103582938 © Siri Wannapat | Dreamstime.com
Dreamstime Xxl 103582938

Finding your work-life purpose in dentistry

Nov. 11, 2021
Achieving work-life balance can be elusive and stressful for today's professional. Author Erika Pusillo shares a slightly different perspective.

We’ve all heard the phrase “work-life balance,” but what is it really?

Is it that ideal moment that occurs when the amount of work is less than or equal to the amount of personal time? Or is it simply being able to keep one's head above the water just long enough to get to the weekend? I struggled with the concept of work-life balance throughout my career, and have even felt guilty for not having it. I felt stuck trying to resolve the conflict between being a good mom and a good leader, as if they couldn’t co-exist. If I wasn’t home enough with my son, I felt I was failing as a parent, and if I wasn’t able to stay late to complete a project, I felt I was failing as a team member. Forget balance, I felt like I was deficient in work and in life. Talk about setting myself up to feel like a total loser.

Related reading: 

My defining aha moment came after a Tony Robbins event I attended a few years ago. His words challenged how I viewed the idea of work-life balance. Before the event, I thought the transaction of time spent one way or the other was the very definition of how to determine balance. To me, balance equaled time. Tony said, “Time is an emotion. A feeling. A way of looking at life that provides an emotional state. Think about it. How do you know how long something really takes other than by how it feels? A minute can feel like an eternity when you're not fulfilled.” 

In that moment, I realized two important lessons. I can be a good mom and a good team member regardless of the physical time I  spend on those areas of my life. Reading a book with my son, laughing and making memories can happen in a moment. And when you’re in the right career, in the position that best suits your personality and skills, your time takes on more meaning. Have you ever worked on a project where you felt like time seemed to not exist? It’s in moments like this where purpose and fulfillment are created. The sense that you’re in total alignment with what you love to do and what you’re good at doing.  

In years past, it was the emotional energy—or lack thereof—that was contributing to my sense of imbalance. If I was feeling depleted at work or at home, it was most likely caused by my emotional attachment to what I was doing. Either I wasn’t spending quality time at home, or I wasn’t doing meaningful work at the office. 

These days, "work-life balance," to me, is more like "work-life purpose." I try to make every moment count instead of counting every moment. If you’re a dedicated practice leader and spend tons of time at the office, but your work gives you energy because it’s what you love, don’t sweat it. Or if your time commitment out of the office prevents you from putting in those extra-long hours, use the time you do have to be as effective as you can. Not all minutes are equally spent. 

Be intentional in how you design your days and spend your time doing what matters most to you. What difference are you making with the time you have allocated to work, friends, and family? Are you clocking in for eight or 10 hours a day and feeling like you’re getting closer to your career goals? Are you spending your free time connecting with the people who are most meaningful to you? Or are you merely existing in both worlds? 

Erika Pusillo, MAADOM, is the practice optimizer at Spodak Dental Group in Delray Beach, Florida. She began her dental career in 2009 as a dental assistant and now leads a team of 50 in a single location, multi-specialty practice. Her goal is to empower their team to take the very best care of their patients. She shares her passion for bringing out the potential in others by speaking to dental teams through the BulletProof Dental Practice. Erika is a member of the American Association of Dental Management (AADOM) and received her fellowship designation in 2018. She was inducted as an AADOM Master at the national conference in September 2021.