O.D. to O.D.

Sometimes, it gets lonely at the top.

o.d. to o.d.

Sometimes, It Gets Lonely at the Top

While rarely mentioned, loneliness can be overwhelming for the O.D.s at times. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

It’s rarely if ever mentioned, but I think many optometrists at one time or another have a sense of being lonely, or alone. Take, for example, the new practitioner or a seasoned veteran, in any setting, with their responsibility and authority. It’s easy to appreciate how having to make all the decisions as well as assume the role of the leader could make it as though they’re taking on the world by themselves.

In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen situations in which an optometrist in solo practice brought in an associate or partner, not because the patient flow would support it, or even warrant it, but rather because they were tired of going it alone.

Optometrists owe it to themselves, their patients and their staff to make sure this sense of loneliness doesn’t impact their effectiveness as a practitioner, a business owner (or employee) or as an individual.

Steps to reduce loneliness

How do you go about reducing this sense of loneliness? Perhaps the first step is to merely acknowledge the way you feel. Ignoring these emotions isn’t healthy, and it can be exhausting. Take a moment each day to focus on, process, and accept just how complex, and sometimes scary, your responsibilities can be. The better you accept the reality of your situation, the easier it will be to seek and accept support in dealing with it.

A reliable support network is one of the best ways to recognize your achievements as well as challenge yourself to accomplish more. Cultivating a group of trusted advisors is one way to begin building your support network. And, these advisors don’t have to be those who you believe have all the answers. In fact, they may be a lot like you. Your group could be made up of several optometrists in circumstances similar to yours. So, the message here is that, you’re not alone, and that you can all support each other. Years ago, we called these study groups, and I can honestly say that my membership in a study group was perhaps the single most positively impactful thing I ever did, personally and professionally.

A system of support

This support system (study club) must work in two ways. Not only do the members of the group provide a safe outlet to express concerns, they must also provide honest, unvarnished feedback. This kind of collegiate relationship does not privilege one member vs. another, but rather allows each member to regain perspective, align priorities, and adapt management practices found to be successful. As a side note, learning to accept constructive criticism and feedback from trusted advisors, while challenging, ultimately makes for a more successful and happier you. The great thing about a study group is that you can create one yourself.

Writing from experience

And, just how do I sit here and write about loneliness and the sense of going it alone, and having to make all the decisions? I’ve been there. OM