Economics of motivation

Nov. 1, 2005
If you have ever wondered why some people are happy and successful at what they do while others just get by, you probably are seeing the difference between motivation and lack of motivation.

If you have ever wondered why some people are happy and successful at what they do while others just get by, you probably are seeing the difference between motivation and lack of motivation. Motivation provides the emotional spark needed to find the guts, strength, character, and commitment to keep you going when the going gets tough. This applies to your personal as well as your professional life, and how you fare in one area can positively or negatively affect how you fare in the other.

This does not just apply to individuals; it also applies to dental teams and the practices where they work. Team members in successful dental practices are motivated. They like themselves and the people they work with. They approach their work with enthusiasm. They do not view their work as drudgery or “just a paycheck.” They enjoy what they do, their success, and the accolades and other rewards that accompany success. They are comfortable, secure, and confident in what they do, and they want the people around them to feel the same way.

This is not to imply that they do not have their fair share of everyday problems experienced by all dental practices. It simply means they respond to those problems differently than people who are not motivated. They do not waste time whining or feeling sorry for themselves, and measuring the size of the obstacles they encounter until those obstacles become the only things they see. Instead, they seek solutions and answers, and they are firm in their belief that anything is possible and no barriers can prevent them from being the best they can be. In other words, they are motivated.

Motivation is wanting a change for the better. It means recognizing that there are things you can control and things you can’t. If you are a motivated individual, you understand that the control you exercise over yourself and your reaction to challenging situations is what really matters. Above all, being motivated means making a decision to move forward, instead of settling for the way things are or sliding backward.

Making a decision to move forward is sometimes difficult. Many of us are afraid of the obstacles that lie between us and the prize. We list them in our heads, we worry about them, and we imagine all of the terrible things that could happen if we fail. But the more we think about these things, the more real they become. The more we worry about them, the bigger they get. The more we focus on them, the less we focus on the prize. Slowly but surely, the prize seems to become more unreachable and more impossible. Eventually, it will just fade away.

For dental teams that have seen this happen, the effects can be devastating. Morale suffers, productivity suffers, patients leave the practice, team members quit, and those who are left behind wonder whether they would be happier in some other profession. None of this has to happen! Undoing or preventing it from happening in the first place is up to you.

Always remember that motivation comes from within - it cannot be given to you or taken away from you. It can, however, be practiced, fine-tuned, and perfected until it becomes a way of life. Teaching yourself to be more motivated means making a decision that you would rather be happy than unhappy. It means an attitude adjustment. It means active participation in creating a better professional and personal life for yourself and others. Sometimes, it even means taking a chance on yourself. Sometimes, it means realizing there is no disgrace in getting help from someone else. Most of the time, it means making a commitment to stay upbeat and positive instead of angry, sad, and negative, no matter what the day brings.

One of the factors that enables and empowers this attitude is a motivational environment. If everyone in the practice contributes to creating such an environment, everyone wins. It is important to remember that no one is exempt from participating in this process.

Everyone on the team enables and maintains a motivational environment.

Everyone on the team enables and enhances a positive tone.

Every team member values every other team member.

Everyone helps. No one hinders.

Remember, motivation is contagious. If you make a personal commitment to this, so will your teammates.

This column is for the team to “clip and save” each month. Cynthia McKane-Wagester, RDH, MBA, is a practicing hygienist and president of McKane & Associates, a full-service management-consulting firm. She can be reached by phone at (800) 341-1244, or by e-mail at [email protected]. Visit her Web site at

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