In the beginning, it was exciting, and the opportunities seemed endless.
The chance to join the dental profession by starting dental school had finally arrived. Years of thinking, observing, planning, studying, applying and competing, had led me through the doors on North University Avenue in Ann Arbor.
And like my father, and his brother before him, my journey toward becoming a U of M dentist was about to begin.
I was proud.
I was confident.
I was committed.
But after a few days, things began to change. On both a conscious and subconscious level, I began judging myself and my work. And I began comparing my work to others. I was constantly measuring everything, right down to the level of microns.
Suddenly I felt small, inadequate, incompetent, and lost in a sea of others who were experiencing similar feelings.
Thankfully, I didn’t let my self-doubt stop me from finishing, even after one of my instructors told me “I am not sure that you have what it takes to be a dentist”, when I turned to him for assistance with my very first patient (an apprehensive and uncooperative 12-year-old, who had never been to a dentist in his life).
“No”, I said to myself – “this man is wrong”.
I told myself that judgment and self-doubt were just a toll that I had to pay to become a dentist. But, little did I know, that this judgment and self-doubt would be a part of my career for years to come.
Author Tim Galloway said, “When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as ‘rootless and stemless’. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
Ambition and contentment are not opposites, but we often make the mistake of thinking that they are incompatible.
On the one hand, ”experts” tell us that we should be mindful, focused on the present, and content with our lives regardless of the results.
On the other hand instructors, consultants, coaches, and prominent leaders tell us that successful dentists out-work everyone else, that we must never be satisfied, and that complacency is undesirable.
Reality, however, lies in the nature of the rose seed, as we need to be both content and ambitious.
As Galloway says, at no point are we dissatisfied with the current state of the rose seed. It is perfectly right at each moment. Yet, it is also incredibly ambitious. The rose seed never stops growing. It is constantly seeking to get to the next level. Every day it is moving forward, and yet every day it is as it should be.
And how about you? Does it still feel like your opportunities are endless?