Dimension 4: time

My friend and fellow visiting faculty member at The Pankey Institute, Mary Osborne, reminds me that there is a significant difference between getting things done, doing things right, and doing right things.

My friend and fellow visiting faculty member at The Pankey Institute, Mary Osborne, reminds me that there is a significant difference between getting things done, doing things right, and doing right things. When we are gone, others won’t remember how fast or how many things we did, but rather how well we did right things.

Friendships, relationships, and trust are hallmarks of a rewarding practice. Fulfillment in dentistry takes time to develop - so do the skills needed to provide the opportunity and environment. In dental school, there is much to learn and finite time to learn it. Having the knowledge and patience to permit ourselves to develop over time is critical to success. Over time, we can become the dentists we are capable of becoming. Although the flow of information is more instantaneous and available, it still takes time to get it “into our tissues,” as Dr. L.D. Pankey used to say.

When we graduated, we all had visions of what our practices and profession would be like, what patient encounters would be, how we would interact with our team, and the financial and spiritual rewards. When I work with dentists through the DTI-Consults program for labs, I find that the visions and dreams have faded and become unrecognizable for many. Over time, the hassles of dealing with insurance and how it interferes with the patient relationship - and the struggle to find, hire, and retain staff - have worn us down. The aspects of practice management (scheduling, treatment planning, case acceptance, fees, retirement planning, collections) have slowly choked off what feeds our dreams and visions.

I was inspired by a dentist who attended a recent ­Continuum Level 1 course I facilitated at The Pankey Institute. He has been in practice 40 years and was excited to learn more. His enthusiasm was contagious to all the young women and men, as well as to the gray hairs like myself.

Our dreams and visions can’t be realized as fast as the drive-through at McDonald’s or next-day delivery. The small steps we take to affect positive growth is multiplied over time. A year from now, we can look back at how far we have travelled. Two years from now, we can look back and be amazed. In three years, we can be dizzy with excitement over all we have achieved. And 40 years into our careers, we will still be growing and inspiring others.

Imagine that I gave you $86,400 and said you had to spend it within 24 hours or it would be lost. You could not save any or put it into a bank or investment. You had to spend the cash. You could give it to a good cause or help someone with it, but any amount you did not put to use would disappear.

The next morning, I handed you another $86,400 to spend as you wished again. Imagine each day began the same. Would you find a way to spend or give away that money to enrich someone’s life? You wouldn’t let it be squandered; you would find a way to use that money in a good way. You wouldn’t waste a penny.

Well, every day when you wake up you get 86,400 seconds to spend as you wish - to use for yourself or for someone else, to enrich a life, or donate to charity. Seconds cannot be saved or invested.

Your time, talents, and treasures are yours to control. No one really makes us do anything. We choose. Even not choosing is a choice, so choose wisely. Spend your 86,400 seconds in a way that matters. Time is all that we will ever really have to give.

Remember Alice when she met the Cheshire Cat at the fork in the road? Know what your dreams and visions are. Choose paths that make a difference because you know where you are going. Begin that chosen journey with single steps and a few degrees of separation. You will travel far. You will travel well. You will make a difference.

Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD, practices restorative dentistry in Rochester Hills, Mich. He is director of continuing education at Dental Technologies Inc. He is on the board and visiting faculty of The Pankey Institute. Dr. Murphy may be reached via e-mail at mmurphy@dtidental.com.

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