Throughout my career in dentistry I have been known as a “philosopher.” While many of my colleagues focused on technical dentistry in order to find fulfillment and success in dentistry, I read the works of Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius and Anthony Robbins looking for answers to life’s biggest questions. Just about everything I ever wrote offered a philosophical point of view.
And most people didn’t like it. One friend, many years ago, told me that philosophy just doesn’t sell. Yet I always believed in what the great motivational speaker, Jim Rohn once said, “your personal philosophy is the greatest determining factor in how your life works out.” It seemed the more I spoke about philosophy, the more I annoyed people. Just ask my kids.
But I am hooked, so I continue to look for the answers to some of my biggest questions about life and work. I just happened to be a dentist so my work is dentistry.
Three of the biggest influences in my life have been Dr. L.D. Pankey’s philosophy which is based on Aristotle and the Greeks, Abraham Maslow and the humanistic psychology movement and most recently the work of Martin Seligman and positive psychology. The problem that I saw with all of these was not in the analytics or thought processes, but mostly in the application. In other words…how do you bring this stuff to real life?
Pankey’s philosophy was great. Once I learned to know myself, my patient and my work…I was still lost. The biggest void came in the “apply your knowledge” arm of his Cross. Maslow really turned my head around because now I understood why I couldn’t take the next steps without fulfilling basic needs. And until I had enough of the lower needs I couldn’t move up the hierarchy. Marty Seligman’s PERMA model was the one that really opened my eyes because now I finally knew that philosophy was based in real science. My last book, Short Guide to a Long Career explains his PERMA model in detail- and how to apply it in dental practice.
Seligman recently added a “V” to his model. It stands for VITALITY.
And the “V” ends up being a key to the whole puzzle of application.
When one reads his Well-Being Theory, there is an implication that we follow it as it reads—P-E-R-M-A-V. Maybe that’s just because I am a dentist and see life very linearly…dentists like step-by-step instructions.
Allow me to digress. Those of you who have read The Art of the Examination know that I am a type 2 diabetic. I have been for thirty years, and for all of those years I have controlled my blood sugar with diet and exercise.
But no longer. I recently went on insulin. No biggie…really. When you go on insulin it forces you to become even more aware of the cellular and micro-changes of diet and exercise. I now pay much more attention to basic biochemistry—yes I now realize just how philosophically important the Krebs Cycle is to all of our lives. Metabolism – is the key to our lives and our vitality.
Metabolism is the key to our energy – and how we create and spend our energy is how we live our lives. Most of us concentrate on managing time and money to create successful lives…but I implore you that the payoffs are much greater when we focus on managing our energy.
Throughout my entire career, looking back, it was high amounts of positive energy that was responsible for most of my successes.
So what is the lesson here? That the V…the Vitality module of Marty Seligman’s Well-Being Theory is the starting point for a successful life. The V includes diet, exercise, mindfulness meditation and sleep hygiene. Once the V is covered, you will have the energy to exercise more willpower to make better choices and focus on being more optimistic, more resilient, applying more effort and more grit, better focus and concentration in developing better skills, using your strengths, building better and more fulfilling connections, working with meaning and purpose…and of course…accomplishing much more.
In life, you have to know who you are, what you stand for i.e. ethics and values, what you want to be and lastly, what you want to become. Dentistry is a ‘do job’ which means that you create something with your hands. Unfortunately, many dentists cannot fulfill one or more of the philosophical aspects of their life and on top of that, many do not master their clinical craft.
I agree completely with Barry…You must know who and what you are, what you want to become and how will you get there.
Comment by Gerald Benjamin — July 15, 2017 @ 5:50 PM
Thank you Gerald—you are one of the few who get it…keep contributing.
Comment by Barry — July 16, 2017 @ 10:29 PM