When I was first exposed to Aristotle's cross of life many years ago, I felt he created it just for me.
The cross of life, according to Aristotle's teachings, is when you achieve balance in life by equalizing your energy and time toward love, work, worship, and play. He believed when these four areas are in balance, happiness is achieved, marking the center of the cross of life.
Happiness is what all human beings are seeking. Without being happy, does anything else matter? My only regret was I learned about the cross of life later in life. Oh, how I could have used it in my younger days.
Balance is important
Baseball was my life as a young boy. I would play baseball, watch baseball, and trade and collect baseball cards. My parents had to help me prevent becoming out of balance with my baseball obsession because I was too young to understand and to do it on my own.
Years later, music and dating took control of my life. Once again, my parents had to help me keep balanced using rules and discipline. If I wanted a new guitar, I had to work for it by keeping up my grades in school and getting a job. So, I studied hard and got an afterschool job and soon I had a new guitar. I was balanced.
In my senior year of high school, I realized I wanted to become a dentist. So, just like the way I got my guitar, I had to hit the books in college to make it into dental school. Then the practice of dentistry entered the picture, and I felt I had to compete with everyone to prove myself. In my mind, I had to have a big practice and make lots of money.
I spent so much time working to make money and competing with others that once again I found my life unbalanced – and my family and my sanity paying the toll. Then one day I realized I missed my daughter's first year of life, but as sad as that sounds it was just the kick in my pants I needed to wake up and rebuild my cross of life.
When I finally grasped my need for balance, I unexpectedly discovered that when my family time increased and my work time decreased, I was happier. As I learned more about my profession, my business, and myself I became more productive and profitable and I had time for what was important to me.
Risk is also important
In unison with becoming balanced and seeing life in a whole new light, I also came to terms with risk and how it's not such a bad thing after all.
The luckiest and most successful people are those who are prepared and willing to take some risk. We create our own luck by taking the necessary steps to open the door to change, grow, and succeed. You must be prepared to take risks and allow luck to happen. Doesn't everything we do have some amount of risk?
When I was 16 years old, I met a girl who would become my wife and life partner. What did we know at 16? Well, we thought we knew a lot. Over time we grew together and made a nice life for our family. Did we take a risk? Yes, but there was also trust in each other.
You face risks on a daily basis when you plan for the future of your practice, and then it comes down to the question of are you willing to take those risks, or are you satisfied with the status quo? Remember, things either expand or contract, they won't stay the same for long.
Are there risks in showing your team that you care about them? Some say you'll appear weak if you cross the line that separates doctor and practice employees. But don't believe it. Simply paying practice employees for their time is not enough. The cross of life applies to the office just as well. You must show your employees you care about them by helping them grow and by having fun together. The office must be balanced and the risk you take to expose that you care about them is not a risk at all— it's leadership.
What is the risk of taking continuing education courses? When I started CE courses years ago I talked myself out of it many times. “It's too expensive. I don't have the time,” I would think. But it's easy to talk yourself out of something. Leaders take risks. Stop putting off investing in yourself. Take that CE course you want, and you'll find it will provide you with balance.
If I could turn back the clock, I wish I had mentors who could have helped me understand risk and balance synergies because I would have achieved my goals faster and with far less stress.
Good luck on your journey. May it lead you to where you want to go.
Carl E. Steinberg, D.D.S., M.A.G.D., L.L.S.R. (www.DentistryinPhiladelphia.com) is a member of Spear Visiting Faculty and a contributor to Spear Digest.