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3 Tips for Achieving and Maintaining Emotional Fulfillment as the Owner of a Dental Practice.

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Dentists are high-functioning, ambitious people. We have a vision of what we want our practice to be, and it can be frustrating when the results aren’t showing up like we want them to. 

We often find ourselves crossing our fingers and hoping that once we reach the next stepping stone, things will suddenly be better. And then, when we reach that stepping stone, we end up feeling like not much has changed. Thus, we become disappointed and suffer a domino effect. Our self-esteem wavers as we start to lose morale about how much potential we actually have as entrepreneurs.

Trust me, I know how hard it gets. That’s why, for this week’s article, I want to provide you with three tips for achieving and maintaining emotional fulfillment as the owner of a dental practice.

1. Don’t fall into the trap of “I’ll be happy when __.” 

There are always areas for improvement. There are always things we can change for the better, and there are always things we’ll want to be better at. If we focus on what we haven’t accomplished, there’ll be a whole lot to find—and doing so won’t serve us. 

We can’t let our happiness become contingent on what we do or don’t accomplish in our business. Fixating on all of the tweaks we can make will pave the way for sleepless nights and days weighed down by overthinking. While it’s important to ruminate on what pivots you can make to achieve your goals, achieving those goals can’t be what makes or breaks your mental state.

Worse, sometimes practice owners will get so laser-focused on achieving their goals that they forget to allow themselves to have room for error. The entrepreneurial journey is one full of bumps in the road, and no journey is going to be wholly successful. There are so many seasons of life, and it’s impossible to have a crystal ball and predict things ahead of time. 

What’s cool about dentistry is that there are so many opportunities to change lanes, alter your direction, and set yourself on a trajectory that lies within your comfort zone. If you want to change something, you can. The happiest entrepreneurs don’t succumb to the “woe is me” mentality; they understand that hurdling obstacles is half the challenge. 

The most fulfilled folks also try to practice gratitude in the present. So, focus on what you have going for you, especially outside of the workplace. Do you have a happy family, blessed with kids who make you smile? Do you have friends who are supportive and help push you to be the best you can be? 

2. Work with people you like.

There are so many variables that can affect the culture of your practice. With all sorts of folks who we regularly deal with—both internally and externally—we’re bound to run into “people problems” quite a bit.

We need to make sure there’s chemistry when working alongside associate dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and/or our front desk staff. If you don’t get along with your team or they don’t get along with one another, that’s going to create a toxic environment that nobody wants to come into. You need to like who you’re working with, and your team needs to like one another, because your dental practice staff ought to feel like a second family. Without a positive workplace culture, going to work will never be fun for anybody on the team. 

Liking your colleagues goes beyond getting along with them, too. We also should like how our coworkers perform on a daily basis. We may think our hygienist has the sweetest soul on the planet, but they may be crummy at presenting treatments to patients and building trust with them. Likewise, we may think our front desk team members could be a stand up comedy troupe, but they might constantly mishandle phone calls or fumble the scheduling of patients. If we don’t want to stress about the success of our business, it’s important to build a team that pulls their weight and keeps our practice running like a well-oiled machine.

3. Understand that making money shouldn’t be your #1 motivator.

Dentists have the privilege of always being able to make money. If our practice burns down, we’d be able to go work as an associate dentist at some DSO and still make six figures. For some of us, the ability to always be high earners was a big reason we chose to pursue the profession. 

And even though I didn’t just get into dentistry to make lots of dough, I’d be the first to admit that money is super important. We need cashflow if we want our business to flourish or if we want to achieve financial freedom. Money is how we poise ourselves for growth both professionally and personally.

However, after a certain point, chasing dollars just isn’t in our best interests if we want to be mentally healthy. Those of us who think there can “never be enough money” tend to lose themselves in an emotionally-draining rat race. The grass is always greener: they want a fancier car or a bigger house until they run out of things to spend money on. Their emotional well-being becomes tied up in their material worth. 

There’s a reason Buddhists tout that true happiness comes from detaching ourselves from the material world, after all, whether you believe in their ways or not. Money comes and goes. Even having all of the riches in the world will never make us feel whole. Fixating on how much money we’re making just creates undue stress.

For those of you with families, it’s worth thinking about how being in a rat race will affect your home life. If you have kids, they’re already learning to regulate their emotions. It’ll be much harder if their parents aren’t around to help them as much as they should because they work long hours. The same goes if their parents are constantly stressed out because they’re so consumed with the bottom line of their dental practice.

Instead, realizing the impact you’re making will give you much more fulfillment. Consider all of the lives you’re changing. For one, you’re employing a staff. Because of you, the people on your team are able to put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on their table. And don’t forget that you’re also improving the lives of your patients by providing treatment. 

Mental health always comes first.

It’s not uncommon to feel burnt out or even have a full-blown meltdown when it comes to the profession of dentistry. Just know that you’re not alone and that you can take measures to keep your head above water. While you can’t change the past, you can decide what you want to do going forward. 
I run a community full of dental professionals who can give you some nuggets of wisdom about achieving and maintaining emotional fulfillment. So, join the Nifty Thrifty Dentists Facebook group and reach out! People from all across the globe will be happy to let you in on their two cents and share what sort of self-work they put in.

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