sit outside the front door until his digital dial read that exact hour. Then he would go in, not a minute early, nor a single minute late, and had only a few seconds to determine how drunk his father was and how he needed to act to avoid the belt.

Out of sheer survival, he became an expert at it. His WHY became to "take complex situations and make sense out of them."

Today, Nick is the office manager of a successful chiropractic practice and the go-to guy during meetings and strategic planning sessions. His ability to take in massive amounts of data and information, sort through it all and come up with solutions that make sense is uncanny.

Because he knows his WHY, he embraces this role and knows his unique contribution to his practice team. Because he knows his WHY, he knows his place, what he does well and what he should delegate or pass on to a teammate.

More importantly, because he knows his WHY, he loves his job and is very good at it, is valued by the chiropractor who employs him as someone who can distill and articulate solutions to complex problems at warp speed, making everyone's life better and easier.

Nick's WHY morphed from a method of avoiding pain and the shame that came with it into a tool he now uses every day for a worthy cause.

Knowing your WHY is like turning on the lights to your behavior. You gain instant clarity. As mentioned earlier, it's like being reintroduced to yourself.

When you know your WHY, you begin to understand why you made the choices you made. You know what your value is, what people can count on you for; what you bring to the table. You know your gift.

It's an unbelievably powerful way of expressing who you are and what you believe. The better you articulate what you believe, the more you will attract others who believe what you believe – people who "get you." These same people develop loyalty (both to you and to your practice. It all starts with knowing your WHY.

Dr. Mark Sanna, a 1987 graduate of New York Chiropractic College, is a member of the ACA Governor's Advisory Board and a member of the President's Circle of NYCC and Parker College of Chiropractic. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching (

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