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Are You on the Upward Spiral or The Downward Spiral in 2020?

I don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been a crazy year none of us could have predicted. This year has challenged us in every way, including our relationships with families, teams, patients, friends, and even ourselves. As I communicate with dentists all over the country, I see two trends emerging; an upward spiral and a downward spiral. While no practice is perfect, no life without struggle, there are specific trends and different mindsets that separate these two paths. Let’s take a look.

A common theme emerging amongst individuals on the upward spiral is choosing to embrace a growth mindset. As described by author Dr. Carol Dweck, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Those on the upward spiral, embracing this mindset, understand neither they nor their teams can do the hard work alone. They recognize success is a team effort, and they celebrate each victory, no matter how small.

On the other side of the fence, I see the downward spiral and a mind burdened by anger and frustration with the people around them,  the industry, and a present reality they believe offers little to no hope. The disappointment they feel compounds into a dangerous storm of negativity. Even as I write this, I can tell you that I experienced both spirals. Having done so, I know is that it’s always more fun to be on the upward spiral rather than the downward spiral.

To trend up, more than you trend down, you have to embrace one critical piece; gratitude. Without gratitude, you fall into The Gap. As described by Dan Sullivan, The Gap is a place in which true happiness will never be achieved, and you will never be fulfilled; “when you’re in The Gap, you feel as though you haven’t accomplished anything at all. This is because even though you’ve moved forward, the ideal remains distant from you.”  Being in The Gap is exhausting for you and the people around you.

Climbing out of this dangerous place, getting on that upward spiral, means shifting the focus off of missed goals or ideals that have not been achieved. Look instead to all that you have, all that’s been done and overcome. This is gratitude. Gratitude cuts off the air supply to negative emotions. When focusing on gratitude, it’s impossible to feel anger, frustration, angst. Gratitudes’ power is more extraordinary, more powerful than all of the negativity. In reality, it affects our brain and our lives more than we could ever imagine. Practicing gratitude daily is key to your survival. Research demonstrates that focusing on what we are grateful for is a universally rewarding way to feel happier and fulfilled.

As an essential mental health principle, the benefits of gratitude extend far beyond what we may imagine. Scientific studies have found that gratitude is associated with:

  • Greater happiness
  • More optimism and positive emotions
  • New and lasting relationships
  • Better health
  • More progress toward personal goals
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • More alertness and determination
  • Increased generosity and empathy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem

With no downside to practicing more gratitude, and with so many real benefits, it’s clear this is a practice we should all embrace.

So as we begin the wind down a year like no other, I ask, which way are you trending? Are you spiraling up or down? Are you living in The Gap or cultivating gratitude?  I challenge you not just in this season of Thanksgiving but each and every day to embrace a growth mindset, to celebrate your people and your achievements, no matter how small. In challenges, see opportunities, in struggle, find the strength in those around you. And most importantly, embrace a life filled with gratitude.


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