Alan G. Stern
So how are your Monday mornings?
Weekends are great, especially when we have the freedom to see patients from Monday through Thursday, as I have done for many years. For many, however, Monday mornings can be dreadful.
I’ve known so many people whose jobs brought them misery from 9-5 every day in exchange for a paycheck. Some are mired in corporate or government bureaucracy, living in fear of saying or doing things with good intent that violate some petty trivial rule.
I know people in retail who cannot stand the thought of facing customers and supervisors. I know people who are counting the days until they no longer have to go to work anymore. These good people live for Friday at 5 PM and dread the thought of the alarm going off on Monday morning.
Even my medical colleagues are conflicted and stressed to the point of getting sick and tired, pardon the pun.
We are lucky to be in dentistry. It offers both patients and practitioners choices. Those of us who understand the value- and risk- of a relationship centered practice and choose to live that kind of life can still look forward to
Monday morning after a pleasant weekend.
Those of us who realize that we can be part of a wellness care system, providing highly desirable and effective ELECTIVE services at reasonable fees under reasonable conditions may actually enjoy coming to work.
So let’s explore how to structure our lives to wake up and say TGIM (Thank Goodness it’s Monday)
Know yourself- What turns you on? What makes you happy? Is it the perfect round house? A cosmetic result that the AACD would ogle over? A certain income level? A material possession? Is it the love and gratitude of another human being? Or is it something else in dentistry that makes you excited? Find it, focus on it, and make your life more delightful as you help someone.
Never stop learning New techniques, skills, and knowledge are emerging at an explosive pace. Some may view the fact that our dental education rapidly becomes obsolete as frustrating. I view it as a sign of progress and an opportunity to provide better service and to become better. Continuing Education is mandatory in all states. It is necessary to compete in a tough marketplace. But it’s also an exciting opportunity to grow. The happiest dentists are the ones who never stop learning. So look for what’s new, latch on to something you like, and go!
Understand your power. No matter where you are in the spectrum of dentistry, you have the power to do a lot of good every minute you are in your office. Whether you work in a public health clinic, a retail office, or a comprehensive care practice, each soul you encounter is looking to you for something. Do it as best you can with the intent of improving something about each person. From the neediest patient to the assistant sitting next to you to the letter carrier who calls on you every day, you carry the title Doctor. Use the credibility you have to say something or do something good for people. Whether you’re filling a single tooth, placing an all on four prosthesis, complimenting your team on a job well done, or offering the letter carrier a word of thanks (or even a cup of coffee), act with the intent of making someone’s day. You’ll feel great!
Make money a non- issue in your life to the best of your ability . Sure, we all need to make a living at our jobs and we do need to take in more money than we spend. Many younger dentists also have what appears to be a daunting level of debt. And I’m certainly not telling people not to strive for the American dream and earn as much as possible. I am suggesting that we adjust our lives to depend on as little as possible so that we can truly enjoy and appreciate our added earnings as they increase over time. Try not to leverage yourself. Consult a competent fee for service financial adviser who can help you with life style issues as well as investment advice. Find an accountant who will spend time with you during the year. Remember that you are a doctor of dentistry. Financial advisers don’t place implants and- with rare exception- dentists cannot possibly have the credentials and experience to create a financial plan. Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything and find a great adviser. You’ll be wealthier and secure sooner.
Know what life is all about. Everything we do is about relationships. Think about it, our families, our friends, our team, our colleagues, and our patients are all people with whom we cultivate relationships every moment of every day. Do your best to cultivate great relationships with anyone who is importsant to you, including the person you see in the mirror.
Love yourself. Love yourself and everyone around you. Understand that you are not perfect, and never will be. The late, great Dr Henry Tanner put it best when he said, “ Excellence is great, but that perfection stuff will kill you” Look to be better tomorrow than you are today and you’ll be fine.
Forgive yourself for being human and be kind to yourself for doing your best for the betterment of others. And don’t forget to apply the same rule to your patients, your team, your spouse, your kids, and your friends.
Live healthy – Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep. And maintain a social network of like-minded people with whom you can share and enjoy your life. These are the principles outlined in Crowley and Lodge’s masterful work, Younger Next Year. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a copy, too!
Putting the right fuel in your body changes the way you look, feel, and think. Well selected supplements will increase your energy and keep you as healthy as possible. And an exercise program that’s goal oriented, safe, and effective works wonders. You do not have to deteriorate physically as you get older if you eat right and work out properly. And if your nutrition and exercise are not getting you the results you want, get some coaching from a good nutritionist and trainer. It’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make!
There are many more elements to building a rewarding career and life, but this is a good start. Please remember that you are in a profession which allows you to put your own unique stamp on someone else’s well-being. It allows you to learn what you want, make your own hours, and do what you like. And if you stay healthy, it allows you to practice as long as you wish.
I hope you’ll wake up next Monday morning after a terrific weekend, realize that you’re in a terrific profession, and say “TGIM!”. Your best days are ahead of you, no matter how old you are!