An ambitious dentist may feel like they never have quite enough time, for their vision is vast and time is brief.
It’s week 8 of the Covid-19 lockdown and if you’re anything like me you will probably have found yourself, at times, with more time on your hands. I gave a webinar last week on ‘happiness’. One of the pernicious ingredients to diminish your happiness is a perception of ‘time famine’. I’m biased towards that as it’s essentially me. Busy all the time. Thinking all the time. Planning all the time.
I use cycle training during my commute as the efficiency of killing two birds with one-time-allotted-stone appeals to my very soul.
Time being useful and purposeful and productive feels like a salve to sore skin. Time doing ‘nothing’ or time wasted is like sandpaper instead of salve. To me, that is.
I’m aware, in no uncertain terms, that my way of doing things isn’t ‘the right way’, and many people pity me. Then again, I look at their lives and wonder why they live like a partially deflated balloon; sort of ok but flat, and not what it could be if you would just blow the bloody thing up.
Anyway, that’s me …and it’s Raheel. It’s probably why I can text him at 5.59am and he will update me on his morning’s achievements (I’m being serious) and what may be a good plan for the next 48 hours, next week and ten years.
If you feel compelled to achieve then you must do so constantly, for considerable gaps in productivity lead to intense discomfort and even a sense of shame.
A person who reverentially respects time disrespects himself for wasting it, and this is their very reason for being tied to their productivity.
I think I’m using you, dear reader, as a therapist as I’ve been trying to work out this part of my mind for a while.
If you feel that sense of obliged ambition from the first heartbeat of morning awakening, then as soon as you get productive, you are happy; if you’re not productive, you aren’t happy.
None of this is meant to decry or belittle those with less obligation to this aspect of being. I have no doubt they feel the same relentless drive to act, but in a different way. I hear silent retreats where you dig vegetable patches and do nothing else without uttering a sound for a month are wonderful.
Speaking for myself, I’d rather eat a sandwich made out of dog hair.
Still I love people like you. You tell me to slow down when it seems urgent to you that I do so. You make me stop and ‘smell the flowers’ which I had largely dismissed as an irritating ornamental distraction my mum used to inexplicably love so much.
“Shall we go to a garden centre and look at the flowers?”
“….We could, but I could also clean the car with my tongue; both seem about as pointless as each other.”
If you are set to ‘go’, you don’t achieve because you want to, but rather, because you have too.
Such a person has no choice in the matter; this is the way their life must be, for their peace of mind is tied to their productivity. Productivity is what makes their life worth living.
Only people with a different perception of time are content to ‘waste’ it. Absent of ambition, they are ignorant of the path forfeited.
I can’t shake the belief that if the unambitious man could peek into the life of his productive self, he’d believe the greatness strewn in front of him to be an impossible lie.
Blinded by ignorance and unable to appreciate the relationship between greatness and productivity, the mundane man does not even dream dreams, let alone build them. Is that too harsh? Maybe. Sorry….actually, “not sorry” seems to be the ‘lit’ piece of literary jibber that best describes this.
A person bereft of present or future achievement is a shadow of their former self. A person who’s given up is not really justified in their lack of life achievements. Their record of achievement will be comparatively poor, not compared to mine but to what they could have been.
Many struggle to optimise their time and few master the endeavour; when someone does manage to optimise their time, we tend to look at them and describe them as lucky, or Type A, or ENTJs, or mad. We are what we are, and during C19 I have found the downtime painful and unsettling. I’ve adapted and now am flat out again, just with different tasks. (The NHS didn’t stop BTW, so I am still in the hospital 7am-6pm every day).
Our time is limited and ambition gluttonous, and so a person must separate the worthy tasks and inputs and friends and family from the unworthy, and make firm choices. This is incredibly hard, but to become actualised it’s essential.
Now, armed with the knowledge that time is spent regardless of one’s will (no refunds allowed), the wise dentist endeavours to spend it as wisely as possible.
I think that’s what I’m trying to get across. Know that time is finite and precious.
One’s quantity of time is fixed; its quality need not be.
I know that in previous blogs I’ve ranted too long on the poisonous aspects of social media and the voyeurism of stupid primate sexual competitiveness (Isle D’Amour). Meanwhile the internet contains a volume of knowledge beyond even one’s wildest dreams, and yet it is—in equal measure—a sea of theatrics, full of people violently competing for your attention. Your attention is their income. Your likes are currency.
Now, the average person’s self-discipline is inferior to the average narcissist’s lust for attention, so you really must exercise great care to whom you apportion your time.
Facebook, Instagram and, FFS, Tickety-Tockety, or whatever it’s called, is an attention economy, and so narcissism sells, and sells big time.
This is fine for average people, but if you are feeling inadequate about your lack of achievements to date, your lack of living a life true to who you are or one that even diminishes your self-esteem… well, then you have no time for such trivialities.
Low-level drama is attention porn and junk information; it psychically robs you of your focus and time the same way junk food robs you physically.
So, should we filter the information we consume?
Good God, yes, as we become what we expose ourselves to.
If I watch mediocrity, read mediocrity and discuss mediocrity, then I am destined to be mediocre. Debate me on this. I’m ready when you are.
When stated so plainly it seems obvious, but in practice it is typically anything but.
Mediocrity is fuelled by triviality; the great do all they can to avoid it.
When you leave dental school, there’s so much you’re going to have to learn on your own. I truly feel the biggest way most undergraduate programmes fail is that they don’t plant the intellectual and moral seeds the students are going to need later on in life.
The challenges of UK dental life are going to arrive; and when they do, if you have been intellectually stunted by didactic and restricted learning, you may be unprepared.
We published a ‘beyond dentistry’ reading list just recently.
Studying Jane Austen outside of dentistry gives you clearer perspectives on things like marriage and interpersonal relationships; reading George Eliot means you get a masterclass on “How do you judge people’s character?”
Is that relevant to dentistry? Well, I wonder, are your stresses the clinical dentistry or the people who come to see you for dentistry?
I bet it’s judging people’s character that catches you out more than anything else.
The wisdom of the ages is your inheritance, and studying this within subject matter related to teeth or outside of it can, almost certainly, make your life somewhat easier. The resources often fail to get shared because universities are too careerist or because faculty members are more interested in their own glorification or academic pursuits, or indeed the politics of dentistry, than actually trying to enrich undergraduates so that the students themselves can become a better dentist than the teacher.
As soon as you leave dental school it is time to start finding where these gaps are and start filling them in.
There is a lot of this that I know people won’t want to read, particularly those responsible for providing you with education to date; but it’s never too late to do the right thing.
SO, I would ask you to think about your diet. Not your physical diet, you already know what’s good for you and bad you; either act or don’t regarding that, and that’s none of my business.
What I’m referring to is your mental diet. Your mental diet is what you put into your mind.
I’m not too worried about the dangers of mental junk food because mental junk food can’t destroy your life; but it’s the potential addiction to it that I do worry about. Having fun, enjoying and even being amused at a trashy romcom hasn’t rotted the brains of many of the people I care about the most. They’re still capable of writing fantastic pieces of literature, of performing incredibly well in front of the patient and keeping themselves in great physical shape.
I do worry, however, about all of us not accessing the excellent stuff to put into our brains. There is a theory called the theory of maximum taste. This theory is based on the idea that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness; if you spend a lot of time with genius, your mind will end up bigger and broader than if you spend time with only run-of-the-mill stuff. The theory of maximum taste is that each person’s mind is defined by its upper limit—that is the best that it habitually consumes and is capable of consuming.
So, lockdown will end. You will be back at work and time will become relevant to each and every patient, treatment, break and holiday again.
It’s why we push at Aspire. Not you, we push us. To offer an abundance of opportunity, to offer dialectic conversation on evidence, to invite challenge and joint working, to be a team with you, to always be there when you need us to be, and we won’t stop. Until we run out of time.
See you soon on our upcoming Advanced Operative Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry (PgCERT)!