If you want to build a successful practice, there are many skills you can add to enhance your natural abilities and learned techniques. Heck, each issue of Orthotown is filled with articles on marketing, mechanics and management. This isn’t by mistake!
Many orthodontists, however, still have a difficult time—they’re constantly putting out fires, changing direction or, worse yet, starting over. Some just don’t make it. Keeping it simple works for most, yet for the few aggressive and driven folks, a more deliberate, focused approach is utilized.
A recent news story about one of our colleagues getting into legal trouble inspired me to reflect on my own practice life and to identify times or incidents when I got close to having to reinvent myself.
For reflection and reference, I decided to revisit the timeless “seven deadly sins.” History has it that the Greeks were responsible for identifying and passing these personality traits to our modern culture. Later, the Roman Catholics purportedly based their weekly preconfessional preparation on these “sins”—parishioners and congregants were to review their past habits and misdeeds in anticipation of spilling the beans to the priest behind closed doors. (If you aren’t familiar with time spent in a confessional, you might want to check out the 19th episode of Seinfeld’s eighth season, “The Yada Yada,” when Jerry’s dentist converts to Judaism.)
For your benefit, I’ve listed the deadly sins, with some commentary on how you might avoid trouble in practice and life. I’ve also included a positive trait that will help you counteract each sin.
It’s not hard to find an excuse to get angry in practice when patients, staff or lingering issues from the family spill over into your daily life. However, we are not only in the customer service business but also dealing with patients who often aren’t thrilled to be at the orthodontist, no matter how unique and comfortable our experience is crafted.
Positive trait: patience
As often as it is easy to justify getting angry at others, we need to check it in the parking lot when we enter the building. I was taught years ago that the introductory greeting and the exiting comments leave the most impact with patients and often can smooth over the rough parts of a visit.
You do something, but you do it haphazardly, performing only enough to get it done. Instead of giving your best, you give only what it takes to get by. Most orthodontists—and dentists, for that matter—did not get to where they are by being lazy. However, once the pinnacle has been reached, the tendency to slow down tempts us all. After all, don’t they say that the hardest part about dental school or orthodontic training is getting in?
Positive trait: diligence
Getting your life on a regular path or system with clearly defined goals and objectives is the best way to avoid the “lazy” trap.
Material items control your sense of contentment: You want more and more things and are never satisfied. I’m not an official believer in the “It takes a village” philosophy, but I certainly do realize that getting to one of the most cherished positions in society and one of the 10 best occupations in the country doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Positive trait: charity
Be thankful daily for opportunity and blessings, and use your position to give back to others.
You wish you were someone else because of that person’s possessions or qualities. Instead of honoring the life and materials you have, you dishonor the gift of life you were given by being dissatisfied with it. We all know someone who has more than us. It all looks so easy.
Positive trait: gratitude
We all need to take solace in the fact that we are able to focus, execute and attain universal success in life with our profession. Getting our heads on straight should allow for us to slowly, predictably and, with respect, enjoy a unique and happy lifestyle.
You think you know it all and have it all! Pride prevents you from growing, evolving and accepting yourself. If there’s one thing that we need to check at the door before interacting with others at home and in the office, it’s pride.
Positive trait: humility
To be a constant student and better performer, you need to acknowledge that you’re not perfect or always right. There needs to be a delicate balance between feeling confident and being humble. There are times in life when we just need to suck it up and move on.
You have a strong sexual attraction and can’t get that person out of your mind. No surprises here! If anything has caused dentists and other professionals to work harder and longer than originally planned, it’s lust (and the actions that often follow). I can’t tell you how many colleagues have extended their working career involuntarily because of the unintended consequences of lust.
Positive trait: chastity
The temptations are everywhere, from schooling to the workplace to the travel and meetings, but the self-control required will make for a long and healthy and financially secure future.
Instead of being satisfied with what you have, you want more and more. The simple explanation involves food, but it pertains to other material wealth as well; it’s about wanting an excess of anything.
Positive trait: temperance
Too much of a good thing is not good for continued success. When things are going well, we need to understand what it took to attain and continue with the task at hand. Overreaching when the time is good can lead to many of the other deadly sins.
Risk managers will tell you that a sure way to legal action is to have limited communication with patients and staff. Although it’s no guarantee, it’s pretty apparent that behaving in a way to avoid the seven deadly sins is a good way to avoid patient and family conflict, and enjoy success.