The secret to happiness as a dentistAlways listen to wisdom coming from a man in a grass skirt playing a ukulele. That’s a new motto I picked up during my visit to Bora Bora.

The man in question was the owner-operator of a charter boat we hired to take us out scuba diving, and that’s how he welcomed us aboard – in his Polynesian grasswear, strumming his ukulele and serenading us with his songs.

He turned out to be a fantastic guide who led us to an area where we watched a ballet of stingrays moving through the water with graceful elegance. He took us to see black-tip sharks. And he brought us to probably the most spectacular reef I have ever seen for the snorkelling adventure of a lifetime.  I now understand why Bora Bora is such a premium destination for divers.

Our guide also turned out to be something of a wise philosopher. We asked him about his life and he said that he had everything he needed to make his life complete.

“This boat,” he said, “is my office. I get to come here every day and meet interesting people from around the world. And you have to admit, it’s got quite a view.”

Then he gestured at the ocean. “That is my refrigerator. That’s where I keep the fresh fish that are going to be in my next meal. And that mountainside” – he pointed back toward the island – “is where I grow my fruits and vegetables.” He explained that he only went to the market for a few staples to round out his diet: milk, butter, rice. “My life is quite simple,” he said, “and it couldn’t be better.” I believed him, because I have seldom seen a man who looked more at peace with himself.

We’ve all heard before about the virtues of living a simple life, and to most of us it feels right intuitively. We crave the sort of peace that comes with shutting out the noise and just living our lives in the service of what really matters. That doesn’t mean necessarily that you have to live on a boat off a South Pacific island and fish for your supper (although I know that probably sounds good to many people). It just means that, in a world where new layers of complexity are being added to our lives all the time, it pays to spend some time putting things in a useful context.

This is why it is important to have a thoughtfully crafted, meaningful vision that guides your daily actions so you have a framework for how to best spend your time and your money – and your time with the people who are important to you. You need a plan to ensure that your economic needs and your personal needs (all those things that add meaning to life) are always reliably taken care of. You need to work on creating value for comprehensive care, because just a few more patients a month saying yes to great dentistry translates into big progressive strides in the practice.

In a society and a profession where it can often seem that keeping up with daily demands is like drinking from a fire hose, this commitment to giving structure and purpose to your actions – to creating meaning by simplifying your objectives – is what you gives you peace of mind. 

(If you enjoyed this article, click here for more by Imtiaz Manji.)