Suffering is a fairly dramatic word. You may have another word for yourself, like stress, or anxiety, or angst, or overwhelm. And if you only have this feeling once every few months, then you are a rare breed among those in the dental profession.

Most dentists are constantly feeling stressed. It can come in the form of worry over money, or fear over a complaint, or shame over a disciplinary decision. It can show its face daily when patient after patient looks to their Insurance Gods to make decisions about treatment, and can even take the form of uncertainty when the world around us changes overnight and we can’t do anything about it.

That is actually my true definition of suffering:
When life circumstances don’t equal my blueprint of how life should be and I can’t do anything about it.

Think about that for a moment. When do you feel the most stress? When do you feel the most overwhelmed? When are you truly suffering? Most people equate suffering with pain. Physical pain is a separate entity. So I am not talking about a headache or a stomach ache, and I am also not referring to emotional pain like heartbreak or the sadness of loss. That kind of pain is part of life and there is no escaping it. But suffering is a whole different reaction.

Suffering is about perception and interpretation. It’s a basic chain reaction:
Stimulus ——> Thought ——> Reaction

Something happens that is unpleasant. Our belief system and the story we tell ourselves shapes our interpretation, or thought, about it. If we start to believe that we are helpless victims, or this is just how life is, that leads to resignation and apathy. And we get caught in anxiety, worry, overwhelm, helplessness, and so we concede. That’s our Reaction.

We concede to others, those who tell us what to do, how to run our business, what type of dentistry to do because insurance won’t cover what we know we should do, what to charge even though it doesn’t even come close to what we should be charging, we say things we don’t believe in because that is what’s expected of us, and it just goes on and on.

Pain at some point in life is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. At one point in my life, I had lived in stress for so long, I actually believed that was normal. And then something happened. Something took away all the stress, and all the angst, and all the overwhelm, for a time, and I got to feel what normal should really feel like. I got to feel alive again, in a world where I made my choices, with confidence and integrity, and I got to show up to a world that valued what I do and who I am. And so I made the choice to live there instead. I made the choice to stop suffering. And I did that by following a few simple fundamental rules that we are all familiar with, I just feel that most of us forget they apply to us as well.

If you have ever found yourself in that emotional turbulence and thought that there was no way out, here is your new rule book, your guide to being a better dentist, living by your own design, your own style, with calm, control, and abundance – Ten Rules of an Unusual Dental Practice. Coming next.