Saturday, September 26, 2009

React or Respond - you choose...

Imagine going to the doctor for a particular ailment. The doctor looks at the symptoms, diagnoses, and prescribes a specific prescription and requests that you return in a week. When you do, upon looking at your condition, the doctors says, “You are having a reaction to the medication.”

So what does that mean? “A reaction.” Probably not something good!

But imagine on your second visit, the doctor says, “you are responding to the medication.” What does that mean? Probably something good!

Every day we have the opportunity to “react” or “respond” to other people, situations or our environment around us. What is the difference?

To “react” is to act before thinking, to come out of emotion. To “respond” is to come from a place of purpose with larger goal in mind.

Here’s an example from my trip across the country this week doing three different seminars from Massachusetts to Las Vegas: During one of my presentations, there was a particular doctor sitting on the back row that spent the first hour and a half talking to the doctor next to him in the middle of the presentation. I guess it had not occurred to him that there was anyone else around him who might have been affected! If his neighbors weren’t distracted, I was! By the third hour he raised his hand and asked a question, the intention of which was clearly NOT to learn or gain clarification, but to challenge the speaker - me! He had gone from being a minor distraction to those around him to being a major distraction to the entire group! And so it was decision time…to “react” to his question or “respond.” What to do? What to say?

Well, it would probably take more time and more space to explain what happened next, but I am grateful to another doctor, Dr. Michael Plous who took the time to thoughtfully pull me aside later to remind me of the power of “responding.” With Dr. Plous’s “response” in mind, here is a conclusion for daily consideration and application.

Every day you encounter people and patients who have their own agenda. There is something that is just not right. Something in what they do or say sets off and alarm in your head and your heart that triggers the desire to “react.” But at what cost? Perhaps the better course would be to “respond” based on the purpose of your practice and what you know is best. “React” and you’ll hand them control and you’ll only make things worse. “Respond” and you’ll stay in control of the interaction and your practice. Easy to say. Hard to do!

Once again, I am brought back to one of my favorite quotes that comes from Viktor Frankl from one of my all time favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning in which he says,

Everything can be taken from a man but...the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

And so there it is, the last of the human freedoms; to respond instead of react.

If you have never read Man’s Search for Meaning, it may be one of the most meaningful books you have every read. It is on my top 10 list or best reads.

Have a great week as you strive to “respond” and stay free!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

For Better or Worse

Every time I accompany one of our Crown Council humanitarian expeditions ( to the Dominican Republic, I take at least one of my daughters to work and learn from the experience. Last week’s expedition included my 12 year old daughter Abby who helped every day with set up, sterilization, assisting, handing out hygiene kits, clean up, and whatever needed to be done. Abby even spent some time entertaining the other children while they were waiting their turn to see the dentist. One of her most significant accomplishments was the 750 hygiene kits she assembled to take on the expedition so that each patient could leave with a tooth brush and other essential hygiene items along with written instructions for homecare.

On our last clinical day, Abby assisted Dr. Jonathan Nicolas of the Dominican Republic. Abby held the flashlight, instruments, and did whatever Dr. Nicolas needed as they treated patients together. When we broke for lunch, Abby and I debriefed the morning wherein she made the following observation: “Dentists make things worse before they make them better.” Having watched Dr. Nicholas treat several cavities, she saw how much tooth structure had to be removed to make sure the decay was gone before filling the tooth. She, like most people, was amazed at how much had to be taken away before the tooth could be “put back together again.”

After listening to Abby’s fresh perspective on dentistry, it made me think of how many other things there are in dentistry and in life that have to get worse before they get better. Because we know it will have to get worse first, we often avoid taking action. How many of the following “worse before better” issues have you ever found yourself avoiding:

  • Taking disciplinary action with a team member for fear of his or her response.
  • Telling a patient everything that is really going on in their mouth for fear of how they will react.
  • Making a change in an office procedure because of the time and effort it will take even though you know it will make things better in the long-run.
  • Scheduling a long over-due C.E. course that you know will make you a better clinician because of the time and investment it will take.
  • Remodeling or updating the office because of the investment.
  • Taking the needed time to really train the team.
  • Working with a coach to improve the practice for fear of having to face the truth about what is really going on.
When you think about it, most things do have to get “worse” before they get better and that is what stands in our way of getting started or taking action. But that same inaction makes it even worse than it would be if you just jumped in, felt the pain, and did it anyway.

So what is the biggest “worse before better” action you are avoiding? Could I challenge you to step up and start “prepping?” You might as well be in charge of the “worse” part instead of letting it be worse on its own. The faster you get busy and work through the “worst,” the faster it will get “better.”