The new year is the time for making and breaking resolutions. Each year we’re all guilty of this. Ideally we should look at all areas of our life and plan for where we want to be instead of always going with the flow and arriving where life’s currents take us.

Aristotle had his cross of life where he postulated that balancing love, play, worship and work produced harmony, happiness and stability. LD Pankey adapted this to dentistry in his dental cross, where he postulated knowing yourself, your patient, your work and applying your knowledge.

In this article I’ll focus on our practice life, an important quarter of our own lives.

Just as a map is necessary for a journey or a blueprint for a building, so should we have a plan for our practice. At this time of year we as dentists should step back and look at all areas of our practice and assess where we want to be. Our essential areas should be:

1. Personal – areas where we personally want to improve or new treatments we want to incorporate into the practice and for which we need to attend courses

2. Facility – changes we want to make in the physical make-up of our facility, new equipment we wish to acquire or, even more dramatically, moving premises!

3. Team – systems in our offices needing improvement

4. Individual – setting individual team member goals to show we appreciate them and to avoid monotony in their positions

5. Financial – set out our vision of the ideal fee structure, collection and review scheme participation.

Our first step is to set time aside to visualise our dream in each of these five areas. Team input will be necessary in points three and four but we, as principals, need to provide the lead towards our vision.

Secondly, we need to list our top 10 items from these areas that we can implement over the course of the year. It’s essential to focus on one at a time and start with something easy to encourage everyone.

These 10 goals need to be written down, reviewed regularly and set up according to the SMART principle:

• Specific

• Measurable

• Action oriented

• Realistic

• Time constrained.

There are many books elaborating on these areas, and adopting this method distils the dream and focuses everyone on achieving the goal.

In conclusion, we need to:

1. Write down well-formed goal statements

2. Break these into manageable steps

3. Motivate and seek commitment

4. Keep reminding, stay on track and allow for change

5. Frequently review and reassess.

Michelangelo said the greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss but that we aim too low and we reach it. For 2008 let’s resolve to aim high in our personal and work lives, and as a profession as a whole.