by Tyler Lee Pendergrass, DDS
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Have you ever dreaded getting up, dealing with the same questions from patients, and thinking, “Is this really worth it?” As dentists and small business owners, we are continually faced with a deluge of problems, and I, like you, continue to come to work day in and day out. I love seeing patients, and I love their confidence in me that I'll give them the best professional care possible.
I have been looking inward, as many of you have, and for the past 10 years, I can say I absolutely enjoy practicing dentistry. Many of you don't feel the same joy. Many of you dread the thought of listening to another complaint, or the possibility of a laminate coming off for the third time. (This has happened in my office!) The question is — why? Have you lost passion for your work? Is there something missing inside that makes you no longer complete, which in turn brings you down? Or maybe you never had that spark that drives most people.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity to serve on the Texas Dental Association's Council of Annual Session. The council puts on the Texas Meeting, and chairing the 2008 event gave me the opportunity to scout many speakers, evaluate their talents, and find the best speakers in the United States and abroad.
In this column, I will use some of this expertise to contribute to my writings, which will give you the most up-to-date information possible. Gary Zelesky is a good friend, and I think one of the best speakers on passion. He has a unique ability to define passion and how it redefines one's life.
Here is some insight from my discussions with Gary, which I hope will inspire you to find the passion that will drive you to seek even greater heights in dentistry.
Passion is spiritual and has been your companion since you were born. It knows no limits, and creates more questions than answers. Passion is the wildness in every one of us that is waiting to be bridled with purpose and set free to run with imagination and creativity. It's found in the valleys of life and seeks the mountaintops. Passion creates habits both good and bad because it simply doesn't care. It will wake you up with excitement and put you to sleep with exhaustion. Finally, passion is energy, and you know it's working when your work doesn't feel like work!
I feel terrible when colleagues tell me they despise their lives in dentistry. Many of them enjoy the perks and fringe benefits of being called a doctor, but they absolutely abhor the thought of facing another day. Dental professionals caught in this quandary are not exhibiting their passion, and passion will take the dread away.
The question then becomes — how do you find your passion? As dentists we are all “doers,” and we like to make “fixes” as quickly as possible. First and foremost, we need to take charge of our destiny and our practices. People allow negativity, the possibility of failure, or the thought of something being difficult to hold them back.
A dentist can start by sitting in his or her own waiting room, thinking from a patient's perspective, and seeing what patients see. Is there something subconscious bringing negativity to the office? What is the patient's perception of the front desk staff? Are there any staff issues driving you nuts that you need to address?
Think about your systems and the flow of each practice day. Are things happening which are out of your control, which make coming to work a chore? Is your lab cheaper than the rest, but making a chore out of try-ins and redos? To avoid monotony, many of my friends from the local dental society take continuing-education courses to further their skills. This allows them to perform additional procedures to change their daily routines.
Whatever you choose, you are the only one in control of your destiny. Change isn't always easy, but life is short and you only get one shot at it. Take charge of your life, realize that not every decision in the office is life and death, and just maybe there will be a difference in your well-being.
Tyler Lee Pendergrass, DDS, practices full time in Amarillo, Texas. After growing up in Amarillo, he returned following his graduation from the Baylor University College of Dentistry in 1999. He bought into his current dental practice in 2000. Send Dr. Pendergrass an e-mail at [email protected].