As a dentist, you’ve probably known what you want to do with your life for many years. You’ve followed a path: finish dental school, gain extra training, work professionally, and open your own practice. You may even have gained a spouse and family along the way. Now you may be left wondering, “Is this it?” The daily strain of running your own business, managing your team, and caring for non-compliant patients can leave you exhausted and even apathetic. You may feel that you’ve lost your passion for dentistry, and you may be out of touch with your family and with yourself. It’s time to create a dentist life plan.
When you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself in the past, it doesn’t mean you’ve gone as far as you can go. It simply means that it’s time to set new goals. As a dentist’s coach, my job is to help you establish new objectives and forge a new path to the rest of your life.
1. Learn to Like Yourself
The first step towards creating a life plan is learning to like who you are. All too often, I see clients who are vaguely dissatisfied, but they don’t know why they feel this way. If you have lost touch with who you are, it will affect everything about your personal and professional life. Reclaim your passion for dentistry. Is there an area in which you’ve always been interested? Challenge yourself! Take a class in laser dentistry, implant placement, or some other specialty. Remember, you should also take time for yourself, and indulge your interests outside of work.
2. Learn to Like Others
In the day-to-day working world, you’ve probably encountered individuals with whom you just don’t get along. Fortunately, improved communication can enhance your relationships with others – even your noncompliant patients or your uncommitted hygienist. The first step is to really listen. What are your patients’/ team members’ goals? Are you helping them to meet those goals? You must also be honest. Share your own goals and concerns. Ask for honest feedback. Together, you, your team, and your patients can work to make your practice more efficient, effective, and friendly.
3. Identify Your Goals
After the “prep work” of self-awareness and communication, it’s time to really create your plan. Write down a list of the things you want to achieve in life. This can certainly be professional goals, such as “add CEREC® technology” or “increase marketing efforts.” However, I encourage my clients to look beyond the professional realm and incorporate personal goals into their life plan. Feel free to put “buy a house” or “take a trip to Europe” on your list. Don’t forget the intangible things, such as “love,” “peace,” and “compassion.”
4. Make a Plan of Action
Once you have identified your goals, find out how to make them a reality. For each thing on your list (even the intangibles), write down definite steps you can take to achieve that goal. Be realistic with yourself and understand that you do not meet new goals overnight. Start with small steps, and count each successful step as a huge accomplishment. You should also look at the areas where you are spending your energy. Is that energy helping to achieve your goals? Cut out the things that are leaving you drained and unfulfilled.
5. Seek Help from Others
When setting your life plan, remember – you don’t have to do it alone. Tell your team members about your professional goals and ask for their help in improving the practice. Find yourself an accountability partner; when you tell your goals to a spouse or friend, you will be less likely to give up, even when things seem tough. Consider working with a counselor or therapist. He or she can help you reconcile issues in your past so that you can look into the future with confidence. Finally, try working with a dental coach. In a non-judgmental, supportive manner, he can help you identify your goals and determine the steps that will get you where you want to be.