by Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA
There is a quote that says, "What you think about, you bring about." In fact, the 19th century pioneer of the self-help movement, James Allen, said, "All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts." Allen, along with other philosophers and thinkers throughout history, understood that humans can create tomorrow by what we think about today. Such is the power of thought.
The natural outcome of thought is action, and with action comes skill and innovation. Incredible innovations have sprung from creative thought throughout history. Life improves for the masses with each societal enhancement or technological advancement. Tremendous progressive discoveries and developments have changed history, leaving an indelible impression upon culture.
In reflecting on the past, we often see dramatic change in a relatively short period of time. For example, a mere two generations ago, dentists believed they were exercising the "best practices" by extracting teeth. Patients in pain would have their teeth wrenched from their mouths to be replaced by ill-fitting dentures. Today, we recognize this as ludicrous. What changed?
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Somewhere along the way, the prevailing school of thought in dentistry challenged the practice of mass extractions and exercised discrimination to learn about physiology, the relationship of dental health to overall well-being, and how to develop technology to sustain health. Innovations resulted because of these challenges to conventional practices. However, it is possible that 100 years from now our great-grandchildren might look back at the present-day belief that implants are the leading edge of "best practices" and think how primitive we were. Perhaps by then, we will be injecting tooth buds into edentulous peridontium or growing missing teeth with stem cells. Only time and innovators will reveal how tomorrow is created.
Even on a personal level you can orchestrate what happens tomorrow by giving creative thought to how you can maximize your potential and grow your expertise. Have you given thought to what you want your future dental career to look like? Are you happy and fulfilled in your work or are you overwhelmed, stressed, or stuck, believing that nothing will ever change?
Ironically, the only constant in life is change. When you creatively think about your potential, you can become proactive in what is yet to come. With avenues in dental hygiene such as clinical, research, public health, academic, education, and administration, many possibilities arise. In some states and provinces, hygienists can even open their own practices! Where do you want to be? You have the ability to build an incredible career: a career that is rewarding both economically and personally.
So, what would a creative game plan look like? You will first need to question the status quo. Do you have what you want? The present model may not be the best or the only model possible. What questions do you need to ask to find multiple answers, many of which may be correct solutions? You need to challenge assumptions, looking at the issue from all perspectives, putting aside any preconceived ideas. What is factual today will not necessarily hold true for tomorrow. Expose yourself to broad and different materials and viewpoints, keeping an open mind about every possibility. What can you imagine as outcomes? What can you visualize for your future? What is your ultimate vision?
Of course, you need to spend time educating yourself on known possibilities, but you also need to observe to determine if there are other options. You probably know what the current belief about a certain practice is; yet, stepping out of the shadow of the known into the unknown can expose you to expanding, progressive, and rewarding opportunities. What can you imagine?
Perhaps your office would greatly benefit from a new position: a team coordinator -- someone who can coach other team members on open communication, negotiating, goal setting, framing challenges, and leadership. Maybe you have a plan of expanding this idea to other offices? What do you need? Where do you obtain the expertise, the credibility, or the qualifications?
In speaking with others who may not share your background, you will find new ideas and possibilities are sparked by these conversations. For example, in China, there are no hygienists and the system for the advancement of dentists is a mentoring system.1 The senior dentist will guide and teach the junior dentists for five years. Not only are the professionals required to pass stringent exams before an expert panel, but the system requires that the junior dentist have articles published and work in rural areas for a specified period of time. This process ensures that the knowledge, experience, and expertise of the elder dentists are passed forward. Perhaps a hygiene mentoring program could be adopted within your office to ensure the highest standard of care for your patients, offering a three-way win for the senior hygienist, junior hygienist, AND the patient!
Ultimately, you will need to take a risk to advance your career. You will need to step out of your comfort zone and perhaps even "rock the boat" to create a new position or gain a new skill. You may be filling a need that isn't even recognized by the masses as a need. Not everything will be a success; yet you need to recognize that failure is a part of your education. When you fail, you get back up, shake the dust off, and understand that you have just learned what didn't work. You now move in a different direction with renewed strength and determination.
The amazing reality of focused deliberation is that it manifests results. Simply by staying open to possibilities, you will recognize opportunities and meet people of interest with whom to build alliances. Amazing insights begin to percolate up from the unconscious mind and bubble into your conscious mind to reveal the next step toward your goal. Having a creative vision in your mind's eye will result in an outcome.
And it all began with a thought.
Questions for creating your dental future
1. How can you advance your career? Determine what interests you to propel you toward your dream.
2. How will it benefit yourself and others? Advancing yourself AND others will give energy to your quest.
3. Who is involved? Build a network of connections that can assist you toward your goal.
4. What creative tools do you need? Seek innovative thinkers and aids via people, books, or the Internet.
5. What is the time frame? Be realistic in establishing whether it is a short-term or long-term goal.
6. What other skills do you need? Perhaps the next skill set that you gain will be one of a number of skills needed to reach your ultimate career goal.
7. The next step: celebrate that you are on your way to Creating Tomorrow Today!
DOROTHY GARLOUGH, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change in both the dental and corporate worlds. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
1 Minxia Zeng, DMD (in China). In Canada, RDH -- self-employed at Pure Smile Dental Hygiene, Deep River, Ontario.
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