The University of British Columbia in Vancouver (where I lived for much of my adult life) has a great motto, “Tuum Est,” which means, “It's up to you.” I doubt that many of the young students there fully appreciate the wisdom of that statement, for the simple reason that they haven't yet acquired the life experience to make it resonate.

Most of us travel a journey of awareness to come to a full understanding of what that motto means. We all start out being completely dependent on our parents for everything. Then we go through a phase where we're interdependent (which usually means the college years of being financially dependent but living independently). Finally, we reach the stage where we become independent and can support ourselves with the income we earn. And it's what you do from that stage on, and how comprehensively you embrace the implications of independence, that determines the kind of life you will have.

A lot of people move on to an understanding of self-reliance that goes well beyond just financial independence. They realize that their lives are determined by what they choose and what they make happen. Most dentists fall into this category – that's how they became dentists.

And then there are those who know how to make their lives just right, so that they are not only self-reliant but are experiencing tremendous fulfillment and enjoyment in everything they do. You can call it drive. You can call it self-awareness, or ambition, or vision. But what it means is, they have taken the spirit of independence and run with it.

Whether you are a young associate in a state of interdependence right now, or an independent dentist-owner, there are always possibilities beyond your current reality. Nobody will force you to pursue them, though. It's up to you.