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Assessing your mindset—how to thrive during this challenging time

May 27, 2020
When you cease asking, "Why is this happening to me?" and reframe the things that happen in your life each day, you become more able to meet challenges—including obstacles posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Consider things that happen throughout your day and throughout your life. Now consider: What if you reframed each experience?

Instead of asking yourself, “Why does this happen to me?” you could ask yourself, “How is this happening for me?” This sentiment has been shared by many authors and speakers in some form or another, but the concept is thought-provoking. When something doesn’t go the way you plan or expect, how can you learn from the experience? What can you take away? Sometimes in the moment this is difficult, but if you are able to ask yourself this question and reframe your mind, even in the moment a negative experience can seem to improve.

Growth versus fixed mindset

You may have heard the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.” If you have not heard of this concept or others related to mindset, consider diving into studies and publications by Carol Dweck, PhD. I will share brief concepts here.

Henry Ford may have said it best, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” You make up your mind about your abilities and that, in turn, can have an impact on the results of a situation or even the trajectory of your life. Do you tell yourself you cannot do something or do you tell yourself that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to? What you tell yourself is what you start to believe.

Surround yourself with positive vibes

What do you consume? Does it serve you? Media has power to change our mood and outlook. If you find yourself with increased negative thoughts or fear after consuming certain television, news, or social media channels, consider refraining from these activities. There are positive groups to surround yourself with, groups that can lift you up by focusing on positive stories even in challenging times. Attempt to make a conscious choice of what you consume and determine whether it is having a positive or negative impact on your mindset.

Next, take an inventory of the individuals you surround yourself with. If you find yourself surrounded by individuals who trigger stress, bring you down, or do not motivate you, consider changing up your circle. Though some individuals cannot be eliminated from your life, consider hitting “snooze” or limiting your exposure to these individuals, setting boundaries. You should surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher, support you, people who are going to force you to be your best self, not the contrary.

Change and growth

A growth mindset can set the framework for your ability to change and grow. During a time of transition and training for a new career, it is important to maintain flexibility and be open to opportunities. Having an “all-in” attitude will take you far. Continue to learn new skills, challenge yourself, and elevate your professional passion to the next level.

In clinical practice, this may mean continuing to attend continuing education courses on innovative technologies or products you could implement into your patient care routine. You could invite industry reps into the office for a product or service demo! This could also look like developing a program within your office to increase productivity or implement money saving practices.  

The dental field is vast; there are many opportunities to be involved in varying aspects of the field if only you are open to the opportunities available to you. You are an educated and qualified health-care practitioner; many companies are looking for your exact skillset to help them advance.


Deciding each day is going to be a good day, the moment you wake up, is a great place to start. If you are not familiar with positive affirmations, I would suggest some research on the concept! In addition, gratitude practices are a great way to reflect and reframe your mind. Some prefer to begin by reflecting on the previous day, while others end their day this way, recounting small events that they can be thankful for. Make a list of 5 to 10 moments that you can reflect on from a place of gratitude. Keep a journal of these moments to revisit when you need a pick me up. By doing this daily, I find myself looking for things to appreciate throughout the day. These things can be very small or very impactful; regardless, seeking and recognizing moments to appreciate helps even the difficult days seems easier.

As you move to the next stage of your life, include intentionality about your thoughts and mindset in your plans. Reflect on where you have been and how far you have come. Remember the moments where you felt like you “couldn’t do it,” maybe other times you thought something seemed impossible, and look at you now. Mountains big and small, from instrument check offs in clinic, to your national board exam, from seating your first patient, to your toughest perio patient . . . remember to keep in mind how those events are happening for you and not to you. Remember you are worthy of living your best life, and it is up to you to lay the framework to achieve that potential. It starts with you. It starts with your mindset.

Megen Elliott, MS-OCL, RDH, CDA, has 12 years of experience in the dental field. She finds joy in inspiring others to grow and reach their full potential. As an educator, interprofessional speaker, volunteer leader, and podcast host, Megen is able to explore many areas of the dental industry. Additionally, she facilitates multiple Facebook communities, including Hygiene Happy Vibes and Dogs of Dentistry. She serves as manager of recruitment and success with the oral care company, Twice. Megen enjoys connecting with dental professionals both online and while attending dental conferences around the country. She hopes you will to reach out to connect on Instagram: @yourdentalfriendmegen or [email protected], as she always welcomes new friends!