“... Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those famous words from the Declaration of Independence have long defined the ambitions of a free person in a free society. But there's more to life than being happy.
Everybody wants to be happy, but there is a significant difference between a happy life and a meaningful one. Happiness is often about getting what you want. Meaningfulness comes from giving of yourself. Happiness can be fleeting. Meaningfulness is everlasting. Maybe we should be less concerned with pursuing happiness and more concerned with pursuing meaning in our lives.
It's a philosophy that explains the central paradox of parenting. Most parents will tell you the greatest joy in their lives come from their children. However, parenting is more about giving than taking, and on the whole it's one of the most meaningful things you can do in life. By any measure, that kind of meaning is more important than any moment of selfish happiness.
You are already lucky in that the profession you have chosen – a caring profession that brings relief and new possibilities to patients – is meaning in itself. But if you are looking for even more fulfillment, I suggest you are more likely to find it by giving more than by getting more.
If you need further proof, just look at what we are doing at the Open Wide Foundation. I knew that what we were going to do with that first clinic in Peronia would have a huge impact on the people in that community.
What has really surprised me is the impact it has had on the dentists who have served there. They all seem to come away transformed by the experience, energized with a special feeling that rejuvenates the way they look at life. They go with teams from their offices, family members, fishing buddies, and old friends. In fact, over 150 volunteers visited the clinic in 2012. Also, 3,000 unique patients received more than 1.7 million dollars in dental services and hope sprang up in this community in need. Download the Donor Impact Report .
Dentists get a sense of satisfaction for what they do at the clinic and that makes them happy, but it's about more than happiness. This is about making a commitment in the name of something greater than oneself. It's about giving your life new meaning, and it's incredible. So, GET INVOLVED. We need you. This month is our first anniversary, and my partner Glen Wysel returned from Guatemala even more invigorated. The celebration of the accomplishments of the last year with the inaugural team was amazing and the gratitude of the patient's and local staff unwavering.