If you are like me and many dental professionals, then you are a perfectionist by nature. In other words, many of us are driven to deliver “perfect” results to our patients and anything less than perfect is “bad” and you are a “loser.” A lot of this gets ingrained in dentists in dental school when you take your first wax up or restoration to your dental professor and he picks it apart and tells you all the things that are “wrong” with it and maybe you feel like you are a “bad” dental student. In fact, one of my professors had a sign that said “If it is just about right, then it’s wrong!”
Unfortunately, this is driven into us for the four years of dental school, and it is that foundation that we have when we begin a dental practice or wherever our dentistry takes us. On top of that, our success and clinical competence in diagnosis is judged based on whether or not we find everything “wrong” or “broken” with our patients. If we don’t, then we are clinically incompetent, or “bad” or a “loser.”
If that’s not enough, then we have to be able to do the same thing with every restoration we complete. If you are like me, I look at my restorations at least every six months in hygiene and do the same thing over and over! Before you know it, we are truly looking at everything to see if it is “broken” or “wrong,” and sometimes its starts happening outside the dental office. And if we aren’t careful, it begins to define us and our mindset in dentistry and in life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we do a great service, and the majority of the time we do a great job at what we do. But often times, we don’t focus on the things that went great in the office that day, and instead we focus on the one crown that didn’t seat or the one filling that didn’t go as expected. Then we allow that one event to define our day, and eventually we allow it to define us as a professional and as a person: whether we are a “winner” or a “loser,” a “great” dentist or a “not so great” dentist.
Well, I’m here to make a confession: I’m not perfect! I don’t know anyone that is and I don’t know anyone that does everything perfectly. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be because when you define your happiness and who you are by the “losses” or “failures” in your life, then you will never be happy. But what I do know is this: I know a lot of people and dentists that are excellent. They do an excellent job at what they do; they do excellent dentistry, along with a lot of other great things. I said excellent and great and not perfect, because this is what I believe defines greatness: Excellence and the pursuit of excellence! (not perfection!!!) Excellence is defined as: “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Now, I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t like to be described as excellent!
So, when you have the one or two things that don’t go perfectly today, then remember it’s up to you to define you, and not anyone else or anything else, for that matter! Choose excellence!
Jeff Lineberry, DDS, FAGD, FICOI Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author, Spear Education