Then why won't you let yourself be just that? Dental practices run the range from very small, intimate groups of 1 dentist and 3 or 4 staff members to larger dental corporations with multiple dentists and dozens of staff. Either way, there is plenty of opportunity to be happy or miserable, the choice is always yours. The thought is always yours to choose. Our state of mind and feeling is always what we think it into. In his book, Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman talks about the 3 distortions of thought. The first is Permanence. We tend to think that bad things are here to stay. We overstate the importance of a problem, issue or embarrassment by thinking we will never get over it or past it.
The next time there's an upsetting issue at work, think of it like stepping in dog poop. Sure it's messy, smelly and dismaying, but we know that we can get rid of it. It's a momentary annoyance that we can do something about.
The second is Pervasiveness. We think that the problem will affect more of our life than it actually will. I remember a time when my mother was working in the men's cologne department of a large, upscale store. They were having a promotion that came in a zippered bag. It was the end of a hectic night and my mom went to get her cash deposit bag to bring it to her supervisor. The cash was kept in, you guessed it, a zippered bag. She started to feel frantic as she looked and couldn't find it. Finally, she came to the horrible realization that she had mistakenly given it to a customer instead of a bag filled with the promotional cologne items that were on special. I can't imagine how she felt, but I know exactly what she thought, "They will think I'm so stupid and they will never forget this." She came home devastated and so upset with herself. She kept asking me how she could have done something so stupid. I was upset as I watched her mentally torment herself because I knew it was just a mistake and that her supervisor still saw all the value she brought to her job. I knew that in a few weeks, it would be ok, but she felt, at that moment, that she was somehow permanently and visibly marked by her mistake.
Again, the dog poop may be on your shoe, but it's not on all your shoes. Your not going to track it through the rest of your life. You're going to take care of it and move on.
The third is Personalization. We humans tend to be hurt by everything so quickly. Someone makes a comment that we don't understand,and our minds seem to turn it over to find the insult that we are sure was intended for us. We react by being hurt before we're even sure what we're hurt about. I remember an incident in our practice a few years ago. My boss's wife had asked us if anyone wanted to renew the Sam's Club membership that we all get through their corporate membership. The cost is $35. She always lets us know a few weeks before the money is due. A day before she needed to send in the payment she told us that tomorrow she would need the money. One staff member handed her cash. She said, "You can wait till tomorrow if you'd like, I don't want to take all your cash today." Seems reasonable and considerate to me. That's why I was surprised a few minutes later when the staff member said, "Did you hear that? How rude! She made it sound like I'm so poor that I only have $35 to my name!" Such anger and insult over what I took to be a considerate gesture. So maybe we personalize what we worry that others are thinking about us because we think it of ourselves. Even so, if this staff member didn't assign permanence, pervasiveness and personalization to that simple conversation, imagine how much better her day would have been. If she didn't drag the rest of the staff into her 3 P's, imagine how much healthier the culture of the practice would have been. She chose to think that way and then she chose to try to get the rest of us to think that way with her. Fortunately, we were already beginning to work on the health of our practice culture and she soon saw that our culture could not support her in her 3 P's and she left.
Once again, the dog didn't poop there just to get you to step in it. He wasn't even thinking about you when he was doing it. It's just stuff that happens. The dog wasn't out to get you. Wipe it off and leave it at the curb.
So, do you see what I mean about choosing our thoughts, and do you see how blindly we make our choices throughout the day? I just read a good article on Karl Staib's Get Happy Now blog. I'll be back to write about it soon.