The Paradox of Ambition: How to Help Others By Helping Yourself
Dentists are addicted to ambition. We are intent on ‘the hustle’ – to build our practice, to succeed in our career, to make a solid bottom line … After a while, we burn out. We forget why we worked so hard in the first place.
This is the paradox of ambition. It is both a blessing and a curse to be the sort of person who takes on a laundry list of responsibilities. We prioritize work, check tasks off one by one, and the load only seems to get heavier.
But the truth is, we didn’t get into this career to exhaust ourselves or fall into a mental/physical black hole of sleep-eat-work-repeat. We chose this profession because we want to help people. It’s impossible to do that to the best of our abilities if we’re cutting corners in our personal lives. We’re not machines, despite what we may want to believe. There is no gold star awarded at the end of life for doing more for more’s sake.
Ambition Is For Then, But Life Is Happening Now
If we can’t find the time to treat our own well-being with respect, attention, and care, how can we do that for others? Exhaustion and poor health make it difficult to be fully present, to give of ourselves, to not feel resentment toward patients who drain our already limited supply of energy.
The solution isn’t to work harder or suck it up. The solution is to live your best life now. Not in twenty years when you sell your practice and move to the coast of Spain. Not in ten when you think you’ll have gotten your career where you want it to be. Not a year from now, not a month, not a day. Now.
Investing in you is a worthwhile cause. Watch that TV show you’ve been eyeing. See a movie and forget about case acceptance for two whole hours. Donate to a charity you admire. Go for your yearly physical. Put your headphones in, drown out the world, and run. Re-connect with your body. Re-connect with the natural environment. Re-connect with genuine interests that aren’t ‘important’ enough just because they don’t make money or fit into the box of ‘professional adult with ambition.’
Your passions have intrinsic value. Don’t deprive the world of your joy.
In the end, you will never reach that ‘someday’ pot of gold, so add a footnote to your well-worn list of responsibilities. Title it: Things I love and how I’m going to experience them.