Here’s a New Year’s resolution that few dentists utter, much less know how to fulfill: “I’ll make better decisions in 2020.”
First-of-the-year pundits are great when it comes to suggestions on how to lose weight, increase savings, de-stress, meet new people, and the like.
But the discussion of how to make better decisions—both in your professional and personal life—is seldom joined.
Historian and author Robert L. Dilenschneider believes it is imperative for modern leaders to hone their decision-making skills, whether they are at the head of a nation or running a thriving dental office.
Dilenschneider’s latest book, Decisions, is out this month, and he recently participated in an exclusive interview with Incisor, sharing actionable advice from 23 men and women who faced difficult choices and changed history with their ultimate judgments.
Among those decision-makers who Mr. Dilenschneider examines in Decisions are:
- Alexander Fleming, Louis Pasteur, and Ignaz Semmelweis: These people thought uniquely and involved others in their efforts.
- Marie Curie: She persevered in the face of personal tragedy, demonstrating the importance of separating important decisions from negative events in life.
- Rachel Carson: She chose to write Silent Spring and exposed the dangers of DDT. Her tale is one of a decision-maker who kept at it regardless of any distraction that presented itself.
- Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Wiesel: He decided to dedicate his life to keeping the lessons of the Holocaust alive and in doing so, demonstrated the ability to keep life’s decisions in perspective.
Others whom Dilenschneider studies, and who help him offer practical advice on making better decisions include:
- Harry Truman: Once you’ve done it, you should never look back.
- Margaret Thatcher: Stick to your objective no matter what the barriers and problems.
- Henry Ford: Make sure you listen to and take care of those who support you.
- Abraham Lincoln: Understand the value of patience.
- Malala Yousafzi: Learning from your earlier life is a key to your future.
Dilenschneider admires each of the 23 individuals profiled in Decisions who—when life demanded it—followed their own paths to reach their perspectives and subsequently acted upon them.
According to Dilenschneider, what all his profile subjects have in common is a sense of purpose.
“They all knew who they were, and they constantly moved toward who they were.”
In addition, many of the 23 individuals whom he studied faced setbacks along the way and even made the wrong decisions at times. What distinguishes them, however, he notes, is that “they would recover and then they would stand up and get it done.”
While Dilenschneider believes the lessons of his 23 historical figures can apply to everyday decisions—such as whether to go to the gym or how much to spend on a birthday gift for a colleague—his book will be most valuable to those who inevitably face major, life-changing decisions.
Among the questions many dentists face at some point in their careers are:
- Should I bring in a new partner?
- When is the right time to retire?
- Should I buy another dental practice?
- Is it worth the time and investment to obtain my IV sedation certification?
- Is it time to relocate?
- Should I file a lawsuit to stop malicious online reviews?
Dilenschneider says that, while there is no single formula for making difficult decisions, two specific recommendations generally apply to significant decisions:
- Know your core values in life and let them serve as guiderails when making decisions.
- Have the courage of your convictions. Once you’ve looked into your heart for the answer, stick with your choice—even in the face of criticism and setbacks.
Dilenschneider is the founder of The Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm based in Manhattan. In that capacity, he has advised numerous Global 500 corporations and CEOs.
In his own life, Dilenschneider says his decision-making skills have improved over the years as he’s learned from experience and his study of history.
“I have thought a lot about the steps taken in my own life and things that I should have or should not have done,” he says. “When I look at it and ask myself, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I can lift my head and say, ‘Yes, at least I tried to do the right thing.’”