Fear: It May Be a GREAT Motivator…But it Seldom Motivates You Toward Greatness!

Fear: It May Be a GREAT Motivator…But it Seldom Motivates You Toward Greatness!

We see it in our daily news coverage…particularly now! We see it in many of our regular, commercial advertisements to purchase this product or that service or something bad will happen.

We see it in our daily news coverage…particularly now! 

We see it in many of our regular, commercial advertisements to purchase this product or that service or something bad will happen.

And we certainly see it in every election cycle. Vote for the other party and bad things will happen.


Fear has always been one of the greatest motivators throughout human history. In fairness, a healthy dose of fear was absolutely essential to ensure survival.

But beyond survival, is fear a truly helpful emotion for the human condition? Is fear what motivates us to make our best decisions? Or rather, does fear appear to place limits on our creativity and confine us to binary choices where the best decision may simply be the “least worst” among limited alternatives?

There is no doubt…if you are not paralyzed by fear, it will motivate you toward some action. However, that action will usually be the fastest solution to alleviating that fear. And the “fastest” solution is not necessarily the “best” solution!

Fear is proving to be a strong motivating force in the dental community right now. Some in the media have been using it throughout the pandemic to propagate the myth that the dental office is unsafe…a view that was given further life when the WHO advised against “non-essential” dental treatment until the, seemingly, mythical end of the pandemic.

And if that was not enough, the October 19th edition of USAToday contained the headline “Dentists Could Raise Fees, Exit Family Practices as Pandemic Keeps Patients Away”. While this is an American headline, it is one that also finds fertile soil here, north of the 49th parallel!

To be honest, raising fees may not be a bad idea. The higher costs of PPE combined with potentially longer fallow time between patients may have a negative impact on profitability. However, many offices are reporting some of their busiest periods since they re-opened over the summer.

Do we instinctively raise our fees or charge an additional PPE fee because we are fearful of a reduction in our profitability? Or do we take a deep breath and rationally consider whether we should raise our fees at a time when, quite frankly, many members of the general public may be looking at more financial hardship than most of us in dentistry.

I am not saying raising our fees at this time is a bad thing. I am simply asking what was it that motivated you to raise those fees. If it was fear, was it a good decision or could the solution to maintaining current profit levels be found elsewhere.

The same question can be asked about the decision to leave family practice. Whether it was to head off into the sunset of retirement or to remain in practice in the corporate world, did you make this decision out of fear for the immediate future of dentistry?

Or were you truly ready to retire and this just cemented a decision you had almost made? Perhaps the luster of being a practice owner no longer shone brightly for you and the DSO route seemed the right solution for you.

Again, these decisions are not inherently bad in their own right. But if you made them out of fear, will you soon be suffering from “seller’s remorse” after the fear has dissipated?

When it comes to your practice, decisions made out of fear are seldom the best decisions. Fear becomes so all-encompassing you simply feel your options are limited. All that may actually be limited is your mindset and your perception of how much time you truly have to find more creative alternatives.

So how do we train ourselves NOT to make decisions out of fear?

The best way is to ensure our practice is operating with the best systems available. That means uniting your team with great training, ensuring effective communication and bringing everyone together to support a mission that envisages the best in oral health care for your patients.

When we have ensured the strength and security of our practice in such a manner, we are better able to face even the most fearful of events with a level head. Our team is great at supporting each other. Our systems support and reinforce our team. Yes…the pandemic will still make things rocky. It will not, however, be something to be feared.

The good news is that even if you have not taken the steps you need to build that ideal practice before the pandemic, you can still make the decision to do so in its midst. You can still decide you have managed to get this far…what can you do to make it out stronger than when you went in?

Whatever that decision is, you can be certain you are more likely to make the best decision when you are not motivated by fear

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