Growth brings happiness – but there are different types of growth!

06 May 2022

When we talk about development in dentistry, we usually mean learning new skills or taking on more responsibilities in the practice.

When we talk about development in dentistry, we usually mean learning new skills or taking on more responsibilities in the practice. These are very important, of course, but this is not the only way we should be growing. Our happiness is another way to measure our success. I’m sure many would agree with me that this may even be the most important.

So, how do we set ourselves up for success, or happiness for that matter? To be fair, this varies person to person. We all have different backgrounds, cultures and dreams in life – you may want to become a specialist, to broaden your treatment areas, or buy your own practice. We also all have different commitments, restraints and priorities. Some of us have young children, or are newly single, some might be buying a first home or working towards retirement. Our stage of life will determine what we want to achieve, as well as what we choose to do with our time.

What remains constant is the level of contentment we expect to get from our profession – whatever that means to us personally. No matter the goal, who doesn't want to be happy? The amount of time we spend at work means finding happiness here is crucial for our wellbeing and our general quality of life. 

Easier said than done, you might say? I agree.

I loved the first seven years I spent working as a dentist. I got pure enjoyment from my job. But things changed in the next seven years. I moved between practices looking for the development I thought I craved. I even bought my own practices to climb the career ladder. Did I tick the usual boxes for career progression? Yes. Should I have been happy with that? Yes. Was I? Not at all.

You see, I created a direct association between my growth in dentistry and my happiness in life. Whilst one does affect the other, I was approaching it from the wrong angle. It wasn’t the profession that was making me miserable. It was my mindset. It took me some time to realise it, but when I did, it changed my life.

The solution for me meant working on areas of my life outside dentistry. My stutter had destroyed my confidence and I was very uncomfortable selling to my patients, which was not encouraging them to proceed with treatment. So, I concentrated on developing these skills. These led to further opportunities that shaped a new career pathway that renewed my enthusiasm and my passion for what I do, and brought unrivalled happiness to my life.

No matter what you have achieved in your career so far, there is always a next level, another step forwards, a new way to achieve. It might be reaching that specialist dental status, or it might be something seeming smaller that brings you an equal amount of joy on a daily basis.

Let’s say you have a difficult relationship with someone in the practice. Perhaps you’re struggling to manage a member of staff, or you are clashing with your dental nurse. Maybe your principal has put unrealistic demands on you, or there might be a patient that you find it challenging to connect with. Learning to manage and better communicate with difficult people could be the skill that makes your job exponentially more enjoyable.

Though this might seem like a small problem, it could be causing you a lot of stress and anxiety. This will be taking away from time you could be spending in a positive mental state. It could also be holding you back from advancing your clinical skills, or growing your business. The good news is that to overcome these obstacles and many others, you can adapt your mindset.

Be open to change, be proactive in looking for solutions, think outside the box. Consider how you can change your pessimistic traits into optimistic ones. What do you need to do or achieve to see the world differently? Perhaps you would benefit from focusing your next training opportunity on your personal skills or situation, on improving your mental health or people skills. There is a chance that this could bring you the level of contentment you seek in daily practice that no amount of implant education could offer.

Professional and personal development are definitely linked to happiness, but there are different ways to grow than simply taking the next orthodontic or periodontal course. If you are facing your own rising tide of despair, have an honest conversation with yourself to see how you could change your approach and you might just change your life.

Action points:

  • Think about what has the greatest impact on your happiness at work.
  • Write down three things you wish you could do better, no matter how small.
  • Make a practical plan to improve those three areas and give yourself a deadline.

Follow @mahmoodmawjee, founder of RE-IGNITE, on Instagram for more ideas and inspiration.