Being on Purpose with Your Dental Leadership

Cathy Jameson

Being “on purpose” is the motivational factor that drives you and/or your team to provide the services—both professionally and personally—that are the core of your business. Your purpose goes deeper than and will outlast the technical aspects of your business. The purpose is the “why” behind all that you do. Your Purpose is your inspiration.

According to Richard Leider,

“Purpose means each of us following a deeper call. It means living inside the question, “Am I making a living doing the work that I love to do?” It means being able to say, “Does my life matter?” Leider goes on to ask this question, “When we scratch under the surface of our drive for making a living, what’s there?”

Leider, R. (1997). The Power of Purpose. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA.

Know that people do not buy what you do but why you do it. And while you may feel energized to do something because of money, status, and/or “making a living”. None of that will endure. The ultimate driving force that supports the building of and the leaving of a legacy is the PURPOSE.

Purpose defines the culture of the organization. It goes beyond—or perhaps deeper– into the meaningfulness of work. It’s the core. Each person on the team will have a purpose of his or her own. When the individual members of the team find a place where they can pursue their own purpose, an immeasurable energy is created and exuded. A healthy work environment is created.

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Being On Purpose

Recently, I was invited to provide a workshop for a group of dental professionals in Cabo San Lucas. This was a group of amazing doctors and teams who are “on purpose”, who are committed to excellence, and who support and help one another rather than compete against one another. No one missed a single class—in spite of the fact that we were in a beautiful place with sun, ocean, and warmth and some of the participants were coming from ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. These people were there to enjoy the location and each other. But, more emphatically, they were there to learn ways to improve their practices and their lives. They love their chosen profession—dentistry—and are on a path of continuous improvement.

The enthusiasm and commitment were refreshing. Three of these doctors practice on the same block in their city. They are often asked—“Isn’t it weird to practice so close to someone who is in your own study club?” Their answer was—“Absolutely not. We support each other. We help each other out. We teach each other. We want success for all of us. The better each of us does to elevate our practice, the more we raise the bar of patient expectation—and that helps all of us.”

Now that’s healthy! That is how to create healthy relationships and healthy work environments. Jealousy is a non-productive emotion!! Truly, when professionals in an area raise the standard of their own organization, this raises the bar. Clients begin to expect excellence. And you are continuously motivated to provide it.

Different Types of Work Attitudes

As I have worked with people throughout the USA and the world, I have seen four specific work types or work attitudes.

GROUP 1: These people hate work. They come to work for the paycheck and resent every minute. On Monday morning they are wishing it was Friday. At the start of the day, they are wishing for the end of the day. On Sunday night, they are dreading the fact that tomorrow is Monday and they have to go to work. This is the “it’s just a job” group—the 8-5er who works for the paycheck. These people gripe and whine about everything: the boss, the clients, the co-workers, everything. They stir the pot and blame others for anything that does not go well. They take no personal responsibility and do not even know what accountability means! Work is a vehicle to what they want to do when they are not at work. Nothing more.

GROUP 2: Work is a necessity. It is a part of life. Like GROUP 1, they have to work to make a living, put food on the table, a roof over the heads, take care of family, etc. The paycheck and benefits are important, but these people do not dread the work. It’s fine. They have a good work ethic and do what they are supposed to do. They do what they need to do and don’t gripe about it. But, they lack passion for the work and for the service they are providing. It’s a part of life—a “have to” more than a “want to”.

GROUP 3: These are the people who have chosen a career path based on something they like to do. They want to pursue work that has meaning and allows them to use their talent or education or both. These people like their profession and the work that they do. They don’t resent going to work and want to thrive in a workplace that is healthy, creative, and one that is not full of negativity. They, like most people, need to make a living, but want to make a living at something they can feel proud about.

GROUP 4: Here are the people who feel a “calling” for their work. They are paid for the work they do—but love the work so much that the joy and fulfillment are more important than the money. They realize that they have talents and gifts and want to use these for the benefit of others. They want to make a difference in the lives of others. They feel commitment to the service they are providing. They have passion for their work and that passion is evident in the continuous improvement, the creativity, and the focused effort put forth every day—in every aspect of their work. These people are “on purpose” and are clear about the “why” of their chosen profession or career. It is in the “why” that energy and brilliance are generated.

You may see yourself in one of the four GROUPS or you may find yourself in one or the other depending on circumstances that you are encountering. There is no such thing as status quo, so you—and the circumstances of your life–will always be changing and evolving. You may find that your “purpose” changes or evolves. I am convinced that everything we do prepares us for whatever is next. Change is ok. Change is healthy. Just be aware of changes that are occurring within you—and honor yourself. Remember to listen to that “still small voice within” and ask yourself relevant questions like, “Am I on purpose? Do I feel fulfilled? Am I using my talents? Am I happy? Is this a healthy work environment where I can thrive? If not, what can I do to change it? Can I make a difference in this workplace to create health for others and myself?

Finding and pursuing work that is meaningful can bring joy and fulfillment to you and your loved ones. Your own happiness—or lack of happiness—will impact every person in your life – family and loved ones, as well as colleagues in the workplace. Honor yourself by listening to the “still, small voice within” and find work that speaks to your spirit. If you have talent that lies within (and everyone does) and you do not express that talent, you will become ill. Your talents and gifts need to “come out”, they need to be expressed, and they need to serve a purpose.

The Course In Miracles states the following:

“In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is ‘What do I want to come of this? What is it for?’ The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning; this will determine the outcome. Doubt is the result of conflicting wishes. Be sure of what you want, and doubt becomes impossible. Nothing is difficult that is wholly desired.”

Gifts from A Course In Miracles. Tarcher/ Putnam Publishers, New York.
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In Summary

There is joy in being on purpose. There is joy in being able to make a difference in the lives of other people. Being “on purpose” also means that there is learning to be had; work to be done; effort to be put forth. But, find the path of learning that works for you. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded. And you will find more than colleagues. You will find friends.

“Being on purpose” means being clear about the “why” that is foundational to your business. When you know who you are; when you integrate your core values into every fiber of your business; when you are clear about your ideal and work toward that; and when you realize that the service you provide is of benefit to others, you discover the joy of work. Clarity of purpose is a foundational element of a healthy work environment. Work that is based on a clear purpose—the “why”–can be a rewarding and fulfilling facet of your total life—rather than a dreaded necessity The choice is yours.


Edited by Frances Vaughan, PhD and Roger Walsh, M.D. PhD. (1995).