Let’s start with the understatement of the year- Dentistry is demanding. Focusing on small objects and doing our best work for six to eight hours a day can be physically draining. Dealing with the people attached to those teeth can and should be a joy. But staying focused on people as well as small objects just doubles the amount of energy we need during the day. Add to the mix the occasional difficult patient, a case that doesn’t seat, and perhaps a bit of business management, and your day could either be incredibly energy draining or equally rewarding.
We cannot avoid the imperfections of dentistry and life and we cannot dodge the many responsibilities that come with the privilege of owning a practice. But we can hedge our bets and be prepared for the things that get thrown at us every day. Here are a few things that have helped me over the years. I hope you find them useful.
Eat a good breakfast
You’ve heard it a million times but many people (perceive that they) don’t have time for breakfast. A high protein, moderate carbohydrate start to a day is an instant energy boost. My wife and I love our vegan protein shakes, but there are many other ways to get a great, tasty, essential energy surge for your mornings. Consult a nutritionist or a health coach or do some reading to find what works best for you. But please do not skip that morning fueling of your body’s engine!
Look in the mirror
Take a good look at yourself. What do you see? Do you see a living, vibrant, productive human being endowed with skills that few others have? I don’t care how successful or unsuccessful you (think you) are; you are, at a minimum, those wonderful things! Pause for a moment and see something great in the mirror.
Do you see something about yourself that you’d like to improve? Embrace it. Use it as a vehicle to be just a little bit better today. If you’re not what you want to be physically, think of ways to make yourself better. If you’re not what you want to be clinically, think of things you can study or learn. And if you’re not what you want to be personally, think of little things you can do to improve your relationships. We ALL have flaws. We are ALL imperfect. We do not have to accept those flaws as unchangeable. And we most certainly need not beat ourselves over the head over our imperfections. It feels great to have made improvements in all aspects of our lives, but remember that it takes a long time to become an overnight sensation and that change comes about as a result of a sustained effort, beginning with baby steps. Whatever it is you want to improve, take that baby step today!
We are hunters and gatherers by nature. By moving, we tell ourselves down to the cellular level that we are fulfilling a purpose. By moving, we are strengthening our hearts and developing collateral circulation. A general guideline is to do 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular exercise; that is, brisk walking, light running, cycling, elliptical machine use, etc. You can do five 30- minute sessions, ten 15- minute sessions, or any formula that works for you. The more days you do some cardio, the better.
By using some form of resistance training, we are toning our muscles to avoid the ill effects of aging. I like to get at least two resistance training sessions a week to stay toned. Try some push-ups, wall-sits, or planks at home. Better yet, engage a personal trainer to show you things you can do for yourself. It’s a great investment!
Years ago, someone told me that gratitude is currency. That is SO true! Just about everyone walking this earth can think of something to be grateful for. You are blessed with, in the very least, a skill set that few others have. You have the ability to help people and earn an above-average living. Are your parents living? Are you healthy? Do you have a spouse? Children? Friends? A roof over your head? Did at least one good thing happen to you today? I challenge you to think of at least three things to be grateful for every time your head hits the pillow each night. Do that and you will wake up prosperous each morning.
Change a life
Sometime during my morning routine, I put the following thought into my head: “Whose life will be better because of me today?” When you think about it, isn’t that what we are here for? I submit that even the simplest task we do for patients is really a powerful change to a sensitive part of a person’s moment-to-moment existence. And how do you think you can impact the life of the letter carrier or the UPS or FedEx guy when you greet them by name or offer them a cup of coffee or bottle of water when they come in? How about that team member you thank in a special way? Every interaction we have offers us the opportunity to enhance the life of another human being. For me, that’s more than enough to get me out of bed, happy to be alive, no matter what else is going on in my life.
Get to your office early. Ask the same of your team Walk into your office see what your patients will see when they come in. Look over your charts and have an idea of what you’ll be doing. Try to remember something about everyone you’re seeing today. And have a morning huddle to discuss it all. It only takes 10-15 minutes. Being prepared and punctual prevents that awful feeling of falling behind and gives you a greater sense of control of your day.
You can attain fulfillment in an imperfect, demanding, rapidly changing world. Take care of your health. Eat well and exercise regularly. Stay positive- remember that there are many good reasons to do so. And approach your work and everyone around you with enthusiasm. Prosperity happens when you make the world better for yourself, your families, and for those you serve. Take a few simple steps to assure that it happens in your world!