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Maintaining a Strong Professional Core

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If you’ve been to a gym, attended almost any exercise class, or worked with a personal trainer in the last 5+ years, you almost certainly have heard these or similar words: “The key to success is developing and maintaining a strong core.”  This is true whether you are a runner, biker, swimmer, yogi, skier, or cross trainer, among many others.  It’s excellent advice but also has important applications outside of the gym for your health and fitness.  This same principle is just as essential in your professional life as in your personal life.  It applies whether you are a lawyer, physician, pharmacist, CPA, therapist, broker, or insurance agent, to name just a few.

In order to be successful in the long term, it is critical to develop a set of core principles around which you organize and operate your professional life and dealings.  Determining these core principles should be a very contemplative and deliberate process.  These core values must be personal to your situation and circumstances.  No one can provide others a standard, one-size-fits-all set of core values that will work for every person, situation or profession.

Although no one single set of core principles applies across all professions, they often have substantial overlap for many professionals.  The following set of core values is merely an example of those you may consider:

  1. Serve Clients: The essence and most important aspect of any profession is service to clients, patients or customers.  All critical decisions should consider whether the chosen path will improve you and your firm’s ability to serve clients or patients better. Without clients or patients, and providing good service to them, there is no profession or business.  Results are only one aspect of providing excellent service to clients.  Responsiveness, empathy and compassion are equally important to clients and patients.
  2. Be different: Don’t do what everyone else is doing already.  Find a practice area that you enjoy and concentrate in becoming the best professional you can be in that area.  Preferably, the practice area will be one that is not overcrowded and is likely to grow in the future.  Regardless, make sure that you enjoy doing it on a daily basis.  No amount of vacation can make up for practicing in an area or for clients that you don’t like.
  3. Choose wisely: This principle applies across the spectrum of decisions involved in your profession and practice, including selecting your clients or patients, choosing staff and others that will assist you, properly evaluating cases or professional matters initially, and determining how to structure and organize your office or practice, among various other important determinations. Making wise choices has a significant impact on your professional enjoyment, success and ability to serve clients or patients well.
  4. Work Smart: Hard work and dedication is an essential element of being a successful professional. These qualities are necessary but no longer sufficient, especially in the technological age.  There are now almost an unlimited number of ways to increase your efficiency and effectiveness.  You must make time to continually evaluate whether you are not only working hard but intelligently. This principle also affects the last core value.
  5. Live Balanced: Too many professionals emphasize the hard work and dedication at the expense of maintaining a balanced personal and professional life. This principle is almost cliché, constantly cited, but too often not followed.  In order to be successful and serve your clients well over the long term, you must set aside and make time to pursue, develop and maintain other interests and personal relationships.  An unbalanced life is a long-term formula for professional and personal problems, often leading to mental and physical health or substance abuse issues.

There are many other important core principles or values, besides the above examples, that you may decide are more appropriate to your personal and professional circumstances.  The most critical part is to carefully determine the ones that are the best suited for you and then remind yourself of them on a daily basis as the foundation for a successful professional life.  While developing that strong core is the essential first step, maintaining it is just as important.  Just like in the gym or other athletic endeavors, both developing and maintaining a strong core is an essential element of long-term professional success.