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A story of passion ...The Journey of Two Women

March 1, 2005
Authors preach one thing: “Get going on the journey of passion.

Authors preach one thing: “Get going on the journey of passion.”
by Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, and Debra Grant, RDH, CA

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“I hope you’re going to help me become passionate about hygiene, because I need to” was a comment made by a hygienist with whom Patti works. In this series, Deb and Patti have shared our passions and how passions can propel you forward. Yet, probably many of you are saying to yourself, “Hey that’s great that Patti and Deb are so passionate, yet how can I find passion in my work?”

Can anyone find someone else’s passion for them? No, passion is an inside-out process. These articles are not to help you find your passion for dental hygiene, but they are to help us find our passion-period. It may be within the profession, or it may not.

What is passion?

Before going any further, it seems the word passion needs a definition. If we ask a dozen people, we would get a dozen different answers. Here is the dictionary’s definition:

passion 1 strong feeling or emotion [syn: passionateness] 2 intense passion or emotion [syn: heat, warmth] 3 something that is desired intensely; “his rage for fame destroyed him” [syn: rage] 4 an irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action [syn: mania, cacoethes] 5 any object of warm affection or devotion; “the theater was her first love” [syn: love]

Not quite right for you? Then how about this definition? “Passion is the energy of bringing more of you into what you do.”

What we do

The first key is to understand how we see what it is we do. Is what we are doing our life’s work or is it just a job? Does it make a difference how we see it? Absolutely! In the book Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow, Marsha Sinetar estimates that 95 percent of people dislike at least one major aspect of their jobs. This statistic is horrid because most of us will work close to 100,000 hours during our lifetimes - about half of our adult lives. Yet even that number was from a 1993 book! The average number of years a person lives after the age of 65 is up to 18 and that is average. Many of us know many people living much longer. The world we live in is rapidly changing. Dentistry is rapidly changing, yet many professionals don’t even know it. Even if you realize it, we feel like a deer caught in the headlights and don’t know where to turn.

As a professional - meeting the demands of our clients, employers, or both - it is easy to lose sight of our passion. That passion is the work that brings fulfillment and connects us to the much larger picture of work. Our passion is what keeps us encouraged despite the long hours and hard work. Our passion brings a smile to our face while helping and showing others the way. Our passion gives us a sense of being whole and reduces the amount of stress that we endure day to day.

As adults, work is an activity that we all have in common. Work life is symbolic of how we are socialized as adults; how we continue or discontinue to grow intellectually; how we are challenged to resolve conflict; how we are allowed to create, build, and maintain healthy relationships; and how we are encouraged to help others (building community).

Our work provides a sense of self and can be utilized as a vehicle to pursue our dreams. Our career choices have the potential of meeting basic values and goals. However, a career that is oppressing and depressing can lead to alienation from self, work, and society. If we believe that we are engaged in work that is not connected to our life’s passion, then it is time to reorganize our life to create our dream job!

“Ah-ha” moments

In the first installment of this series, Patti and Deb shared their individual stories of finding passion. At different times, in different ways, under different circumstances, we each had an epiphany - you know that “ah-ha” moment when you “get it.” What did we “get?” We understood that the choices we had made to that point were no longer serving us and change was needed.

A concept sometimes difficult for people to understand during a time of change is that when someone chooses and desires change, it does not negate what happened before or the choices made to get wherever we were before. Or to put it another way, the horse we rode this far was a good horse that we love; yet that old horse may not be and probably is not the best horse to ride next. Nor will the next horse be the only horse we will ever ride again. Working from our passions is not a static place.

Many people, including hygiene professionals, are still suffering from The Cinderella Complex. This book written in the 1970s talked about the fear of independence and hidden desire and deep wish to be taken care of by others. This is a large, often well-entrenched (though not realized) set of largely repressed attitudes and fears that keep us in “half-light,” retreating from the full use of our minds, gifts, talents, and creativity. Like Cinderella, we are waiting for something external to transform our lives. Maybe the next continuing education course will give me the answer. Maybe if I find that ideal office. Maybe, maybe, maybe ... The answers are not outside of us. No one can give us our answers.

Looking for the pot of gold

Everyone’s road is different and each of us is in a different place in our life’s journey. Even as we look into ourselves and our own journey, too many of us are hung up on finding the one star, that one pot of gold. There are many books on the subject of finding our “true life’s work” or our “one right road.” For some people, that might be possible. For many of us, though, we will continue to ask: Is this the right job? Is this the right career? Is this the right life path for me? We can get so focused on finding the one right answer that we become immobilized.

Are we looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the winning lottery ticket, the magic bullet?

Our clients often want that from us. They want us to tell them the one thing they should or should not do to ensure their dental health. They don’t want to do what is consistently necessary to make any real change. Though we often try to make our clients feel that flossing will solve their every problem, there is no single solution.

It is also true that, for most of us, there is no single shining star that we are destined to follow for our entire careers or lives. Most of us have a group of interests, a varied and sometimes conflicting set of personal characteristics, a different set of work and personal skills that need to be focused in our decision about our life’s work, at least our life’s work at this point.

With sufficient drive and commitment, we can do just about anything when we identify what really excites us, in or out of our profession. When we decide we will no longer wait for someone else to ‘find it’ or ‘give it’ to us, we are on our way to finding our passion.

Current work

All hygienists are not the same! We don’t have the same set of skills. We aren’t all good at every aspect of our work. We don’t have the same motivations. We are not all in the same place in life. Some of you are still reading this and others have put it down.

Looking at the psychological, philosophical aspect of passion might not be where you are. So let’s look at something simpler, your current job. How can you tell if you are in the right job? The following list has some personal reasons why some people love their jobs. Do these fit how you feel?

• The job challenges me in just the right way.
• I have the right amount of autonomy, responsibility, and independence in the decision-making.
• My job has developed along with me.
• There are lots of opportunities for me to develop something of my own.
I have some power within the practice; my ideas can result in changes.
• My family feels positive about my work.
• I feel a sense of achievement and personal pride here.
• My employer recognizes and appreciates my achievements.
• I can express my creativity.
• I like the pace (I like it frantic) (or, I like it mellow).
• My job is a useful one. Socially, I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem.
• I am learning new skills and getting valuable experience.
• My job doesn’t demand that I act like someone I’m not.
• It"s work that I inherently enjoy.
• The job is fun - I look forward to doing it just about every day!

Are you laughing at that list? Are you saying to yourself, “Impossible in hygiene?” Are we thinking, “Yeah, how many offices did you interview at or work at before you found it?” The number of interviews or practices doesn’t matter. Changing geography, the physical place where we are, most often doesn’t change the outcome.

Having these feelings about one’s work is possible. The reason we know is because we both work in ideal offices. Hardly! Neither of us works in practices that create these answers, situations or feelings in us or for us. It really doesn’t work that way. We create it for ourselves!

Ask the questions

Sounds good, but how do we start? Stirring things up in our minds is often a good place to start on the road of clarifying our passions. We need to let our minds wander freely. Don’t dismiss any idea:

• Even if the changes you’d need to make may seem impossibly drastic
• Even if the job/work you love seems completely out of reach
• Even if you find that you would need years of education for a new field
• Even if you don’t think you can afford to make a change - financially or emotionally.

We need to quit waiting for someone else to provide the answers and identify what really excites us. We need to stop using our energy to push ourselves in the wrong direction. We can focus our energies to pull us forward into the world that suits our personality, appreciates our commitment, and challenges our minds and hearts.

Join us next month as we share another step in the journey of passion.

Patti DiGangi RDH, BS, is a Chicago-based practitioner who offers interactive courses. To contact Patti, e-mail her at [email protected]. Debra Grant, RDH, CA, operates her innovative company Oraspa, Inc. (“the original dental spa”), and provides educational programs and consulting. To contact Debra, e-mail her at [email protected]. Debra and Patti present programs together and separately through Professional Directions Conferences (PDC).