What Can Orthodontists Learn from Skiing?

March 21, 2017

My favorite hobby is downhill skiing and I try to get out as much as possible every winter. Recently, I was stuck inside at Jay Peak, on a day where the temperatures plummeted to -10F at the base lodge and windchill on the mountain was measured at -50F. Wishing I could be outside, but still warming up my aching, numb feet, I wrote down three things anyone can learn from skiing.

First, Focus is Powerful. In order to navigate a steep glade on skis, your focus has to be 100% on what you are doing. Planning your turns, avoiding trees and having a blast while not killing yourself requires all of your concentration. Various experts have commented on the benefits of achieving this state of flow and have documented it among athletes, surfers, and even computer programmers. I find that on the days I am completely present with what I am doing in my orthodontic practice, I achieve a similar state of flow. I am moving from one patient to the next, the systems are clicking and it feels energizing at the end of the day instead of exhausting. Other days, due to stress, scheduling, staff etc, my focus is diluted and I hit a tree, figuratively speaking.

Second, and it you have ever tried skiing you know this is true: People can be better than you and not work as hard at it as you are. When you first get out on the hill, with your skis splayed all over the place like a baby giraffe, you will without question, at the moment of your greatest frustration, watch helplessly as a few 3 year olds go flying past you like its nothing. Or after you emerge from the mogul field exhausted and embarrassed, an expert zips by making it look like a walk in the park. In a similar fashion, you have orthodontic colleagues who are more proficient than you are. These doctors are more skilled clinically, or they are more efficient with their systems and can deliver care to more patients, or they are experts in dealing with people. It’s not that they are doing something wrong, or cutting corners, or that what they are doing is unachievable by others. It is, however, true that these orthodontists are not working as hard as you are, and they are more successful, which brings me to my third point:

You can always learn something new. I am an advanced skier and there is almost nothing on the mountain I can’t ski with confidence and rhythm. It has been several years since I had a lesson, but I took a 3-hour private lesson a few months ago and it was amazing. Besides cutting all the lift lines, my instructor pointed out several areas where I could improve. At my skill level, the tips were subtle, but boy were they impactful. Since the lesson I have focused on keeping my head more upright and not letting my arms get behind me on pole plants. I am skiing with more confidence than ever and having more fun as my skills improve. In orthodontics, find a coach, a friend, a mentor, or an accountability partner. Be honest with yourself about what your weaknesses are. Too many doctors think that 10 or more years of schools have taught them everything there is to know. As you learn, you will have more fun and serve your patients at an even higher level!

Feel free to send me your thoughts or ski tips at lance@eleveateorthodpocast.com or in our facebook group!

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