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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.








Worry! Don’t Be Happy

May 6, 2013

Filed under: Happiness,Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 12:15 PM



I am a big fan of the positive psychology movement.  One of my favorite authors on the subject is the late University of Michigan professor Chris Peterson.  You would think that most positive psychologists would lobby for happiness for everyone.  Peterson was much more of a realist.  In his last book, Pursuing the Good Life, he posed the question: “can you be too cheerful?”

That’s a question I always wondered about.  After all, whenever I attend dental meetings and seminars…everyone is oh, so happy.  Life and dentistry can’t be all that good…I know my life has its ups and downs…just about every week, and sometimes daily.

But in public, most dentists are smiling, or at least talking about smiling.

In Peterson’s rant he sites a concept first discussed in 1899 by Thorstein Veblen, known as conspicuous consumption, which refers to the over the top and blatant materialism undertaken to show others how well off they might be.

He stretches that definition to a concept he calls conspicuous conservation which refers to people who take over-the-top ecologically relevant actions undertaken to show others how “green” they might be.

Quite honestly showing off how green or rich you might be kind of bothers me.

Peterson stretches the analogy to cheerfulness.  People who relentlessly display a positive stance.  I’m sure we can all identify someone like an ex-neighbor I had who always made a point to compliment me and tell me how great things were.  One week after a recent surgery and after losing ten pounds, she told me how good I looked.  And she didn’t know I just had the surgery.

Look, I’m all for the power of positive thinking, but I am aware the good things happen as well as bad things.  And Chris Peterson is not just another positive psychology happiologist…he confirmed that for me.  The goal for positive psychology is appropriate cheerfulness.

And Peterson tells us that appropriate cheerfulness and discontent with the status quo has likely led  to almost anything that has improved in the world.  I know that is true in my life.  I once took on the mantra of motivator W. Clement Stone who claimed he was always inspiration-ally dissatisfied.

So let’s keep it real…our lives and our practices can’t always being doing that well.  We all can’t be doing a big case everyday…especially if you live in New Jersey.







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