by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
“If I didn’t ‘dream’ of being a better artist, I’d quit right now ... in defeat.” - Anonymous
The above quote is not completely anonymous, since I know who wrote it, but my highly talented artist-friend doesn’t want her name used. I’ve pondered this thought for a few days now and it means more to me all the time. We need dreams - more than goals, more than reaching a destination - because dreams are why we keep going.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines dream as “something that fully satisfies a wish.” Dreams are a part of the positive energy that keeps us on task in our day-to-day lives. Goals help us reach our dreams, but goals are not the end result - goals do not fully satisfy. A goal might be to retire by the age of 37; the dream would be to retire by 37 in the Bahamas on a yacht. Even in the world of dental hygiene where we are passionate about our profession and all it entails, it is important to have, identify, and strive for dreams outside of our careers.
The thing you seek does not need to be monumental to be a dream. Noel Kelsch, RDH, wanted to do something nice for her son-in-law’s birthday. Charles was serving in Iraq and would be away from his family on the occasion, so Noel set out to make the day special in spite of the circumstances. She started by simply asking Charles what gift he wanted. His reply was “Birthday cards.”
Noel set her plan in action by asking Girl Scouts, a few church groups, the more than 3,000 listers at AmyRDH.com, and people at the free clinic where she volunteers to send a card to Charles. While Noel expected Charles to receive a lot of cards, nobody - not even the postal service - was prepared for the more than 14,000 birthday cards addressed to Charles in Iraq. Noel got to see a dream come true, and Charles received one of the biggest birthday surprises of all times.
From Noel’s desire to create something positive for Charles, others were inspired to act. Charles let everyone know that while he appreciated the outpouring of support, the mass of mail in his name had caused a stoppage in mail service. After this event, mail was limited to keep the volume manageable. Also, Charles had a wish of his own. In his unit, there were several soldiers who did not receive any mail from family or friends. He also reported a shortage of toothbrushes and oral hygiene aids. He suggested sending mail and packages to “Dear Soldier” with his address so others could share in the generosity.
The giving didn’t end there. Charles’ kindness and Noel’s wonderful example inspired Suzy Burzynski, RDH, and others to create HAYS (Hygienists Appreciate Your Service). They set up a Web site where anyone could go and adopt a soldier from Charles’ unit to write. We were encouraged to send cards on holidays and keep in touch often enough to let the soldiers know they were appreciated. From here, Donna Gerber, RDH, BS, of RDH Rainmakers, contacted me about a page in the 2006/2007 calendar featuring the military. My son, Cpl. Michael Easley, was also serving in Iraq at the time, and she offered to put his picture on the page. The military page featured Charles and Michael, including photos of their respective units. It may have seemed like a small thing at the time, but now that my son is back in Iraq after a short time home, the page means a lot to me and my other children. One dream leads to other dreams.
I recently read (AOL News 7-10-07) of a man from Oregon who set out for the second time to achieve his dream of flying in a lawn chair being lifted by balloons. He went more than 190 miles before being forced to land due to a lack of water. While his aspirations may seem foolish to many, I applaud his unwavering commitment. I am sure each day of his life is filled with hope and excitement just planning and dreaming of his next attempt. Focusing on ambitions can be a positive boost for our general outlook on life.
Anne Guignon, RDH, MPH, also has a desire to travel, although I am sure her plans include an airplane. Her life’s dream is “to get to know the people and the world that we live in better.” Anne would “travel all over the world experiencing and enjoying different cultures, cuisines, art, architecture, gardens, varied terrains, and natural phenomena.” Knowing Anne, I am sure she would not only learn about others on our planet, she will be out there lending a helping hand wherever possible. Anne is not waiting for retirement or a slower work schedule; she is fulfilling her wish in small steps now.
Rob Robson writes about the importance of dreams relating to athletics on the Web site www.istadia.com. According to his research, there are four components to fulfilling a dream. While his research relates to sports performance, I think it applies equally to all aspects of life. First, you must have a wish or a desire. Second, prepare to accomplish that dream. This includes mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually setting things up in a way that allows for goals to be accomplished. Next, we must realize obstacles are not only inevitable, but necessary. External challenges such as financial constraints, along with internal barriers (doubt, fear, etc.), strengthen our resolve to reach a goal. Lastly, we should revisit the dream often, revise it when necessary, and make it a central part of our lives.
Having a wish bigger than our immediate situation uplifts us in our daily chores and careers. Amy Nieves, RDH, told me her life ambition was to go whitewater rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a seven-day trip. She also wants to visit Italy. (There is no limitation on the number of wishes.) Striving for these trips keeps her more focused on her career for two reasons: first, she needs to work and create an income to afford the trips, and second, she knows the rafting trip will not be easy and persevering in her professional life is practice for the perseverance necessary to navigate a raging river.
I enjoyed asking my colleagues about their aspirations and plans for the future. Karen Headley, RDH, a regional sales representative for Sunstar Americas, Inc., wants to live in a warm climate and have a cute house with a big front porch. Her dream also includes a beautiful garden and perhaps running a bed and breakfast. A coworker has just the opposite desire and can’t wait until the day she moves to a large city and lives in a flat. Her eyes light up when she talks about museums, theaters, and the fast pace of city living.
Diann Bergman, RDH, and co-owner of Dental IQ, has a very lofty dream for her future. She wishes to get all four of her children through college - without going broke - and see them become healthy, happy, and productive citizens who will support her financially for the rest of her life. A dream shared by millions of parents whether they will admit it or not!
My wise artist-friend also pointed out to me that some dreams need to be let go. It can be damaging to our souls to hold on to ideals that require perfectionism. While our goals should be high and challenging, unobtainable wishes only produce frustration and set us up for failure. It is essential to evaluate our dreams and make adjustments where necessary. A neighborhood child confided in me his desire to spend time on the space station. A few weeks later we happened to meet at the mailbox and I asked him how his plans for space travel were coming. With all of his 8-year-old wisdom he told me, “If I don’t do well in school, I can’t be an astronaut. So instead I am saving all my money so I can buy a ride into space like those other millionaires.” Backup plans are priceless.
I think my anonymous friend said it best when she wrote:
dreams ... give us the opportunity to be our best selves.
dreams ... give us a window into who our best selves might be.
dreams ... without them, we would die.
About the Author
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices in Napa and Sonoma, Calif., in both general and periodontal offices. She is a partner of Dental IQ, a team committed to arranging quality continuing-education opportunities for Northern California. Through her involvement with Dental Hygienists Against Heart Disease and other organizations, she hopes to bring a total health concept to the dental practice. You may contact Lory at [email protected].