The Probe - Proudly serving the dental profession for over 60 years

A positive mindset will help during setbacks


  Posted by: The Probe      20th December 2018

In a series of articles exploring mental health and wellbeing, Barry Oulton, founder of The Confident Dentist which specialises in the use of emotional behaviour, looks at being consciously aware of our actions.

In the first article last month, I talked about my experiences with mental stress. The next few articles will touch upon some of the things that I learnt that helped me in those circumstances and that I use – to this day – to help me in the situations I now periodically find myself in.

As you know, I’m not a psychologist or a medical doctor dealing with patients with anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses. I am, however, an experienced dentist, husband (twice) father (of four) and friend (at least one) who has witnessed first-hand, a variety of levels of mental stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. And despite the predictable FB comments after the last article, claiming that I am attempting to offer salvation when you sign up to my training, let me make it clear – I’m just a ‘normal’ bloke who’s learnt a lot in the last 25 years and it’s time to share what I know. Please take from it what you will and share the information with those who may benefit. Please also continue to recommend yourself, patients and families, for correct medical help when necessary.

My sharing is for the majority of us that do not necessarily feel that we need medical help and if we employ some of the tips and skills I will talk about, then hopefully never will.

When you attend my communication training course, ‘Influencing Smiles’, the content is delivered in a way that each section is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that becomes clear at the end of the two-day course. Each piece, however, has its own independent relevance to us as humans and our interaction with ourselves and others.

Many of the principles that I share have their basis in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), human-needs psychology, learning preferences and neuroscience research. I thought long and hard about using the acronym NLP in my articles as, working in a scientific profession, some of my professional colleagues would struggle to accept that something might work, even if it doesn’t have a myriad of scientific studies behind it.

Sure enough, article one sparked some interesting comments from dentists who have never attended a presentation of mine, let alone my courses. It’s important to remember that this series of articles will be like the ‘influencing smiles’ jigsaw puzzle;

each piece has its own appearance, relevance and yet put together over the next few months, will build into a brilliantly bright picture of tools that you can use to feel better when things are looking grey or don’t sound good.

Jigsaw puzzle piece No 1: Mindset

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an approach to communication and personal development that helps us to understand how our minds work and how we can change the way we behave. The approach has been around since the 1970s and

has its roots in studies of the patterns of thought and behaviour seen in people who are highly successful in business, sport and other areas of life.

My friend Kayla lives in Los Angeles, California. One late afternoon she was driving down the coastal road and saw the most beautiful sunset across the water in the distance. Bright pinks and orange glistened on the rippling water. She stopped the car to photograph it on her phone so that she could show Michael, her husband, when she arrived home. Excited to share, she quickly raced home and burst through the front door.

“Michael, Michael”, she said as she passed him her phone, “you’ve got to see this sunset”. Michael took a look, swiped left a couple of times and said, “Sweetheart, it’s just a sunset!”

“What?”, she replied. “It’s beautiful.”

As she lifted her sunglasses onto her head and looked at the sunset picture on her phone, she realised that to Michael it was a boring, plain sunset. She now saw the same picture as him, which was indeed somewhat boring and realised that when she took the photographs she had been looking through her ‘rose tinted’ sunglasses, which had turned the sunset into the most beautiful sight.

You see, your mindset is like a pair of glasses that you subconsciously put on the moment you wake up and frequently change during the day. The glasses you ‘wear’ determine what you see, take in, think about and ultimately feel.

Do this exercise now. Temporarily put on a pair of mindset glasses that say ‘the world is a dangerous place’.

Look around the room you are in, right now, with that mindset on and notice what

you see. What comes into your conscious awareness with the mindset of ‘the world is a dangerous place’? Electricity: danger, trip hazards, fire extinguisher, stairs or steps, what else?

Ok. Now take off those glasses and put on a fresh bright pair with the mindset of, ‘the world is full of beauty and love’.

Look around the same room and with this different mindset. What do you see this time? Same room, same environment and yet you are conscious of different things. Photographs: love connection, warmth, safety, community, etc.

Your mindset focuses your mind on what to become consciously aware of. What do you think you might notice on a Monday morning with the following mindsets: ‘patients don’t have any money’, ‘people won’t pay for what I offer’, ‘they don’t want the treatment’, ‘I’m tired and fed up’, ‘dentistry is tough and stressful’.

Are these mindsets going to serve you, or serve your patients?

Please consider the next few steps:

1. Wake up and choose your positive mindset, even if it’s raining outside, the dog dumped in the kitchen or someone else is in a bad mood etc.

2. Begin checking in with yourself every morning and also throughout the day. Notice your mindset and adopt a positive one – this takes practice.

3. Run a team lunch and learn and download the free mindset exercise pdf

from to involve everyone in the journey.

4. Recommend this article to anyone you think might benefit from becoming aware of this information.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you’ve enjoyed it, please pass it on. I will share the second piece of the jigsaw puzzle with you in the new year. Have a good one!

Join our
Mailing List

Sign up to our newsletter and keep up to date on the latest happenings in the dental market.

Sign up today