Finding Purpose in Today’s World
When you get up, do you think, Ugh! My alarm just went off!! Or, do you remember how thankful you are to be awake and consider that your opportunities for the day are endless?
Ok, let’s be honest, maybe at least a little bit of both until you’ve had your coffee. The important point is, how often do you reflect on the purpose of your day ahead?
Purpose can be defined in the verb form as “to intend to do or be something.” Throughout your lifetime, your central focus, depending on the setting, probably changes regularly. We all “serve a purpose” because as long as we are breathing, we have a purpose of course, but let’s focus on our daily work goals.
Think for a minute; how many times over the past two years have you questioned what your purpose truly is? Or how many times has your purpose changed in a short period of time?
I have seen and heard so many of my management colleagues saying that they are considering leaving our amazing profession since COVID impacted us so greatly. My thoughts then went to, “How can this be possible? Have they lost ‘our’ purpose as managers?” Likely, we all view it a bit differently. Or maybe you haven’t even thought about your purpose. Sadly, I’ve discovered that there are those who haven’t. Keep in mind that there isn’t a right or wrong answer; no matter which side you fall on, there are those who may never look for what their purpose is but are serving one every day without realizing it.
Finding Purpose in the Practice
For me, personally, my purpose is to make a difference one person, one day, and one task at a time, just like the young woman throwing starfishes into the ocean one at a time. She may not have been able to save them all, but she made a difference to the ones she could reach. We have to see what is possible and what we CAN do. Some days we need to enlist help to accomplish the difference we want to make. This is what makes teamwork the best.
In fact, I “teamed up” when I questioned my coworkers about our vast array of individual purposes. There were those who’d never considered the question and those who replied that they just do what needs to be done to the best of their ability.
The COO of a small but growing DSO said her purpose is “To Lead for Good,” adding that she wants to be an example for our team, especially young moms, to show them that if you work hard, you really can have it all. And perhaps, her purpose was to heal. She stated that she had known since she was young that she wanted to help others through medicine and to this day it gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment.
The onboarding specialist of the same company said, “To slow things down.” (An interesting fact here is that he is a pediatric dentist but found his passion in accounting). He said when he reached the end of his residency, he thought to himself “so… this is it? Now what?” In true accounting fashion, they ALWAYS want to save time and money. To me, this means that we need to enjoy the journey and make choices that work with our purpose.
There were instructors and assistants who took the question to heart and gave very thoughtful responses. One of the instructors has been in dentistry for almost four decades, and she said:
“After thirty-seven years in the dental field, I now know what my purpose is! I feel that God was preparing me for the last chapter of my dental career to help make a difference in young lives. My own two children are grown and living away from Mom, but I feel like my students are my kids now and I can help mold, shape, and educate them into ‘rock star’ dental assistants. Changing lives for the better is what dental assistants do and THIS is what I was called to do. THIS IS MY PURPOSE!”
I had a second assisting instructor tell me about her journey and finding her purpose. She told me about working in the “bar and club scene” for sixteen years, and at almost forty, she knew that when she went back to school, she had to excel because this was her only chance to “do something” with her life. She wanted a career where she could help people. She went on to graduate first in her dental assisting class from a CODA-accredited school and a CDA, working in various settings.
In 2013, she was in a Pediatric practice, and its owners decided to open a dental assisting school – surprise surprise, she was put in charge. Though she had never imagined teaching dental assisting, she found her purpose in making a difference in someone’s life. This same instructor was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2021 and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to teach efficiently. She stated that this was where her students gave back to her with their kind words, support, little gifts, and laughter that made a difference to her. She is continuing to inspire and make a difference in the lives of the dental assistants she teaches and is now hoping to add to that difference by inspiring her students to not only become great assistants but to enjoy every aspect of life because life is precious and much shorter than we think!
From one assistant’s perspective, purpose means putting a smile on the face of each patient, giving them a great experience, educating them in their oral care, and promoting overall better health throughout their lives.
Here are a few responses from some of our own AADOM members:
“I feel like my purpose is to lead from behind. I think it’s very important to know that someone has their back at all times. To encourage and push them forward to do better. It’s also important to ‘read the room’. Knowing each person’s strengths and what they may need from me to help them succeed. To give them the kudos necessary to let them know how they are appreciated.”
“To continue to remind myself and the team of our mission and core values. We live by that with how we treat patients and the team.”
“Leading and coaching alongside my team and letting them know I am in it with them. And all the time knowing that every day is a new day and you have to be willing to be flexible, patient and understanding and realize that your day may not go as planned and you will get to the other stuff tomorrow.”
There is a common theme no matter who answered the question. Our purposes all center on people. In the end, we all have the ability to enrich everything we do with purpose and be intentional with our thoughts and actions to encourage growth in not only ourselves but in those around us with whom we want to make a difference.
Dig deep my AADOM peeps, and find your specific purpose.
About the Author
Tamela Jones, FAADOM is the Practice Administrator at Compass Dental Services in Springfield Missouri. She began her career in dentistry in December 1989. Tamela is a lifetime AADOM member and earned her Fellowship (FAADOM) designation in 2019. She is currently pursuing her Mastership, (MAADOM) designation, and is on track to be inducted in 2022.
Tamela is a Missouri native but loves to visit new places. When she is not in the office, she enjoys farming with her husband of ten years. She and her husband share four children and most recently became grandparents to Ryker who just turned one and is the light of their lives.