During my program "Health, Happiness and Hygiene: Science of Change" at last month's RDH Under One Roof conference, I spoke about Michelangelo, the famed artist, sculptor, and painter. The story goes that someone asked him how he created "David," his greatest masterpiece. Michelangelo thought a minute and replied, "Well, actually it was quite easy. All I did was go to the quarry, where I saw a big piece of marble, and in this piece of marble I saw David. All I needed to do was chip away the excess stone." In other words, one needs only to remove the excess stone to reveal the work of art within. If only it were that easy!
When we apply this idea to human beings and our hygiene careers, we discover that we are all works of art in our varied roles. Life's true journey may be the process of uncovering, chipping away, and removing what's in the way of our shining through with beauty and brilliance.
I also spoke about an idea called "Giving an A," which comes from the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This practice asks us to see everyone as having great potential. You can give an "A" to anyone — your spouse, children, employer, coworkers, patients, and even strangers.
Using the familiar classroom example, when students think of themselves as "C" students, they may not bother to try very hard. If a teacher expects them to do poorly, the students will likely fulfill that expectation. What would happen if the expectation were for the students to be "A" students?
Benjamin Zander, a world-renowned conductor and teacher, experimented with giving "A"s to all his graduate music students at the beginning of school. They were instructed to pre-date a letter to him from the end of the semester, telling him not just what they had accomplished, but who they had become in the process of living up to that "A." The results were amazing. Students who had been anxious about their performance and were playing it safe began to see themselves differently and participated at a higher level.
In our work lives, it is easy to fall into the habit of judging our patients and coworkers. We might label patients as "non-flossers," or think, "They will never get their work done," or "They don't care about their oral health, why should I?" We hold onto these judgments, in essence labeling them "C" or "D" students. Imagine coming from the perspective of believing in a team member's or patient's potential to change his or her behavior. The result can be working together toward a shared goal of team excellence or oral health.
The world is much more beautiful and full of possibility when we choose to focus on the work of art within rather than the excess stone that appears to be the reality. It's a choice of perspective. Chip away the excess and live the "A" life.
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS