Being human, we all tend toward thinking that life should unfold in a straight, predictable, trajectory. And sometimes, when this does not happen, we feel like life is unfair, or that we have somehow been victimized. But more often than not, we are looking at life through a distorted lens, a lens which often confuses us, and therefore delays good decision-making.
Bob Barkley was a master story teller, and at the turn -of-a-phrase. And one of his more common paradoxical statements was, “There needs to be more negative thinking in dentistry”. But when Bob said this, he was not referring to conventional meaning, rather he was referring to the need to be constantly aware of the negative things we do in our practice and life every day which undermine our true purpose. Hence, Bob was referring to the need to eliminate unproductive thinking, or thinking which was causing self-inflicted damage to our practice.
In other words, Bob Barkley was telling us that sometimes we need to become quitters. Sometimes we need to quit repeating behaviors, decisions, and putting ourselves in situations which are not growth-enhancing for ourselves and our patients. We need to stop doing things which drag us in the opposite direction of our Vision.
So, just for the fun today, let’s play around with Bob’s counter-cultural mindset; let’s start thinking of ourselves as occasional quitters. Here are five places you might want to become a quitter:
1. Quit something because doing so is the only pathway for you to get where you want to go. Yes, it’s ok to stop doing things which no longer bring you joy and satisfaction, as long as the decision causes no harm others.
For me, one of my biggest quitting moments was when I decided to quit taking dental insurance assignment, and stopped “participating” in the numerous dysfunctional relationships I had walked into when I bought my practice. This one decision -from that day forward- caused me to become more patient-centered than any other decision I have ever made. That is because it caused me to reconsider every aspect of how I interacted with my patients and whether or not it was being perceived BY THEM as being helpful. And I was very motivated to do this because I knew that if I did not fully own that mindset, my practice and vision would not survive.
On that day, I decided to become a free market capitalist, although I would have never described it in those terms at the time. I threw my business directly into the middle of the real economy, and the real marketplace, and I progressively abandoned the third party assistance which always seemed to come with a high emotional price tag. And that one decision subsequently stimulated innovation, learning, and growth. It learched my practice forward in fits and starts toward my vision of creating a truly relationship-based / health-centered practice.
Another critical, and nice side benefit of my “quitting”, was that almost all conflicts with patients regarding money immediately disappeared, as the fog of third party language and behavior was lifted from every interaction. Suddenly every decision clearly became more values-centered. Suddenly, we were much more easily perceived as being on the same team with our patients. Simultaneously, the insurance companies were seen for what they truly were: interlopers extracting profits, damaging trust, and often misdirecting the proper path toward increased health.
2. Quit because not doing so will impair your ability to evolve in the direction of your gifts, talents, and aspirations. This is one of the true benefits of going through a “values clarification” and philosophy development process. This is because who you are, what you believe, and what you are willing to fight for, naturally bubbles to the surface. And acknowledging these truths is the first critical step toward quitting behaviors which undermine them.
3. Quit because what you are doing isn’t working. Perseverance isn’t everything, in spite of the cultural meme telling us “quitters never win”. Sometimes you can be doing the right thing, in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or you can be doing the right thing in the right way, at the wrong time.
Stop if something isn’t working, and use your creative mind to synthesize a better solution.
Therefore, quit when necessary, because quitting doesn’t always mean you have compromised your values, it can often mean that you are acting more intelligently.
4. Quit because it will build your confidence. Often times, putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations is the catalyst we need to stimulate significant personal growth. And when that personal growth occurs, we gain a new perspective about ourselves. We realize that we are stronger, smarter, and more resilient than we had ever known before.
Quitting makes growth happen.
5. Quitting creates space for more creative living. Let’s face it, life is complicated and convoluted, and it seems to be becoming more so by the day. If we do not step back and prune off certain aspects of our lifestyle (commonly known as “saying no” – or quitting), we have no time or space left to continue our growth and development. A rose bush metaphor is helpful here: Always prune in the fall for a bud-filled spring.
So, consider becoming more of a quitter and a “negative thinker”, to more efficiently evolve into the person you are meant to become. I believe that applying this approach to living will make all of the difference in the world.
Paul A Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments, LLC, ©2017
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