Finding Inspiration: Treat Your Practice More Like a Hobby

August 30, 2017
Roger P. Levin, DDS

While it’s impossible to eliminate all tension from any job, no one should be dealing with extreme stress on a daily basis. Dentistry is consistently ranked as one of the best jobs in the country, yet during the last 10 years, there has been tremendous upheaval in the profession. If you're one of the 29 percent of dentists struggling with high levels of stress, read the following tips to change your outlook and make your job more enjoyable.

The three-step approach can help you change your attitude and enjoy your job again.

Are you happy as a dentist? Nearly three out of 10 general dentists said they were highly stressed, according to a recent Levin Group survey.

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Practice owners are facing competitive challenges on multiple fronts, including:

  • The growth of dental support organizations (DSOs) and group practices
  • The decline in the number of adult patients
  • More dental insurance providers cutting reimbursements
  • An expanded number of dental schools graduating more new dentists
  • Older dentists postponing retirement

Given these factors, it’s no wonder that so many dentists are saying they’re stressed out.

Here’s a suggestion that can help you lose the stress and rediscover your passion for dentistry: Treat your practice more like a hobby than a job.

On the face of it, that sounds crazy. I bet some of you are saying, “Roger, how can you expect me as a practice owner to treat my main source of income as a hobby? Are you out of your mind, man?”

OK, before things go too far off the rails, give me a chance to explain.

Hobbies are fun. They’re something we look forward to doing. Time flies when we’re immersed in one of our favorite activities, whether it’s woodworking, running marathons, playing golf, cooking, crafting, photography, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to view our career with that same kind of attitude?

Changing Your Attitude about Dentistry

Like most people, I have several hobbies. One of them is wine collecting. Sure, I enjoy drinking wine, but I also love learning as much as possible about it. I belong to a local wine society, have toured vineyards with guides and experts, and have a great deal of fun meeting people who share in my interest all over the world.

I’m also a big fan of Winston Churchill, the great statesman who may have saved the world during World War II. I have read endless biographies about him, belong to a Churchill Society, listen to podcasts and lectures, and always enjoy new perspectives on this great man.

While these hobbies are very different, both provide me with enjoyment and excitement. When I collect a bottle of wine, I’m not worried if it will taste horrible. When I discover a new Churchill biography, I’m not stressed out about how long it will take to read. The secret to making dentistry your hobby lies in your ability to focus on the dentistry itself (which you went to dental school for) as well as the other positive aspects of owning your own practice. By concentrating on what you love, you can tap into that original passion you had when you first entered the profession.

Try the following three-step approach to treating your practice more like a hobby:

1. Make 98 Percent of All Decisions Quickly

I call this The 98 Percent Decision Factor. I base it on the philosophy that 98 percent of all decisions really don’t matter. In life, whether you watch the right TV show, miss a sporting event, or order the wrong dinner, it doesn’t really matter. And so it goes in running a dental practice. Whether you give an assistant time off to handle personal commitments, or buy a new coffee machine for the office, it won’t impact your office in the long-run. When you think about it, 98 percent of all the non-clinical decisions you make really have very little influence on your life, even if you get them wrong, so the philosophy is to make those decisions quickly and without hesitation. Stop cluttering your head with worry and thought about decisions that don’t really matter. Or to use another phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

On the other hand, 2 percent of the decisions you make in life matter greatly. If you get them wrong, it could have significant effects financially, psychologically, emotionally, physically, etc. Whenever you are faced with a 2 percent decision, don’t make it by yourself. If you want to have less stress and more fun, get experts to help you. And don’t balk at the cost of hiring experts. The negative effects of getting a 2 percent decision wrong will cost far more in stress, time and money than employing experts. This concept alone can help you move from the daily stress of managing a practice without the necessary expertise to making your practice a hobby.

2. Simplify Your Practice

Believe it or not, most practices operate with low production and high stress. Why? They have antiquated systems that no longer operate efficiently. Dentists don’t realize this because they are living it every day and have begun to think of it as normal. So what’s the solution? Streamline the practice. Start by cleaning out the physical stuff — materials, supplies, equipment — you don’t need or want. Then design systems that enable the practice to flow better and place less stress on the doctor and team.

3. Adjust Your Attitude

Create enthusiasm for your practice. Remember, people who are passionate about their hobbies invest in them. Attend a seminar, read articles and whitepapers on the latest dental technology, and/or join a study club. You can also make fun a priority at the office and with your team. Create contests for staff, patients and referring offices. Engage with your staff outside the office for lunch meetings and non-business outings.

Mark Twain once said, “The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.” I’m sure he didn’t mean your career would be like a trip to the Bahamas, but that your success may be more aptly measured by your level of happiness and well-being. Try this three-step approach and you’ll inject your practice with fun, passion and enjoyment just like a hobby.

Need a Speaker for Your Study Club? Consider booking Dr. Roger P. Levin. His seminars are highly affordable and the information he teaches is invaluable. To learn more, go to www.levingroup.com/roger-as-a-speaker.

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