I started the day today on a good foot. I woke up on the right side of the bed. I must have had a great dream last night. My kids and my wife told me “I love you” this morning. I hit all green lights on the way to work.
Some days you just know it will be a good day.
Other days things start off a bit more shaky.
Of course we all have days where our mindset is lagging creating a poor tone for everything that follows. We drag our feet and think of other things we would rather be doing. The mind influences everything we do and that negativity leads to lack of production, poor outcomes, or additional stress. Positivity has of course the opposite effect; a concept so replete in many motivational books explaining the power of positive thought. We all can be more effective people by learning how to capture and apply this skill. I believe this is a learned skill that can be both improved by practice and lost if ignored.
I am by nature a consistently positive person. My friends and family will attest to this, but even the most positive person needs help sometimes. Many years ago in college I discovered the need to practice positive thinking. This lesson started on the collegiate athletic field in my so-called “glory days” of pole vaulting. For whatever the reasons (in college there are probably many contributory variables) I found myself on occasion performing poorly in practice. These periods of funk resulted in wasted practice opportunities to get better, run faster, and vault higher. It was frustrating for my coaches and especially for me. I knew I had the skill, but I lacked the every single day focus resulting in disappointment and subsequently mediocre performance.
My parents heard my frustrations over the phone, which prompted them to send me a cassette tape (in the days of walkmans and cassettes). It was literally called “The Power of Positive Thinking”. I would listen to this tape at night, after my studying, and as I lay in bed. I would listen to the tape on the bus as we travelled to various track meets or on the plane to more distant stadiums. The tape taught and reinforced the ways to train your mind to work with positivity and to control negative thoughts. It taught me to start the day right. It taught me to recite affirmations. It taught me how to deal with simple disappointment and to envision the success before it even happens; to literally watch the performance in my mind before even starting to run towards the pole vault mats. It was amazing how I began to gain more control of the outcomes of practice by adjusting the mental approach to my training. The wasted practices became stronger and more effective.
In 1999 I graduated and my life in competitive athletics was over. My focus shifted to dental school. Certainly dental school can be intense and often overwhelming. It is time consuming and mentally taxing. Keeping your head above the class work, the lab work and the clinical work 7 days a week takes its toll over 4 years. There are a lot of similarities to performing consistently athletically as compared with being in the classroom, study hall or clinic floor. So I applied lessons already learned. The tapes suggest writing positive sentences on paper and posting them in areas in which I spent a lot of time. That was my study desk of course. Simple one liners that I remember were “decide to have a great day”, “study with, help, and learn from your classmates”, “listen closely in class”, “do great work”.
Some might think this is super corny; as did I for awhile. Maybe this is even a bit embarrassing to write about now. In fact I won’t soon forget the night friends came over to our apartment to play cards. My friend carried my study desk from my room to the main room. She read my notes and commented on them to the rest of the group as the table was reset to play cards. There was a fair amount of laughter.
The point of all this is that I woke up this morning ready to get to the office to do something great. I woke up on the right side of the bed and I had a good dream and I know my wife loves me. I want to do something great in the office today. I want to connect with my patients, laugh and empathize with them. I want to deliver perfect endodontic treatments. I want to save a tooth that was once considered unsavable. I will look at an x-ray this morning and be excited and confident on how to best approach the tooth to get the great result. I will see it in my mind before I do it.
But tomorrow might be a little different. Tomorrow I might have a bad dream or perhaps my kids will be upset with me. I cannot let it affect me though; It doesn’t matter. When I get in the car, I will practice the power of positive thinking. I will recite those affirmations, and give positive thought to the day. My mindset will change because I will actively think about and focus on the good things that will happen. I will see it happen before it happens. It is my decision to do so.
At the risk of yet again being “super corny” let me share a few of those thoughts:
–I hope I get a super curvy canal today to instrument perfectly—
–I will create that perfect access shape and that perfect transition to the apex–
–I will find that right connection to engage with each patient–
–I want my patients to leave the office shaking my hand or expressing thanks because they were happy with the result and the care—
–I will work with my team and lead them, help them and take their advice as well—
–I will have fun today with my friends (Mike S, Adam M, Anne W)—
Perhaps these are not the specific words or thoughts, but they are indeed very closely paraphrased and honest. They are both technical and personal. This sets me into the right state of mind. My patients, my staff, my colleagues expect and deserve that.
Will this approach work every day, every time, without fail? No, it won’t. But it certainly minimizes the bad days or the bad experiences significantly. Not every tooth can be saved, and unfortunately not every patient is friendly. There are times where the highs of excitement, quality and patient connection turn to lows of disappointment, disengagement, and concern. Everyone experiences similar emotions in the workplace or home life. But how do we overcome that? We must accept the situation, make it as good as possible, turn the page and perform perfectly again.
I have one more advantage though as I see it which helps to keep motivation, focus, and overall enjoyment. I have colleagues that are my friends in the office. And while I do not know the specifics of their mental approach to the day, I do know they offer me uplifting support and perspective. Having Michael S, Adam M, and Anne W to bounce my thoughts towards and listen to their wisdom is never undervalued.
I really feel this mental approach to the life a dentist is so critical. I try to avoid the dullness and mundane with focus upon positive participation and positive thought. This approach and the want to create great endodontic work and overall experience for my patients, my staff and myself is my daily goal. I focus on the specifics of my work, but also remember the overall big-picture perspective. Even this blog is part of a daily reminder to actively think, and sometimes verbally speak about what I want to do today and how I will do it. Regardless of which side of the bed I woke up on.
Thanks for visiting us at Tri City and Fallbrook Micro Endodontics of San Diego, CA.