During an early morning walk through a local state park, I encountered an elderly woman walking with a cane. As I greeted her, she asked “Where is this place that you can go to see the rocks?” I pointed to a nearby boardwalk and said, “It’s here.” And then I complemented her for her achievement as it was obvious to me that she’d walked a long way with difficulty to arrive at this location.
She surprised me when she started complaining. “I was told that this was easy! I was told that this was just a half-mile! It’s almost a mile, and it was all uphill!” I smiled in return, and said, “You made it, and it’s all downhill on the way back. Enjoy.” As I departed, I heard her begin complaining all over again to a couple of people who were leaving the viewing area. “I was told that this was easy…..”
As I continued my walk, I savored the lovely wildflowers, enjoyed hearing the song of a mockingbird, watched two bunnies scamper away, and picked a few wild blackberries. But my thoughts kept returning to the elderly woman. She should have celebrated her achievement, walking nearly a mile with an elevation gain of more than 100 feet with a cane. But she chose instead to complain.
Oddly, this experience reminded me of dentistry. Even on a well-planned day, meeting the needs of those for whom you care can be stressful and exhausting. It’s easy to complain that the morning schedule ran into lunch, and that two emergencies were “worked into” the afternoon schedule forcing everyone to work late. I get it.
But successfully serving each patient with excellence is cause for celebration! Why not share just a moment to do so as the patient is dismissed? Thank the patient for the opportunity to care for them, complement your hygienist or chairside assistant for a job well done, and celebrate each victory! Doing so, completely changes the day’s “narrative” and adds joy to every day.
When I reached the mile marker that was my turn around point, I reversed course and headed back to my car. Ironically, the elderly woman I’d met earlier was just returning to the path from the overlook as I approached the boardwalk. “Wasn’t it pretty, I asked?” “It was just a pile of rocks,” she replied. “And now I have to walk all the way back.” Hmmm… I think she missed the opportunity to celebrate. Don’t let that happen to you.
“Allow yourself small victories. Don’t deny giving yourself credit for
accomplishing something, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time.“