Think of Happiness
as Being a Warm Puppy
Tip 7: Think of Happiness as Being a Warm Puppy
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
- Denis Waitley
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
- Albert Einstein
Consider the title of this e-book: Short Guide to a Long Career. The descriptive words are "short" and "long". It is short because we have so much content to go through these days that I want to be as brief as possible and provide the most impact. Much has been written about success and happiness. It is a major contributor to the number one bestselling genre of books: selfhelp. It's the long part that can get confusing. Long implies a successful career and a happy life…both admirable goals. It's the long part that implies we have some control over our future selves.
Let's ask the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm sure you have heard many versions of that question. It asks more about success and happiness than it does about passion and talent. When asked, most kids say things like policeman or fireman, thinking more about how those things will make them feel and how successful they will become. But how many kids actually grow up to become what they wished to be? And if they did, it doesn't always turn out like they imagined.
When a dentist is asked to use his imagination to create a vision of the future, they usually see themselves as achieving their dreams, becoming successful and living the happy American dream. Using our imagination gives us a sense of control over our lives. I myself used the term "master of my own destiny" as my battle cry to create my practice philosophy. Was I accurate? Well, not to the degree I thought I would be. The old saying, "Man plans, and God laughs," applies.
At the start of my career, I didn't realize the effect that technology, the economy, advertising and insurance would have on my plans? Most decisions we make in life have an effect on our future selves. Becoming a dentist held more than what we thought we were learning in dental school. The definition of success would include words like accomplishment and achievement of a worthy goal. That is why goal setting and clarity of goals are important.
In the Introduction I described the five components of well-being. Achievement was the fifth one. All of the components together can be measured and hold the key to our well-being. Happiness however, is about semantics. It's about a subjective feeling. Aristotle said it is "an expression of the soul in considered actions." He called those actions virtues, and said one could only measure the degree of happiness in a person's life at the end of one's life. Freud said happiness can be found in lieben und arbiten—to love and to work. And, Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoon said, "Happiness is a warm puppy." In truth, we cannot completely describe happiness, but we all know when we are happy.
Because the state of happiness is a present tense phenomenon, I have chosen what will make us happy in the future by what makes us happy now. That is why I have chosen Martin Seligman's definition of well-being as defined by PERMA as a guide to a sustainable career and a life well lived.
All of the components of well-being: positive emotions, engaging work, positive relationships, meaningful work and achievement can be built into our practices. Both spiritual and material rewards (what Dr. L.D. Pankey called happiness) can be fulfilled in any situation. The confusing part is that most dentists, when asked about their future happiness, tend to describe the reward in terms of financial rewards (material). Financial/material rewards are external drivers.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this treatise, it is the internal drivers—the spiritual rewards that are most responsible for our success and wellbeing. I believe that if I interviewed thousands of dentists, I would learn that it isn't having a new car or a quantity of money that is most rewarding to them. I believe I would find, with the right questions, that spiritual rewards such as transforming peoples' lives and being deeply appreciated for the contributions they make in quality of life would take prominence. These are the things that give most dentists fulfillment. Having an experience or two a day of true
connection with patients can make all the difference in being satisfied at work. This would be even more true with dentists who have been in practice for a substantial number of years.
I feel this Tip, Think of Happiness as Being a Warm Puppy, could be one of the most important pieces of advice in the book. By using well-being as the criteria to your practice life, I cannot guarantee happiness or success, but it's a good way to measure how you are doing in reconciling the paradox of duty and desire.
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