Here I sit, after spending all afternoon preparing our house for trick-or-treaters, spending the evening walking the neighborhood with my daughter, and scaring kids as they came for their candy. Once done for the evening, I realized I had to put my blog together.
Then I realized that this whole day is an example of why I became a dentist and how I want to live my life. Even before my daughter, Isabella, was born, I would tell students and colleagues that if I wasn’t able to be available when my daughter needed me; whether for a school concert, soccer practice, or Halloween night, then I would have failed in my career. There aren’t too many careers where you can spend the day helping people, yet be able to tell your staff that you need to leave at 3:00 so you have time to put out all the Halloween decorations. That is one of the true blessings of this career.
Dentistry is a wonderful profession, but it can be mentally, physically and emotionally very difficult. One thing that can really help you survive some of those tough days is remembering why you do what you do. Creating a personal mission statement can be a great exercise and very centering when you need something to help guide you through the darkness of a tough day.
Once you identify why you do what you do, write it down and put it someplace so that it will stand out to you during the course of your day. My goal is to have flexibility in my life and the financial wherewithal to spend time with my family.
Another illustrative point of this day that tells me that I am living my mission was the fact of where I wasn’t today. I had the great privilege of being nominated into the International College of Dentists this year. You must attend the convocation to receive your award. This year’s ceremony, however, is today, November 1. Recipients were required to attend the rehearsal on Halloween night in New Orleans. I made the tough decision to postpone the award until next year, as I simply couldn’t justify missing a Halloween night with my family. It is something I would never get back and with my daughter already being eight years old, I don’t know how many more of these special nights we will have. I work very hard to earn my colleagues’ respect, share my knowledge, and achieve awards such as the MAGD and ICD, but all of those pale in comparison to the reward of being a good dad.
A patient of mine gave me some advice when my wife was pregnant, and is has stuck with me through the years. One day, he was in the room next to his two boys and overheard them talking. One of the boys suggested they go get Daddy to play. The other son said, “Daddies don’t play.” It broke his heart. “Chris,” he said, “always be a daddy who plays.”
If I can leave you with one idea, it’s to be the daddy or mommy that plays. If you don’t have children, or they aren’t in your immediate future, then be the dentist who enjoys their life. We are so lucky to have a profession that can afford us the ability to control our schedule, make a good living, and spend our days helping people.
Next month, I will return to offering some practice management suggestions that can help you gain and maintain this flexibility and balance in your life. Happy Halloween, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
Christopher J. Perry MS, DMD, MAGD