I am obsessed with human motivation. For over forty years I have studied what makes people tick. For myself it is an exercise in self-development…but in my practice, I believe it is a key to helping people improve. Now I’m not a psychologist but I’ve done my share of literature review from Maslow to Carl Rogers.
At a recent study club meeting I presented the Art of Case Presentation from my book by the same name. Afterwards I heard someone say, “You can’t change people.”
Later on I reflected on that statement. I was bothered by it—more about the attitude behind it than the validity. Did I really waste forty years of research and study, and over a year in writing a book if that were true?
I will say with all humility. I am living proof that people can change. People are capable of changing, and as a dentist I see myself as a change agent.
Change is difficult…I’m sure you know that, but it starts with the subjectivity about change rather than the objective nature of change. If you say you can…you can.
My discomfort with the declaration caused me to do more reading and reflection. I am fully convinced that all change starts with the emotional brain. We must find our own emotional reasons to begin and maintain changes.
There are many books written that discuss the role of mental triggers…things that enter into our minds and get our attention. One such book, Fascinate by Sally Hogshead (see a review at the end of this post) discusses 7 triggers that communicate ideas, they are:
These 7 triggers instantly reach the emotional brain and provide meaning for the observer. It’s the meaning that compels us to pay attention and possibly inspire action.
Dentists spend a lot of time trying to appeal to all patients. Maybe it is true that we can’t change everyone…after all during my career I have seen upwards of 30,000 different patients, but only about 1200 remain active in my practice.
So how well am I doing my job if “changing people” is going to be part of my job description.
One story, reproduced below , that guides my thinking, has really helped me through the years.
A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at
sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the
distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native
kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out
into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things
out into the ocean.
As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man
was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach
and, one at time, he was throwing them back into the water.
Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said,
“Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing.”
“I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see,
it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been
washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the
sea, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen.”
“I understand,” my friend replied, “but there must be thousands
of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of
them. There are simply too many. And don’t you realize this is
probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this
coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”
The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another
starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied,
“made a difference to THAT one!”
-By Jack Canfield
and Mark V. Hansen
The shared values creates the political climate in the practice…for me—it’s about the values of TRUST, APPRECIATION AND OWNERSHIP.
Hmmm…I should write a blog about those three words.