The Three Keys to Staying Happy in Dentistry
It is important for a dentist to not only build a fulfilling career, but also to make progress and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Dentists should feel like the benefits that they are reaping from their practice are in equity with their efforts.
To that end, they should be getting back from their practices what they’re putting in. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of challenges come from. Dentists often get distraught or stressed because their practices do not meet their expectations.
As you likely know, dentistry can be a high-stress profession. A number of professional organizations are creating movements to protect the emotional and mental health of dentists, as they are at an unusually high risk for suicide, drug abuse and divorce. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that dentists are 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Student and practice debt, fear of litigation and long, thankless hours are just some of the factors that contribute to anxiety and depression in the dental profession.
Sometimes, reading statistics about the emotional health of dentists is overwhelming. While these figures shouldn’t deter anyone from pursuing a career in dentistry, it’s important to be aware of them so that you can circumvent these issues.
While there’s no doubt that dentistry is a taxing and often emotionally challenging profession, all human beings can find happiness when they accomplish three simple things—or are perpetually working in the direction to create these three things. The three keys to happiness in dentistry are: find something to do that gives you purpose, have someone to share it with and always have something to look forward to. If you can build a practice and a lifestyle that includes these three elements, you’ll be able to find happiness in dentistry and live a healthier, more fulfilled life.
Find a purpose
Find something to do that gives you purpose. Your work should give you meaning—this doesn’t just apply to dentists, this applies to anybody. Look at what you do not as a job, but as a calling and as a responsibility. Dentistry should be something that gives you joy and something you might even consider doing if you were financially free.
Teachers find purpose because they enjoy working with kids, and I find that even though many social workers often are often underpaid, they love what they do because they find purpose and value in their work.
Personally, I absolutely love what I do. If I won the lottery, I would still find a way to do it. I love the work I accomplish, and even if I had complete financial freedom, I would have to do something I knew was improving people’s lives.
Share your life
Another key factor to happiness in the dental industry is to have someone with whom you can share your life and business. Those are two completely separate things, but are really two sides of the same coin. It’s very hard to be a successful hermit. As a matter of fact, if you look at the best businesses, they are all about creating a great culture and sharing the successes.
When you look at whatever you accomplish, whether it be starting a family, building a business or even just accomplishing something personal, it’s great to be able to share it with others.
I finished an Ironman Triathlon in 2004 and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. But had I not had my family there to enjoy it with me, it would have been terrible.
Success not shared is success compromised. Regardless of what you’ve accomplished, if you are not surrounded by people to share it with, the accomplishment will likely mean very little to you in the long run.
Sharing your success requires you to develop a solid team and empower them to contribute to your collective success as a practice. The key to being successful in dentistry is finding amazing people and then giving them the tools to be their best. When that happens, you just stay out of their way.
Have something to look forward to
Always have something to look forward to, both in your professional life and personal life. You should always have something on the schedule.
One of the things that I do is plan my next getaway on the second or third day of any vacation. I’m making sure I get the next one ready to go because I want to be able to look at the schedule and say, “I’ve just got to get through February, and then there’s something exciting ahead.”
People often refer to setting up something exciting ahead of you as creating future pulls, as they represent something that pulls you forward. I find that when I’m talking to dentists, if they don’t have something to look forward to, they just naturally become depressed because there’s nothing exciting ahead of them.
For many dentists, there’s a certain mindset, as dentists are often taught that patients come first. Like we’ve said in the past, patients don’t come first—patients come second. Team members come first. Learning how to take good care of yourself will empower you to take good care of your team.
Implementing these three keys to happiness can help you live out a more fulfilling, enjoyable life in dentistry. Loving the work that you accomplish, sharing your life with loved ones or business partners and setting events and milestones to look forward to can go a long way toward improving your outlook and empower you to live your best life.