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Do You Have to be Happy to be Successful?

April 17, 2017

Filed under: Happiness,Pankey,Positive Psychology — Barry @ 1:41 PM

 

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expressing personal opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

 

 

This is my first blog post in a long while. I bet many of my readers thought I just quit blogging. That is not in my nature…let me explain.

I just completed an eight month certification in positive psychology. It was intense. Most people truly don’t understand what positive psychology is all about.

On the night I received my certification we had dinner with friends of ours. I told them that I had completed my certification and the my friend started talking about positive psychology as if she were an expert. Then she asked how I could be a positive psychologist because I wasn’t so positive…or even happy for that matter.

For those of you who have read my book, A Short Guide to a Long Career (free download), you know that positive psychology is much more than being about finding bliss (although that is part of it). It’s about living the life worth living. It’s about living the good life.

Anyway, I went on to explain to my friend that positive psychology was more about living the good life. More about fulfillment than pleasure than the smiley face. The good life is more than just having fun. It is about building good days, one after the other so that we can accomplish what author Annie Dillard says: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Our well-being is mostly composed of our work, how we spend our time and who we spend our time with. In other words, what we do for a living, and who we do it with matters. When we ask ourselves the very important question, “what really matters?” our answers usually reflect work, family friends and service.

So, no…positive psychology is not just happiology.

I first became interested in positive psychology when I went to the Pankey Institute many years ago. L.D. Pankey was onto something when he created his “philosophy.” My gut tells me he would have been very interested in studying positive psychology which wasn’t defined until 1998 by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania.

He put science to philosophy and created the psychology of optimal human functioning…or how to flourish. Yes…today most of Pankey’s philosophy is backed by empirical evidence…and there are so many new ways to apply the knowledge.

Practical application is the key to any philosophy – and that is where most philosophy falls apart.

I meet so many people who do not put a lot of stock into the “softer,” human side of  work. Today there is an overemphasis on technology. They think the soft stuff–the fuzzy stuff is just pop psychology.

After finishing my certification I can tell you that dentistry needs to take this very seriously…for the well-being of every professional as well as the well-being of the profession itself.

Not only have I completed this program but I also completed another book which should be available in the Fall. The book is titled The Complete Dentist–Positive Leadership Skills for Success.

Yes–I have been busy, but I will be bringing you more and more articles and information on this very important topic. It just may be the key to your own career and well-being.

 

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Reach for a Better Thought

October 26, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership,Positive Psychology — Barry @ 12:41 PM

nigel-holmes-graphicThe first piece of advice that comes from Dale Carnegie’s seminal book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is don’t condemn, don’t complain and don’t criticize. In other words be happy and stay positive.

Carnegie published the book in 1936, and it has gone on to sell over 30 million copies. The book went on to be named #19 on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential books in 2011. The book may be responsible for launching the entire self-help industry. And his first piece of advice was about mental attitude.

I come into contact with so many people in so many professions and industries that have read the books and taken the courses – yet, I still hear so much criticism, complaints and condemnation. Especially these days. You can bet that if you have a stressful work-life there is plenty of complaining going on.

I assume if it were that easy then we would have happier people working in happier workplaces. I also guess that happiness must be in high demand if so many people have been spending their hard earned money on the search for joy.

Maybe they’re just going about it in the wrong way.

My recent blog posts have centered around my latest book, A Short Guide to a Long Career, which you can download free from this blog. This post is about improving your point of view which may just be a better starting point for happiness than trying to remember never to complain, condemn or criticize. I am a big fan of simple ideas that I can create habits of thought around…let me explain.

Tip #3 in  my Short Guide suggests that we improve our point of view. You know, as the famous guru once said, When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

The problem is that is hard to change the way we look at things. I love the idea of reducing complex ideas into simple rules of thumb. This is known as a heuristic which is defined as “Pertaining to the use of the general knowledge gained by experience, sometimes expressed as “using a rule-of-thumb.”

And heuristics can make our lives easy…if we can pull up the right rule at the right time. That’s why studying what truly creates positive emotions and happiness is more effective. Once we know what creates happiness and success then we can use our rules of thumb to create habits that will guide us on how to live a happy life.

And it all starts with mindset.

If you are unfamiliar with that word, or use it like just another common piece of your vocabulary, then I suggest you read Carolyn Dweck’s very remarkable book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

It’s a good starting point for those of us who fall into the “oh so human” trait of negativity through judgement which leads to —complaining, criticizing and condemnation.

In time we develop a more positive worldview or perception of how really is rather than some of the negative explanations we create that lead us down a gloomy path.

Dweck’s research led her to describe two basic mindsets: the fixed mindset which is also called the judging mindset, and the growth mindset. I won’t spoil this movie, but I will tell you that the growth mindset is preferred.

Short Guide to a Long Career centers around the growing field of positive psychology. After studying this field for the past ten years, I have enrolled in The Flourishing Center’s program for becoming certified in positive psychology. I am realizing the truth in what Michelangelo said after his career was over: “I’m still learning.”

I guess that is what is meant by having a learning mindset. But it’s not just about dentistry (or any vocation)…we really have two tasks—to learn an occupation that we love and to be a good person.

So if you don’t download my book – and you find yourself complaining, criticizing and condemning —here’s a little heuristic to get you through your days whenever you realize that your thoughts are making you feel bad:

Reach for a better thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Questions? What’s Your Role? SGLC 2

September 12, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership,SGLC — Tags: , — Barry @ 10:37 PM

Short Guide to a long career

I hope you are enjoying my new book, A Short Guide to a Long Career, if you haven’t downloaded your free copy, go ahead and do it now.

My last blog post revealed what the book is about: creating a career that provides the dentist with a vehicle to help him or her to thrive and flourish through their years in dentistry, using Dr. Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory—PERMA, which stands for:

  1. P-Positive Emotions
  2. E-Engagement
  3. R-Positive Relationships
  4. M-Meaning and Purpose
  5. A- Accomplishment

This past July I had the opportunity to go to the first-ever festival for positive education. I believe I was the only dentist in attendance. I got to meet some of the superstars of this burgeoning new field, including Dr. Martin Seligman himself.

I came away excited about the future of positive education. I truly believe, as Seligman states, we are looking at a “sea change” in education that will help young people to become the very best versions of themselves. I was excited because this is the heart of what I have been writing about for years.

There is no reason that we can’t bring positive psychology principles to dentistry…and medicine.

So excited that I enrolled to get my Certification in Positive Psychology.

But I digress. This blog post is about the most recent tips that were e-mailed to those who have downloaded A Short Guide to a Long Career. I want to discuss Tips 1 and 2 through the lens of PERMA.

The first Tip: Ask Yourself the Big Questions: – Dentists are obsessed with “how” to do things. I’m no different than most – I constantly seek out advice on “how” to do this new procedure or that new technique. The problem is that most of us don’t take the time to answer the bigger questions. Like why we even entered our career (yes, this isn’t restricted to dentistry).

I remember the first amalgam filling I ever did (over forty years ago). I remember how proud I was. So proud that I called my father to tell him. He asked me how long it took – I said two hours. He said, “How are you going to make a living doing that?”

That’s a true story. The problem is that it created a lens through which I looked at my entire career. Until I burned out.

Then I asked the deeper questions—like what is it besides money, that I need to get from dentistry?  I started asking the deeper questions after I was in dentistry for ten years. The answers are still coming.

There are plenty of people in dentistry who seem to have the answers – but it’s the ones who have the best questions that interest me more.

The biggest question for me is, “how can I reconcile the paradox between duty and desire?” To be a wonderful competent dentist and still create a great life. It’s a paradox we all must answer.

Tip 2- Establish Your Role:- Another speaker I heard at the positive psychology meeting was Dr. James Pawelski, the Director of Education at the Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania. He presented his famous thought experiment that you can see on You Tube if you like – it’s well worth the time.

The thought experiment asks us to consider if we were going to be super-heroes, what color cape would you choose to wear?

The choices are red and green. He tells us that if you choose the red cape then your role starts out as you having the power to fight against the bad things in our world. That’s pretty powerful in itself.

If you choose the green cape you have the power to grow good things in our world.

You must choose as part of the thought experiment. I sat there smiling to myself because as a dentist I thought how this fundamental question means so much to the role we play with our patients.

Either color works, and Pawelski has some advice (hint-reversible cape?).

As I said, it is worth going to YouTube to watch his presentation, but he also claims that the red cape/green cape paradox answers the fundamental principles of positive psychology.

The real question for me is: can I flourish and become the best version of myself (and can my patients?)- if I only wear the red cape and put out fires all day.

Think about it — Tips 1 and 2 are meant to get you thinking about that long career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Being Positive Help Grow Your Practice? SGLC 1

August 26, 2016

Short Guide to a long careerHello again! It has been a long time since my last blog post – and a lot has happened in the world. I promise not to give you any of my political opinions – that would be a short guide to a very short career.

In the meantime I want to let you know that the TAO of Dentistry is alive and well. I have been working on a new book project, and it has taken up significant time. I also published my third book, an e-book, that is available for free when you join the Academy of Dental Leadership. The e-book, A Short Guide to a Long Career is also the title of this blog post.

For those who have already downloaded the book, I will be discussing the 31 tips that get e-mailed to you every two weeks or so. There is so much packed into that little book that when I re-read it I thought I had so much more to say – and besides I would love to hear from the dental community on how to create a thriving sustainable dental career.

I have decided to add commentary to Short Guide to a Long Career, through a series of blog posts beginning with this one. The titles of the post will be numbered to follow the e-mails that subscribers receive.

As I mentioned, for the past months I have been writing another book on leadership and communication. I have also furthered my education in Positive Psychology. Those two things have added to my own perspective about creating a long sustainable career in dentistry.

Essentially the relatively new field of positive psychology comes down to helping people “live a life worth living.” It is about thriving and flourishing rather than just surviving and languishing. Positive psychologists work in all domains from the military to medicine to education. While studying positive psychology, I couldn’t help but think about the philosophy of Dr. L.D. Pankey.

For so many years I referred to what I learned at the Institute as a “philosophy.” That word isn’t very exciting. Dentists would fall asleep whenever I invoked words like “philosophy,” “virtues,” or “Aristotle.” But throughout history from Lao-Tzu and Aristotle to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, it’s truly only been about living a life worth living.

The positive psychologists have backed all of the “philosophy and psychological principles” up with real science. In other words – this stuff works–it’s real.

My book is about how to make your career in dentistry worth doing – long term.

Dentistry has changed. There is still plenty of opportunity in dentistry. Try to remember why you went into dentistry. No better yet…imagine the day you were born. Imagine what your parents wanted for you more than anything else. Now think about the day you leave dentistry…is there anything you will regret. This book is about helping you find what it is you want from your work in this field – yes it’s more than money. But achievement is there as well. It’s about Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory and PERMA—

Download the book…let’s discuss PERMA and well being through the comments below. Let’s also discuss the Commitment Equation.

Is Dental Burnout a Public Health Issue?

February 2, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership — Tags: , — Barry @ 12:12 PM

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I haven’t blogged in a while. No, I am not getting lazy. I have been busy. I am writing a new book on leadership and communication for dentists.

I know…it’s a bland subject. I know…what can I tell dentists about leadership and communication that they haven’t heard before. I see their eyes light up when the speakers show them beautiful photographs of smiles.

I know where they spend their time and what they focus on.

But not me…for forty years I have focused on the human side of dentistry…the behavioral component.

And I have learned a lot, more everyday as strange as that seems. So I have decided to write a book about leadership and communication because those two terms seem to capture the entirety of the human side of dentistry is every way.

I truly believe what leadership expert John Maxwell says: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”

If you want to be effective…study leadership.

If anyone has a better way to describe this highly complex subject, I am open to suggestions.

While doing my research, and trying to keep leadership and communication on the positive side of life because one of my core beliefs is that optimistic leaders are more effective and more successful; I found my self writing about  actual problems in dentistry.

The individual, the organizational and the community problems…the darker side of dentistry.

Stress.

Now, I know that’s an old story. We have all heard the news that dentists commit suicide more than any other group. I never got into that conversation…but I do know some victims. I know a lot more sufferers of depression and burnout.

Whenever we hear about a professional suicide we march out that old cliche’ about suicides and dentist…then we go back to work – as a friend of mine once said, “we are either crying or lying.”

One thing we all know, workplace stress is real and professional burnout is very common.

But we’re doctors, we are expected to have everything under control, right? Maybe that is why professionals have swept this problem under the rug for so long.

For me, the giant basket of information for the cure for burnout was to learn how to connect with people better and learn how to become a better leader. It worked for me.

For others this has become a big issue. And it’s finally beginning to trend.

A friend tipped me off about a physician in Oregon, Pamela Wibles, who has become an evangelist for physician suicide and burnout. She has written a book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered. The book describes the problem in the medical community through her own personal story.

After publishing an article about herself, she received hundreds of letters from physicians who have shared similar feelings.

I contacted her and told her that we have similar issues in dentistry.  Her website is www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/. In her book and on her website she discusses some of the solution to this growing problem.

Of course this can be viewed as a blessing and a curse. Professional education is in dire need of reform…in every way. This problem has many causes….from professional school bullying and hazing to the extreme pressures young professionals go through in private practice.

The public needs to become more aware because of the implications of this problem. Mistakes in diagnosis and treatment will cost the public in the long run. Lawsuits will go up.

This is the tip of the iceberg. When this problem is more deeply explored we will find many more implications.

In the meantime if you have been effected by dental suicide, and burnout…leave some comments below.

 

 

 

 

The Indescribable Value of Autonomy

September 9, 2015

Filed under: ARTICLES,Happiness — Tags: , , — Barry @ 9:10 AM

 

 

 

For old timers like me this film clip is one of Hollywood’s most iconic ever.  Go ahead and watch…and if you’re too young not to remember this scene from Nicholson’s Five Easy Pieces…enjoy.

The scene is Jack Nicholson at his best.  It illustrates why he has so many fans — he is the renegade in all of us.  He is truth, justice and the American way.

Oh if we all could just behave like that when we are being shit on.

Five Easy Pieces was made in 1970.  Yet watching this clip tells me things haven’t improved much…and maybe in the world of health professionals has gotten worse.

Most dentists go to school to be free from micromanagement.  We want to be masters of our own destiny.  But that is not happening today.

Autonomy is the word I like to use.

Another word might be discretionary, or being allowed to use one’s own judgement.  That’s probably the reason I never accepted dental insurance—it was the Jack Nicholson in me.

I always had a difficult time writing letters to “beg” for approval—the equivalence of “holding the chicken salad.”

A few years ago I was asked to be on a panel for the Huffington Post (See the blog post Dentistry Looked Bad – May 2013).  On the panel was two patients, an insurance company fraud specialist and myself.

What a joke!  The fraud inspector said it all.  Probably like the waitress in the film clip, there was such a lack of trust that it is hard to do a good job.  That’s where we have come over the last forty five years.

No one likes to be surveiled.  No one wants someone looking over their shoulder.
We want the freedom to do our jobs to the best our our abilities…that’s how we build our self-worth.  Through our work.

And I am not just writing about doctors and dentists.  We need to trust our employees enough to do the right thing.

Take a look at Jack’s reaction.  How often do we feel like that when speaking with an uncooperative service provider?  How does it feel?

What’s worse though is the stifling effect it has on the provider.  It can destroy trust in the entire system.  Whether it’s getting something as simple as two pieces of toast or getting your cable turned on in time for this week’s football game—we need people to have the freedom to use their judgement and behave with a sense of autonomy.

Dentists, as well as doctors are feeling this more and more.  The ideology of insurance companies and now corporate dentistry, is putting constraints on health professionals in order to become more efficient and more profitable…at the cost of losing autonomy.

When autonomy is gone…so is passion.  It’s just a job..and that’s not why we went to school.

 

 

 

It’s All Good

July 20, 2015

Filed under: Happiness — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 10:28 AM

 

its_all_good_by_robm8686

 

As I have mentioned in this blog many times, I am a hot yoga enthusiast.  I mostly do it as a form of exercise, a very demanding form of exercise.  Yoga, they say, has many additional benefits, from the medical to the metaphysical.  I really love to sweat.

Occasionally, one might hear something in a Yoga class that can change the way you look at the world.  Just last week my teacher, Leo, said something that made a big difference.

First, let me tell you about Leo.  He’s a professional Bikram teacher, and amateur philosopher.  People flock to his classes for the workout, the philosophy and the humor.  Leo always has a smile on his face…he’s never in a bad mood.

In Philadelphia we have a sports radio broadcaster who when asked how he is doing, always answers, “Never had a bad day in my life.”  Then he goes on complaining, criticizing and condemning just about everyone in town…including his call ins.

But that’s not Leo.  He never complains, condemns or criticizes anything or anyone.  He truly understands Dale Carnegie’s first rule of how to win friends and influence people.

Whenever I meet someone who maintains a genuine positive attitude I am in awe.  I just completed my next book, Short Guide to a Long Career.  I will be distributing it for free at summer’s end.  If you are on my mailing list (See the ADL list on the right >>>), you will get your copy as soon as it’s ready.

In the book I write about what it takes to have a long sustainable career in dentistry.  Most dentists know that is not something to take for granted.  I write about well-being and happiness.  Sustainable happiness.

The positive psychologists tell us that well-being is determined by 5 nutriments:

  1. Positive Emotions
  2. Engaging Work
  3. Positive Relationships
  4. Meaningful Work
  5. Achievement

The first one…positive emotions is a tough one…especially in such an emotional profession like dentistry.  Staying positive has always been my biggest challenge.  I suppose it’s a big challenge for other dentists too…with all of the negative complaining, criticizing and condemning I read online these days.

Let me return to Leo…how does he do it?

During our last class I listened as he taught the students.  He corrected people and as he noticed frustration—he just said, almost as an automatic response – “It’s all good.”

Then it hit me—he created a thought habit—“It’s all good.”

And it is!

So I have been practicing.  I slow down and think.  No matter what happens—I choose my response…and it’s all good.

It has a great calming effect.  Days go by much better…I have more energy.  Negative energy can suck the life right out of you.

Norman Vincent Peale was right—there is power in a positive mental attitude.  The problem is how to maintain it…

Try it…it can’t hurt…It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Dental Study Club Visits Lancaster

June 29, 2015

Filed under: Happiness,Self-development,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 12:28 PM

 

3 Knots

 

I am a big believer in study clubs.  Our club, the Three Knots Study Club has existed for ten years.  We meet yearly at a different location for educational and social reasons.

In the past few years we have fished the Everglades, explored the coast of Maine and hiked the hills of Asheville North Carolina.  This year one of our members hosted our meeting in Lancaster Pennsylvania…the heart of Amish country.
We certainly got a good look at how the Amish live…this trip was way beyond the typical tourist experience.

I had seen the pretzel factories, eaten enough funnel cake and shoo fly pie and sat behind many buggies in traffic to satisfy my curiosities but actually meeting and spending time with the Amish was a true learning experience.  It was truly a close up view into a culture that stands in direct contrast to the way we live in America today…and even without the modern amenities there’s a lot to learn from these quite progressive people.

Progressive?  Let me explain.  Everything is relative isn’t it?

The one thing that stood out while visiting the Amish farms and observing their family life was a great sense of moral responsibility and empathy for one another.  The lack of modern amenities blended in after a while.

What was really noticeable was the how they worked and related to one another.

Everyone working on the farms were craftsmen.  The animals were well taken care of, as if they were part of the family.  Mostly though what stood out was the care they placed in making sure everyone was taken care of…in the family and the extended family.

Progressive?  Or has the rest of society redefined progress as nothing but more and more material wealth, say as measured by the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  When does it stop?

Of course the Amish aren’t the only ones who measure success by other standards than material wealth.  In Bhutan the new economic paradigm is Gross Happiness Product which uses natural and social capital values to assess the true costs and gains of economic activity.

I remember first being introduced to the Pankey Philosophy many years ago.  In the center of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Life was three words…Reward…Material and Spiritual.  Through the years I continued to see our culture lose it’s balance with way too much emphasis on the material…at the total expense of the spiritual (if you have an issue with that word…think ephemeral or intangible—think purpose and gratitude).

As a matter of fact it was through Dr. Pankey’s original philosophy that I heard the term “moral obligation” in relation to dental practice.  It was a driving force in my writing my first book about the examination.

Morality and character are the drivers of a sustainable career in any profession…are we losing it?  Observing the Amish shows that we differ in more ways than air conditioning and electricity.

I am not suggesting anyone give up all material possessions…just to take a step back and realize that as an old movie title said…“The Best Things in Life are Free.”

This weekend we didn’t run the rapids in Montreal, see a Broadway show or ride horses in the Texas hill country…we just ate some really good home cooking and watched another way to live that could hold promise for our future.

 

 

One Habit That Will Make You Unique

March 30, 2015

Filed under: Ethics,Happiness,Leadership — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:08 AM

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And the Academy Award for Best Actor in a motion picture goes to…Eddie Redmayne…for his role of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.   What a moment.  The cameras switched over to a very disappointed Michael Keaton who was really counting on giving his acceptance speech.  That didn’t happen.  The Academy gave it to the relative novice because of the masterful job he did in portraying Stephen Hawking the Nobel Prize winning physicist and a victim of ALS.

Redmayne, in the tradition of many other great actors like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, and Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, won the award because of the difficulty of the role.  It required putting himself in the place of an another and actually becoming that person.  For Lewis it was the palsied Christy Brown, for Hoffman it was the role of a woman, and for Redmayne it was Hawking, who has been confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak since 1985.

Amazing performances all.  The one quality that makes those roles possible: empathy.

The dictionary defines empathy as:

The art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.

As dentists we must master the “art” of empathy in order to be truly successful.  Empathy and the habits that are necessary to develop, will be the trait that will separate dentists in the future. 

We live in a time where there is a deficit of empathy.  Most of us are overly concerned with ourselves rather than “the other.”  It’s a paradox, but none other than the famous motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar used to say, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

I take nothing away from Michael Keaton and as I will explain I really liked his movie Birdman better, but as far as acting performances go Redmayne became Stephen Hawking.

You see, Birdman, Keaton’s award winning movie discussed just that sentiment.  It was subtitled, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.  What does that mean?

It can be summed up in a scene where Keaton is arguing with a reviewer about how good an actor he is (in the movie…not in real life…seems to be his haunting theme).  She tells him he’s a celebrity, not an actor.

WATCH THE CLIP:<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/4d5KovCbU8w” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

So what is the difference?  Today it’s easy to become a celebrity…yes, even in a field like dentistry.  I see so many dentists who are more interested in Facebook and Twitter (a theme also revealed in Birdman—when he walked down Broadway in his whitey tighties, I guess that was the unexpected virtue of ignorance.), than in truly treating each and every patient with empathy.  They want to become celebrities—smile artists.

Empathy is what makes us human.  It keeps everything real.  The question is, can it be developed or is it just something we have or not. 

I guess, if actors can develop it, we can create the habit of empathy.

When I studied the Pankey philosophy, I noted that L.D. Pankey used the word virtue a lot.  Aristotle used that word.  I never quite grasped what it meant to the Greeks, but the writers of Birdman also used it in their subtitle.

A virtue refers to actions taken to create a level of excellence.  It takes practice to develop excellence, and enough good habits lead to what Aristotle called the “good life.”

Dentists understand this when it comes to technical practice…but what about the habit of empathy, or as Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, before trying to be understood.”

What are some things we can do to develop empathy:

  • Become Spock-like.  Get into a mind-meld mindset.  Imagine yourself knowing what the other is thinking.

  • Follow the Platinum Rule—I used to think the Golden Rule was the right thing but the Platinum Rule states that you should treat people not as you would want to be treated but as they want to be treated.  As if you were the other.

  • Use creative storytelling to imagine yourself in the life of the other.  Great empathists like Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela were masters of this.

  • Immerse yourself in the actual dental experience,  Feel that fear, feel the financial pressure.  Many dentists are masters of the “should,” without ever having experienced what it is to have extensive dentistry.

  • Practice the art of conversation.  Learn the language of empathy and take the time to understand patients.

  • Be curious about the lives of patients…as Pankey used to say, their circumstances, objectives and temperament.

  • Share your story with people…get deep.  Go further than small talk about the weather and sports.  As author Bren’e Brown advises, become vulnerable.

These are just a few of the things that we can do to practice empathy.  Readers of my book, Art of Examination, know that the dentists can build these into their daily practice…so in the end they will not only play the role of a real human dentist but they can actually become one.

 

The Garden of TAO

August 18, 2014

Filed under: Happiness,Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 12:37 PM

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I love metaphors.  They help me explain things better. Metaphors not only make our thoughts more vivid and interesting but that they actually structure our perceptions and understanding.  And perception, as you know is everything.

Think of the metaphor, “time is money.”  I used to think of that as a rule.  That I should live my life and run my practice like that.

Until I realized that that metaphor was causing me all kinds of stress.  But who was I to argue, after all, I had heard that metaphor throughout my entire life as if it were handed down from high above.

I’ve since learned that time is not money…time is time, and money is money, and these days time is worth much more than money.

Recently I was assessing my last forty years in dental practice.  I was using Clayton Christensen’s ideas from his book How Will You Measure Your Life?

Tough times make one very reflective.  Christensen advises to look back on your career and focus on all of the people you have helped through the years.  We tend to focus more on our setbacks.  It’s called a negative bias.

So I did.

Over the past forty-one years I have seen over 31,000 patients.

But my practice these days has slightly less than 1000 active patients.

Well, they’re more than patients—they’re members.  People who have subscribed to my approach to dental and health care.  People who know, like and trust me.  People who have mutual trust, appreciation and ownership of their health.

The nutriments of a healthy,  long term fee-for service practice….and the title of this Blogsite.

They’re like family members.

I am sure there would have been more.  People have passed on, people have moved…things happen.

Of course, there are people who just didn’t “click.”

There is an online marketing concept known as 1000 true fans.  It was taken from the idea of the long tail in using keyword search.  The idea is that a business doesn’t have to serve the entire market—just the long tail, to thriveWired magazine editor Keven Kelley created the concept of 1000 true fans from the long tail, and describes many successful businesses as thriving by concentrating on that “niche” market.

Then the metaphor came to me.

Through my years I have been developing and growing my garden…my Garden of TAO.

By using my examination process and nurturing the above mentioned nutriments of trust, appreciation and ownership…I have grown a very nice garden.  Trust, appreciation and ownership are blended into the soil.  They make relationships grow and thrive.

It takes time to build a garden.  Great relationships, in contrast to what the practice management people tell us, take time.  I didn’t know that early in my practice.  It’s the reason I wrote and developed the Arts of Examination and Case Presentation.

Of course, like any gardener you have to be very protective of the beautiful flowers you are growing.  You must tend to the soil, provide nutriments and supplements, but most importantly, keep the weeds out.

That is one of the reasons I am purely fee-for-service.

I have my own philosophy developed through the years.  The last thing I want is to hybridize the garden with foreign thoughts and ideas.  That’s how I maintain my autonomy…that’s why I have learned that time is not money.  You can always lose your money…time is more precious.

 

 

 

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