Freedom -- or lack thereof?

Editor's note: The Coaches Corner column appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

Get a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a horizontal line from left to right. Label the left end of the line "BONDAGE." Label the right end of the line "FREEDOM."

"Freedom" needs little explanation, but perhaps "bondage" needs a bit more. Simply put, bondage is the lack of freedom. It's what ties you down and keeps you from experiencing what you really want.

Now, place a hash mark on the continuum from left to right where you feel you are in relation to "freedom" or "bondage" for the following elements of your practice:

  • Your daily schedule
  • Debt
  • Savings
  • Practice growth
  • Right staff
  • Daily enjoyment of work
  • Overhead
  • Doing the dentistry you want
  • The type of patients you want
  • Practice organization
  • Goals

Now, on another page, repeat the same setup, this time placing a hash mark where you are in relation to "freedom" or "bondage" for the following aspects of your life:

  • Relationships
  • Tolerations
  • Reserves
  • Boundaries
  • Spirituality
  • Physical health
  • Emotional health
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

What do you notice about your answers? How close to freedom are you for each of these aspects of your practice and your life?

Anything that holds us back is robbing us of that feeling of freedom.

Moving forward without fear

In my last column I spoke about fear and how it holds us back, and I encouraged you to be bold. Now I'm asking you to be bold about making changes, decisions, and modifications in your life and practice that move you toward freedom. This, however, may prove daunting. Let me give you a little coaching direction around this.

Somewhere along my lifeline, I was taught I could solve anything if I could just thought about it hard enough. I was taught that brainpower was supreme. The world taught me that I would be rewarded for possessing great intellectual abilities, so that was my focus.

But there finally came a time in my life that I couldn't solve the problem. I didn't know the answer. And no matter how hard I thought about it, reasoned and rationalized, researched and studied, I could not figure out the answer. It seemed I was caught in the middle of the proverbial "rock and a hard place."

When you find yourself in these tight spots or dilemmas, how do you feel? Exalted? Exhilarated? Inspired? More likely you're left with feelings of inferiority, anger, hostility, depression, "less-than." This is what I call bondage. Often we blame others, say things we don't really mean, and make decisions based upon the "lesser of two evils."

Working out of these tight spots, we often leave out the single most powerful asset each and every one of us has: our heart.

When you decide with your heart, it will be the right decision.

In "Star Wars," young Luke Skywalker is faced with what he believes is an insurmountable challenge. He doesn't know what to do. He is torn between hanging on to what he knows and taking a risk that may have consequences of which he can only be fearful. Yoda, sensing his troubles, tells young Luke, "Do or not do. There is no try."

Life constantly changes; we are challenged every day in ways we can neither see nor understand. Keeping a tight rein on life in an attempt to control it all is not just overwhelming, it is impossible. Doing so will keep you in bondage.

I would encourage you to no longer just try; do or not do, as Yoda said, and use your most powerful asset: your heart.

Coaching point: What are you feeling in bondage about, right now, at this point in your life? How would trusting your heart provide the right choice for you to move toward freedom?

Don Deems, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., known as the Dentist's Coach, is a co-founder of the Dental Coaches Association, an organization of dentists who are professional coaches committed to bringing professional coaching to the dental profession. Learn more about professional coaching by visiting

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009

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