tonya lanthier

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” This comes to me as I sit, 30,000 feet up in the air, en route to Boston to speak with dental professionals at the Yankee Dental meeting. I’m headed there to share my experience and insights on improving self-awareness, developing soft skills like Emotional Intelligence, mindset, and perseverance so that they can level up both their careers and the overall quality of their lives. 

My high school coaches seared the above quote into my brain (shout out to Coach Berry and Cook Holliday!). It has stuck with me all these years and seems more appropriate than ever as we find ourselves in the midst of the Great Resignation. Today, every industry is dealing with the harsh realities of burnout, but the healthcare industry is really feeling it, and it is the number one issue facing our dental teams today. 

Stages of Life

This made me think about the different stages of my life –– the highs and lows, the joy, the gratitude, as well as the times I’ve struggled. It’s not the easy or good times that build character, propel us forward, or help us grow in our purpose and life path. It’s the hard times. The painful moments that sometimes come like waves, one after another, barely giving us time to catch our breath before another one hits us. That’s where we find our resolve, learn to push through, and grow. 

Pushing Through Self Doubt

If you had asked me when I was a little girl if I would be standing in front of hundreds to thousands of people speaking, I would have thought you’d lost your mind. You see, grade school terrified me. My fear was reading out loud, mispronouncing a word, or saying something stupid, and everyone laughing at me. Public speaking still makes me nervous, but that little voice in my head quieted. I care less now about harsh judgment. If it was once loud like a rock concert in my head, it’s more like elevator music now, but it’s still there, that little girl, telling me I’m not good enough and that I should forge ahead with great caution. 

Some of that self-doubt stems from what I sort of attribute to an education system that failed kids like me who needed different teaching methods than what is considered “normal” or mainstream. When a society is set up to define success in the narrow terms of only academics, many kids suffer needlessly and end up with stunted self-esteem. 

I barely got by. Mostly I got C’s, B’s, and a few A’s in the classes that really interested me. My attention span at that age was short. Spelling was (and still is) a challenge, but I’m thankful for spell check and editors! I had language processing issues and mild ADD/ADHD, which was undiagnosed like that of many GenXer’s. Playing scrabble was my worst nightmare. My mind thought faster than my mouth and I became bored easily. As I grew older, I learned to better manage it with healthier habits, food choices, and exercise.

Weaknesses as Gifts

I now see my weaknesses as some of my gifts. While ADHD has its drawbacks, believe it or not, it helps me to see patterns, understand behaviors and learn how to make things efficient. It also humbled me enough to know that I needed help and to ask for it. I surrounded myself with people smarter than me and learned to become a good delegator. I worked for some amazing female dentists who taught me how to delegate even more so that I could focus on what I do best.

A Goal That Drives You

Being a mom of twin girls required me to become super-efficient to maintain order and make things happen in my world. But you don’t have to have chaos in your life to force you into super-efficiency. All you need is a goal that you’re passionate about and driven towards to get you to that state of mind and way of life. If you haven’t read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is about how making tiny changes, habitually, yields remarkable results, put it on your list. A classic is also James Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And one more I recommend is The Habit Blueprint by Patrik Edblad, which strips down behavior change to its very core, providing a research-backed formula for cultivating the habits you desire.

Taking Back Control

My needs have come from wanting to be in control of my life choices and not trapped by my belief system, or anyone else’s. If, like many, you’re feeling out of control and at the mercy of what feels like a crazy out-of-control fill-in-the-blank––home, dental office, dental team, world–– then just know you can take back control! It starts by not living in the past and not living in the future, but rather, by being in the moment and present to the right now. It’s all we can control and a powerful place to live from. 

Making a Difference

My heart has always wanted to make the world a better place, even if it was one patient at a time, assisting the dentist, or helping someone put food on the table by helping them get a job. Dentistry continues to be wonderful to me, even when it “chose” me as a child by having my #8 tooth knocked out in a bike wreck

In hindsight, it did not and still does not matter if I got my letters in the right order or won at scrabble. What mattered is that I made a difference in someone’s life. 

So as my coaches said, I now say again, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” 

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