I am writing this in Door County while intermittently gazing at the beautiful water of Green Bay. It has been a very serene Christmas for my wife Sharon and me – restful and a bit contemplative. And as I’ve been sitting here (not being terribly active), I’ve thought a lot about resolutions or “goals” as I often think about them. I have some friends who are very goal oriented – they make lists, check them twice (just like Santa!), and then go charging out and accomplish them. And I have some other friends that I doubt ever make a list. I like them all, AND I think that they all are living the lives they are meant to live and are being “successful” both in their own eyes and those of the people around them.
To add to the complexity of thinking about resolutions, I’m very aware that I’m married to a wonderful woman who loves to set goals for ME. And I’m pretty aware (after 36 wonderful years of marriage) that neither of us expects that to work very well.... But I do observe that happening a lot in various kinds of relationships – people setting goals for other people. And I suspect it has roughly the same success rate, at least on average.
So what does this have to do with dentistry (since I think that’s what this is about)? I think there’s a point or two to be made here, if you’ll hang with me. We see both kinds of people in our office every week. Some come in as new patients with a list of things they want to accomplish. They are usually easy to work with because they know what they want, and we can help them achieve it – then we’re all happy. Others arrive because they know dental health is important (or their spouse or parent does), but they really haven’t given it much thought. These folks are more challenging to work with, but when we can help them clarify what they want and then help them accomplish it, we all feel really great! That’s fun for us (and usually for them as well)!
Are we helping them make resolutions? Maybe. Do they think about it that way? Almost certainly not. But when we listen deeply to them, give them feedback about what we’ve heard, listen some more, and repeat as needed, we do help them clarify what they’d like for their mouths and their smiles. And then we help them achieve it. I’m pretty sure they aren’t setting goals, at least as it is conventionally thought about, but I know that we’re helping them achieve things that they value. And to me it is what they value that’s important.
So what does this have to do with a “revolution” that is in the title? In my experience as I visit my doctors and watch my dental colleagues help people, our approach is a revolution. By our training we doctors (no matter what type of degree we have) are educated to fix what we see is “wrong”. And that is often a blessing. But sometimes we need to pause and listen, often for an uncomfortably long time for us before we move forward into the “fix it” stage. Because sometimes we are trying to fix something that the person we’re trying to help doesn’t want fixed or isn’t particularly concerned with. Again, that person who I love and live with points that out to me all of the time. I’m often into fixing things for her that she can handle just fine on her own, thank you very much!
So my resolution for the coming year is to listen longer, more actively, and better. Is that a goal? Based on what I know about goals being measurable, I don’t know. But I know it will help my relationships with everyone I come in contact with – especially, perhaps, and I hope, my wife!
I wish you all a wonderful and blessed New Year filled with many opportunities to be helpful to your family, friends, and strangers as well! I pray for listening, tolerance, patience, understanding, and peace in each of our lives and in the world. THAT would be a revolution!