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Part 1 Mindset: Self Leadership Tip #1

Ask Yourself Big Questions

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Tip 1: Ask Yourself Big Questions

I believe that young people are looking for answers to the big questions just like everyone else, and that they respect intelligent comment to help guide them through tough times.
- Bill Kurtis

The inner game of dentistry begins with asking ourselves tough questions. Let's start at the beginning. Why did you become a dentist? No two people can answer that question the same way. I believe that the vast majority of dentists never took the time to thoroughly analyze the question. This isn't just about dentists. Most young people are asked to make decisions about what they will do for the rest of their lives at a time that they don't have enough information. This was true for me forty years ago, and I am sure things haven't changed too much.

Many dentists get into dentistry never expecting some of the difficulties they will face from the technical, financial and the relationship issues. They soon learn after dental school that it's not just about fixing teeth. I have heard many dentists say, "If I only knew it would be like this, I would have gone into something else." All of this is in spite of the fact that U.S. News has chosen dentistry as the number one job for 2015. The criteria for making that choice are that the job holds your interest and pays for your lifestyle. Essentially dentistry has the potential for decent work-life balance. For 2014, the dentists earned an average salary of $164,570 and median salary of $146,340. Not bad numbers, but a lot less than it was when I was in my prime during the eighties.

I really don't see that the issues have changed all that much. Although our individual stories may be different most people go into dentistry for two reasons: to make a good living that will fuel a great lifestyle and to do meaningful work for their patients. Although the U.S. News report tells us this is what dentistry offers, there's more to it. My own experiences and conversations with colleagues indicate there is a paradox of duty and desire. Dentists perceive their duty as being the good doctor and their desire for a great lifestyle as not always compatible. The most successful dentists I know have reconciled this paradox.

So, the big question is, why did you go to dental school? Where are you now? Does your present situation match up with your early vision? Is this what you thought dentistry would be like? This book will help to clarify those questions.

Take a moment to write down your reasons for practicing dentistry. Can you achieve your vision under your present circumstances? Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of General Motors once said, "Control your own destiny, or someone
else will." These days the forces in our culture are controlling the destinies of many young dentists. In order to be the best dentist we must have total control over our time, our work and our relationships. This is the definition of
autonomy. It is only by mastering the profession that we will have the ability to control our destiny.

These early questions will help to define your vision and your purpose. Once you know where you are going and create the control to get there, you will be fueled by your passion for dentistry and people.

Action Step: Write down your vision of where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. Be specific. Write down how you want to spend every day. Whom do you want to spend it with? What type of dentistry do you want to do most? What hours do you want to work? What do you want your income to be? How many and what type of vacations would you like to take? Everything you can think of, write down. I can tell you that your journey will be tough. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. If you are up for it, you can reconcile the paradox of duty and desire.

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