When we love what we do, we do it better. This is a popular lesson in literature and in life. Tom Sawyer had an aha moment after convincing his friends to whitewash the fence his aunt had tasked him with by making it seem like play rather than work.
This quote from Mark Twain says it all: “If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
Obligations v. Choice: Loving Dentistry
While there was a time that I felt obliged to do dentistry (to pay off debt, to take care of family, etc.), I am now blessed to choose the vast majority of what I do and how I do it. I still have plenty of debt to pay off and am a long way from financial freedom, yet I find myself most days with a smile on my face.
This is because of the conscious choices I’ve made over the last 18 years after I first learned of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Life. Many of those choices have helped blur the line between work and play for me.
When Work Becomes Play
When any of my mentors would talk about their work as any semblance of play, my initial response was one of significant skepticism. I had even seen my childhood dentist, Dr. Mark Stetzel, truly loving his work, his team, and his patients.
But early in my career, I had a difficult time envisioning that for myself. With the ‘Golden Age of Dentistry’ supposedly in the rearview mirror, I wasn’t sure my work could ever actually feel like play.
Today, I am so grateful to have a team around me that has chosen me and vice versa. They believe what I believe. We are pulling on the rope together because we get to do more of what we enjoy doing each day. We have learned about our own and each other’s strengths and we play to those strengths more and more.
So much of what we do on a daily basis has become play for us because we have realized we’re not obliged to do dentistry in a way that doesn’t align with our own values. We get to help people who want to be healthier make choices to do just that.
The choice to incorporate Dr. Rich Green and Don Clifton’s work on maximizing strengths in a dental office was such an important one for me. It created an aha moment much like Tom Sawyer’s. When people get to do what they are good at on a daily basis, they don’t feel obliged to go to work. Rather, most days can seem more like play!