Do Dental Habits Agree?
The alarm clock wakes you up. Its insistence is almost violent. It’s certainly not welcome or nice. Your first thought, your first moment of recognition of your re-emergence into this world from a still incomplete sleep cycle, is a deep internal “Oh no”.
You reluctantly remember this noise is a command…and you are compelled to obey.
The command is not something you want to obey. You wish it was the weekend. You’ve wished that since Tuesday!
The alarm tells you something you don’t want to hear.
You’re up, you obeyed.
Because you have to. It’s work that tells you to. This feeling is a bad habit. You do it five days per week…every week.
Habits and habituation can work either against you or for you.
If the story above resonates with you at all, your habits are not aligned with good outcomes for you. Why does it take a massive force of will to get up and ‘follow the command’?
This piece is about using your habits to your advantage.
If you habitually watch Love Island this is downgrading you for however many hours per week that you watch it. If you habitually meditate for ten minutes after a routine of 50 minutes’ structured exercise you are upgrading at the same rate. Habits work for or against you. Positive or negative, day or night. You choose which.
A lot of the power of habits can be studied in depth by reading one of the most brilliant books I have come across. Atomic Habits by James Clear is so good, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Buy it, read it, study it.
He shows through research, science, study and example that you are your habits. You are your habits as your habits define your patterns of behaviour. Your behaviour is who you are.
If you indulge in poor habits then life becomes liveable only if you have sufficient and unending willpower.
It’s a drain to keep this willpower level up. To fight every day to get out of bed when the alarm rings. To rise and put on your ‘shiny work face’ because you have to. If you are fighting this with willpower then you are in conflict and life is hard.
If that’s you, Dear Reader, I have one question for you. How long can you fight for?
This is a waste of energy.
You can find a better way, however. If you strategically instil powerful habits and remove limiting beliefs you can begin to explore the ‘upgrade path’, and life gets easier and better. I didn’t write ‘easy’…I wrote ‘easier’.
And just for absolute clarity, strategy and positive upgrades beat willpower every single time.
For those of you who are waiting for a more business-minded blog, one which lists financial gain techniques, sales and profit: Perhaps you are ambivalent about personal development blogs?
Idiots. You ARE your business. Investing in and upgrading you is synonymous with developing your business. I’ve done this for so many, seen it in so many more, and the feedback I get from those who get helped by it is sometimes emotionally overwhelming.
This isn’t skillset development, it’s mindset development. All the most successful businesses invest in the emotional development, the behavioural psychology, of their leaders and staff. They may not always know they are doing it, but they are, and many actively do this as they know the investment offers huge returns.
Your mindset needs to be aligned with your own goals. We have neuroanatomical maps, brain circuitry if you will, which demonstrates the power of behavioural psychology, and leveraging this to your advantage is like using rocket fuel for your career (and wider life).
Working against it? You are working against mother nature. This is miserable, exhausting, monotonous and soul-destroying.
Let’s dig deeper with some questions:
What is it that you want? Are you are pursuing your wants, or just waiting for inspiration and action whilst pursuing someone else’s? Are you living your truth?
Burnout is simply defined as you giving what you don’t have. It’s what happens when the alarm clock calls one too many times. Just one. It’s when that patient’s name pops up on Insta Messages, saying they have been squeezed in for an emergency and your soul sinks to hell.
So, are you ignoring your well-being and work-rest cycles? Another vital habit to install. This means are you properly scheduling time to refill your emotional energy reserves. Are you building simple, easy ways for you to upgrade yourself? What do you do that downgrades you? (don’t worry, you can keep that secret, as you know you’re secretly a bit ashamed of it).
Are someone else’s unfair expectations burdening you? Your parents’? Your boss’s? Your wife’s?
We want to help you build every day to feel successful. We do this with habits. Ritualised,
normalised, unconscious habits. We know how to do this so incredibly well, it’s amazing.
I can’t cover it all in this blog, but hopefully I can outline some ideas.
Let’s start by going back to the bloody alarm clock. Let’s start with waking up.
Do you wake up having had enough sleep? You need 7 hours (MINIMUM!!!), so if you awake at 6am you need to be asleep by 11pm. Not in bed, asleep. If you want 8 hours, then it’s asleep by 10pm. At least give yourself the opportunity to get 7-8 hours.
What disrupts your sleep? Well, about a million data inputs, virtual interactions and options. So let’s ask a better question:
Do you WANT better sleep?
Why? Write your answer to yourself and be honest…but it should be something along the lines of…
Forty million years of DNA-encoded evolution has made me a solar creature surviving in an incredibly fragile biosphere, which I am, statistically, unbelievably lucky to even exist in; and the price for living for this immeasurably fleeting moment in endless eons of the cosmos is that I need to sleep well every night. Something like that. Suffice to say, it’s important.
You may think yourself tougher than me. Perhaps you subscribe to the idea of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
Ok, well you’re an idiot too, and I expect I can easily beat you at everything. So not just an idiot but a loser too.
Silly examples of sleep habit upgrades: Avoid blue screens after dark (it’s why all smart phones, by law, have to offer this setting), avoid all refined processed foods, avoid distressing news items and low-level voyeurism of life in the absolute gutter (Love Island).
I’m NOT going to debate blue light exposure with you. You’ll lose and it bores me. I’ll drop one reference at the end demonstrating melatonin levels (melatonin aligns your neurochemistry, keeps you in the lovely, restful, deep lush sleep) of teenagers who try to sleep following blue light exposure vs none after nightfall. You can follow the associated links on PubMed and dig deeper.
My second book recommendation today is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. It is simply excellent, and he makes his case far more eloquently and politely than me.
So, your morning wakening starts the night before. We sleep well and then begins our morning routine. This should be measured and calm so you can confidently start the day in control and proactively move on. This helps your self-image, your capacity and utility, and will reflect on how your workmates perceive you. Your memory is improved, your neural efficiency is optimised, your disease risk is lowered and life is, in every way, better.
I used to be really bad at this; so, guess what, I built good habits using strategy.
The model that worked for me in the mornings before work (there are many) is the 4B system. Body, Being, Balance, Business.
This one works for me; it may be crap for you. We can help you develop your own, but this is just a personal anecdotal example.
Your Body – You have three energy reserves: physical, intellectual and emotional.
Run far enough and you get tired.
Tax your mind on String Theory and how it may explain time distortion with gravitational
singularities and you will eventually tire (maybe….!)
Work as a dentist and listen to complaining, fearful, picky, awkward, phobic, drama queen patients all day and you feel utterly exhausted. You feel physically wiped out despite not exercising. So what have you run out of? What’s now gone that was there before?
Answer: emotional energy.
Emotional energy is the arbiter of your fulfilment and meaning. It’s what you gain when you are with people you like being with. Interestingly, it’s why you like being with them! ‘Chicken and egg’ that one for me.
p.s. I hate myself when my workday removes all of this energy and I get through the door to my home with none left. My family didn’t take any from me and now I have none to give them. This never happens anymore – habits solved it.
Keep yourself physically well. Exercise and eat wholefoods. It’s so simple, it’s ridiculous. You can’t get fat eating whole, healthy foods.
No-one ever regrets exercising. No one runs or lifts weights and thinks it was a big personal mistake and poor life choice.
Your Being – Mindfulness. Religion. Spiritual. Meditation. Journalling.
I’m not great at any of the above except journalling. Raheel is better at some of the others than me, but I journal. You CANNOT lie when you write it down. I journal what I am grateful for. What I want to achieve and who I need to be to achieve it (see the last blog on goal-setting to follow up on this).
I NEVER allow the thought “I have to go to work today.” I force myself to realise that “I get to go to work today.”
I’m grateful that I get to.
What would have happened that stopped me?
Someone is dead? I’m dead? Or ill? Or lost? No, no, no, I get to go to work. Thank God.
Your Balance – This really centres on your personal and, to a lesser extent, your professional relationships. I do NOT proclaim to be an expert, but I know people who are. Their advice is incredible. To curate it down to a sizeable bite…I’ll have a go:
- Put a deposit in someone else’s emotional energy reserve without expectation of return. You can’t do this face to face as that may seem like an expectation of return. I hear so many people say “I love you” only because they want to hear it back. Puke.
- Write a post-it note to your daughter on her breakfast box: “Saniya, I am so proud of your courageousness. You are wonderful, Love Dad x”
There are a million ways. Do it. Let people know you care about them. Tell them you value your connection with them and do NOT ask for anything back. Deposit with no withdrawal.
Your Business – Upgrade your knowledge, your understanding, with the endless supply of free new material which is now so accessible I truly cannot understand why people choose to stay ignorant of it.
I’m supposed to be nice writing these. But seriously. What the actual fuck is wrong with you?
For no cost you can rapidly and relentlessly upgrade yourself. Its return is incredible and fast. Or you can sit down on the sofa and use your eyes and mouth to gluttonously consume other people’s fully upgraded products. They’ve made it so you can mindlessly gorge on it. Consume, decline, feel bad about it, seek comfort for this bad feeling, consume for comfort, decline, shame, consume more.
The creator upgrades, you decline. Fight back – we’ve got your back and we never ever lose.
I know it’s repetition, so please forgive me, but no amount of money ever bought one single second. Don’t waste your time, upgrade, level up, push, strive, enjoy and fulfil your potential. Don’t waste time, no-one can afford to. It’s so easy to as well. The modern world is designed to make you fat, addicted, on antidepressants and lost with no path to agency, independence and freedom.
It’s why on our courses the learning is directed to the individual so not one minute is wasted.
Remember patience towards a strategic plan should not be confused with waiting idly.
A quick example of the upgrade vs downgrade is the data inputs you consume. Yes I have a bugbear about Love Island, but it’s just such utterly hateful low-level porn where all we consume is other people’s vanity, eggshell pride and then eagerly hang salivating as we wait for the crushing, ego-wrecking misery from the inevitable rejection and betrayal that is forced upon the hopeless individuals who go on the show. Intellectual, informative, hilarious podcasts are the polar opposite and are revolutionary in their ability to offer free upgrades.
Beware, however, the ones that are a bulging, heavily processed seed-oil-filled brioche cheeseburger of consumptive debauchery. Full of people congratulating themselves and loving the attention the host conveys. Vomit.
Others are incredibly well produced and a curated Aladdin’s Cave full of wisdom, sense and inspiration.
Example (heavily biased towards my interests): Intelligence Squared, Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell is incredible and this is just brilliant), Desert Island Discs. In Our Time (a recent one on teeth!!), The Portal. And some of my more niche ones: Everyday Neuro and The Jordan Peterson Podcast.
So enough self-development for now. The bottom line is this:
- Your habits compound and result in a type of you who is either rich or poor, happy or sad, improving or declining.
- Your habits need tiny tweaks to turn them to upgrades.
- Follow them ritually and the compound advantages are truly huge.
- People will start telling you ‘You are so lucky’…
- It ain’t luck.
See you soon on our Advanced Operative Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry course.