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All of the aspects that positively affect the psychology of a person’s well-being -purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, creativity – are absent in the average job. Seventy percent of Americans do not feel engaged in their current job. Seventy percent – that scares me.

Fortunately, I believe that number is much lower in dentistry, because it’s a profession that helps others. Hopefully, you get to make people happy in your practice and you get joy in the process. (If not, you’re in the wrong profession.)While we may be better off than the general population in terms of job satisfaction, I still hear many people complain (to be fair, there are always going to be a few negative Nellies in any profession). It would be nice if we could screen for that – and we might be able to in the future.

We are lucky to be in a profession that serves others – lucky to have been born
with the gift of giving, lucky to have been trained to help. Whether it’s to fix
broken teeth or save someone’s life with an intraoral exam, helping others makes
us feel good. Money cannot buy the feeling we receive from knowing we’ve
changed someone’s life, even if only in a small way. I love that our profession is
a gift to both sides.

In 2013, researchers at Oxford University predicted that machines might be able
to perform half of all U.S. jobs in the next two decades. That prediction is pretty
audacious, but then again it might not be large enough. However, they stated
that psychologists will be the least likely profession to be computerized, even
though people would rather tell a computer the truth than be morally judged.

The idea that half of today’s jobs may vanish has changed how I think about my
children’s future. There’s a large older work force and fewer jobs for the young
professionals entering the job market: automation verses augmentation.

Who would have guessed that Google, which started as a search engine, would
build a self-driving car that would threaten the most common jobs in America?
And who would have thought the iPhone would threaten hotel jobs when it first
came out? (By helping home owners rent their properties to strangers on Airbnb,
there’s little need for customers to plan a traditional stay at a hotel when it’s both
easier and cheaper to stay in someone’s home.)

It’s happened before: we replaced horses and mules with tractors and cars. As a
consequence, the population of horses dropped by nearly 50 percent, while the
mule population dropped by nearly 90 percent by the 1950s.

In this era, we’re the horses that can be replaced. Yet, even with the possibility of
computers replacing traditional jobs, it’s still a safe bet that they won’t replace a
dental clinician. Our human touch in dentistry is a moat that machines cannot
cross.

Other professions are not so lucky, neither in job security nor in job satisfaction.
Skills required in most offices are so limited that people hardly reach their full
potential over the course of their careers. Most jobs are boring, repetitive, and
easily learned. But it’s purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, and creativity that
affect the positive psychology of a person’s well-being, and it’s our responsibility
to push and expand our abilities and find fulfillment elsewhere.

The minority of people who reach for purpose are the happiest and some of the most
successful people in the world. The rest of us, those who look for pleasure and
immediate gratification, are unsatisfied.

Some people find purpose in being a parent, building a church, or raising money for a
worthy cause. Others take pleasure from eating that extra donut or having that
extra glass of wine and wind up feeling guilty from overindulging and regretting
something they said under the influence.

If you wonder if you’re seeking your purpose or if you’re seeking your pleasure,
ask yourself who you’re doing it for. Is it for yourself, or is it for others? That
humanity, that willingness to give and to help, is what will keep us secure: secure
in ourselves, secure in our jobs, and secure in our ultimate happiness.

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