Stop “Giving It Time”

I’ve had a few discussions with colleagues that doubt their decision to go into dentistry, but say, “I’m going to give it 8 or 10 years.” In 10 years you’ll probably be more certain in your diagnosis, quicker in your procedures, and making more money. But this comes with the desire to learn, and then integrating it in our practice. Some people just live the same year 10 times, and wait for change to just happen. Guess what, that’s not how it works. 

There’s this concept in pop culture that time heals everything, or that things will get better in time. But it’s not true. Things change over time only if we choose to make a change. 

We can walk through life with the greatest intentions and hopes that we’ll find happiness or that “everything will fall into place.” But without taking actionable steps to get there, we’re just walking around in circles, wondering why we aren’t getting anywhere.

In my career, that change is working part time, and as a temp when I feel like I want more days in the office. It took some time to find my sweet spot. I went from working 5-6 days a week, to 4 days a week, to stepping out of the office entirely. I thought I didn’t love dentistry, which was devastating. But the truth is, I just didn’t love doing it 40 hours a week. I felt it took away from the passions and hobbies that brought me joy.

I went back to the office once I learned to build my own schedule. That’s the beauty of our profession, we can actually create how we want to work. It took time to get here because I just didn’t know it could be done. I limited myself with the belief that I had to work full time, and with the fear that I’d never pay off my student loans doing anything else. I realized I wasn’t unhappy with what I was doing, it was how I was doing it. 

If you’re ready to discover what happiness looks like for you…

  1. Throw out the idea that working 40 hours a week is the only way to work. Be open to stepping out of what’s “normal” and creating a new normal that suits you.
  2. Evaluate how you feel at work, and experiment with your schedule (if you don’t do this already). Maybe Monday through Thursday feels good for you, and you end your week there, before you’re exhausted and burnt out. Maybe taking a day off in the middle of the week helps you recharge to finish the week. Maybe, you work part time. We will all have something that works differently for us. What’s important is that we find a set up where we can show up as our best selves, at work and outside of work too.
  3. Trust yourself. We can rationalize our emotions or dismiss them, but we can’t avoid them. This was a tough one for me, since I’d been driven by logic for so long. Listen to how you’re feeling, to what thoughts come to your mind throughout the day, and to what sensations you feel in your body. These are little alarms for you that something is not right.

“Give it ten years,” makes sense if you’re working to improve your work clinical skills and expand on your practice. But if you feel like dentistry just isn’t for you, then trust your intuition, and consider doing something about it now. If you were putting all your time and energy into a relationship where you felt this partner just wasn’t right for you, would you take the advice of: “just give it ten years?” Ten years!! Imagine all the people that passed you by in that time, that could have been the one for you.

Think of all the work and life opportunities that pass you by when you just “wait” for it to feel different. I’m not just advocating to quit here, I’m emphasizing: do the work to find what feels good. There are so many ways to practice dentistry, we just have to find our sweet spot.