Is there ever a point where we can say–“I have arrived. I made it to my dream life and I am complete, fulfilled, and can sit back and sip lemonade, watching the sunset?”
Or is this “fulfillment” some carrot dangling in front of us, never to be reached?
I do not believe fulfillment is a place we “arrive.” Instead, I believe we actively create it, day by day, lesson by lesson, flowing like a river. Guiding, propelling, dragging, and refining us through steep learning curves and exhilarating vistas.
By Webster’s definition, fulfillment literally means to “make full.” Fulfillment doesn’t mean arrive, achieve, become, or be something you are not. That is the OPPOSITE of fulfillment. Fulfillment, for me, shows up as I surrender, accept, and embrace life, actively choosing and enjoying versus passively living.
DENT STANDS FOR DENTAL?
Dentistry literally BLEEDS from my soul. I mean look at me; my last name is Dent. Although it took me three fiancés to get this last name, I was born to be a walking dental advocate; truly believing we work in the most incredible profession!
As I go through my days, fully immersed in coaching dentists and dental offices, speaking, producing and hosting The Dental A Team podcast, flying from one dental practice to another inspiring and growing teams, there are days where I’m left exhausted and overwhelmed. And yet other moments are buzzing with adrenaline and excitement. Can anyone relate in their own lives? Could this ying yang life actually be fulfillment in real time?
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I did not land in dentistry in typical fashion. Instead, my fashionista side led me there, and it was all for… scrubs!
I was mesmerized by the fact grown adults could literally roll out of pajamas, into “professional pajamas,” and that was “normal.” I determined wearing professional pajamas would be my reality, with the fastest path being dental assisting.
I enrolled in a dental assisting class, failed x-rays, struggled taking impressions, hit my doctor in the head with the overhead light, and eventually found my niche and got really, really good at assisting! So good I kept expanding my love from dental assistant, to treatment coordinator (closing cases over $50K same day), to office manager and biller, to regional manager for 11 locations, to co-owning my first practice with a newly graduated dental student and growing it from $500K to $2.4M in 9 months, and then opening our second location.
I was made to be in the dental space. And I loved it!
THE FLOWING JOURNEY TO FULFILLMENT
When my husband and I were in pharmacy school, I landed a jackpot job working at Midwestern University’s Dental College dispensary. In my interview, I was asked why I wanted to leave private practice and go into the academic world. I hadn’t rehearsed this question; yet the words flowed out of me as if I had planned them: “To positively impact the world of dentistry in the greatest way possible.”
In that moment, I realized if I could impact one dental student with passion and excitement for our profession, that future dentist would then impact their team, their patients, and their community in a powerful way. The ripple effect of goodness would be unmatched.
Fulfillment seemed to encompass me! THAT is why I love dentistry. THAT is why I love consulting. THIS IS MY WHY!!!
THE POWERFUL PIVOT
There are moments in life which grow us, mold us, and push us- leading us THROUGH FULFILLMENT, not to it. It is often in hindsight we see fulfillment was there all along if we choose and wanted to see it.
As my husband was finishing his final year of pharmacy school, we decided it was time to get pregnant and “start our lives.” Growing up religiously, I believed my greatest calling in life was to be a mama and I was excited to become that.
After several months of trying to get pregnant, I was at work at the dental college. A student came to the window to replace his broken instrument. I vividly remember handing him the new instrument while casually looking over my shoulder.
Horror gripped me.
Blood. Lots of blood. All down the back of my pants. On my chair. A miscarriage; happening to me. Right here. Right now. Complete shock and disbelief.
My entire life I believed my body had one job: to have babies. And my body was broken; a failed body. Sadness gripped me over losing a baby. Anger flooded my soul that my body was broken. Hatred spewed from me. The one thing I was “meant to do” in life, I couldn’t do.
My drive was lost. Quandary set in. Who was I? Sure, I loved dentistry, but wasn’t I meant to be a mama? Wasn’t this my perfect path to Destination Fulfillment?
THE FULFILLMENT THIEF
Stop. How many of us feel this feeling in our own way? Maybe yours isn’t believing you were meant to be a perfect mom and finding out you can’t even get pregnant. Maybe yours is the frustration of believing you should be a perfect dentist who knows how to run a business when you have never done so. Or maybe it is something completely unrelated.
I hear this in many of the clients I coach: “I should have known that.” “I am a dentist and should know how to run a business.” “I was put on this Earth to do _____ and I failed.”
THESE BELIEFS ARE WHAT ROB US OF FULFILLMENT RIGHT NOW and lead us to believe fulfillment is a destination rather than a journey. We can’t be robbed of something we don’t have! Therefore, if fulfillment is not a destination, then pain, sadness, heartache, triumph, and joy are ALL part of fulfillment. It’s often our deeply rooted beliefs that fulfillment feels out of reach when that couldn’t be less true. I would invite you to intentionally push stop on your fulfillment-robbing soundtrack put on auto-play daily.
I remember after my miscarriage a lightbulb clicked: What if my body was perfect and there was nothing wrong with it? What if the life I was living, although not as planned, was perfect for…me? What if EVERYTHING was actually propelling me to where I ultimately wanted to go?
The answer was YES! With pompoms, confetti, glitter and magic. So many of us internally degrade and destroy ourselves because we aren’t living our “perfect life,” robbing ourselves of fulfillment we can have today and always. By changing our angle, surrendering, accepting, and giving grace, we can find fulfillment IN life’s journey, with all its ups and downs.
ANGLE SPIN- FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
Fulfillment might be better represented as an undertone background color that can either be bright, front and center of your life’s canvas, or it can fade into the background, only to be discovered one day. As artists, we get to determine where fulfillment lies in our lives- bold and bright or bland and back-seated. Regardless of where you choose to place it today, it’s always there, waiting to be brought into richer, more vibrant color.
I have not given up the hope of being a mama. There was a moment, after the miscarriage, I realized I could change my angle, the stories I believed about myself and the direction I was headed. I could literally flip the script and see that life was, as Tony Robbins says, “Happening FOR me, and not TO me.”
While I was able to change my perspective, the pain did not immediately pass. However, actively choosing to accept and embrace brought solace, peace, and fulfillment.
That perspective change helped create The Dental A Team Consulting company, my dream life where we genuinely change people’s lives every single day. I’m not perfect and truly don’t know what I am doing regularly. I have feelings of inadequacy constantly. But, who told us fulfillment was void of these emotions? Can we, together, change our belief and see fulfillment in ALL the moments of our lives? I vote YES!
THE KALEIDOSCOPE EFFECT
Our lives are like a kaleidoscope falling together in perfect ways, with imperfect pieces. Every piece of you is right and perfect for you.
The Dental A Team is positively impacting the world of dentistry and I firmly believe the best way to do that is to change the way people see themselves and how they view fulfillment. Fulfillment is not a destination. It’s your full life you are living now!
If we can help ONE person love themselves a little more, show a little more compassion, and live the life they actually want, I believe our practices, our families, and our lives will have the magic spice of consistent fulfillment now. I hope this one person is YOU!!
Join us on our mission! There is more than enough room and you are absolutely worth it!