‘At first I was afraid’ – don’t fear personal progress



‘At first I was afraid’ – don’t fear personal progress 1

As dental practices look to recover after COVID-19, Alun Rees urges them not to fear personal progress by making that leap.

The ‘World Championship of Public Speaking’ is the name of the annual competition held by Toastmasters International.

It starts with heats in individual clubs, attracting an estimated 10,000 entrants. It proceeds through various geographical stages to the final, held in late August at The Annual Convention; this year the final is virtual.

I entered the contest and was fortunate enough to win three rounds. Before meeting my match at the All Ireland, Scotland and Northern England District level.

My seven-minute speech, ‘At first I was afraid’, told the story of my traumatic introduction to ‘sniff and snatch’ dentistry at five years old. My subsequent conversion from a 10-year-old phobic to compliant patient at 14. And the wonderful dentist who changed my life.

Making personal progress

There were several times in my life in dentistry that ‘At first I was afraid’ could apply. Starting on clinics, final exams, first job, first middle third fracture, and so on.

Two that stand out were the opening day of my first practice and the dispatch of the letter telling my patients that I was leaving the NHS.

All these events felt major. But they were really landmarks of gradual change rather than the huge tipping points I imagined at the time.

Even the most dramatic epiphanies are the results of step-by-step movements towards significant moments, rather than lightening bolts.

Many dentists want to become changed rather than starting change. Inside them they know what they should do to take the next step towards personal and professional fulfilment.

It feels like a massive stride, yet it is another incremental movement towards obtaining a life goal and the ultimate ambition of control.

When presenting my speech at the contests between February and June, was I afraid? Of course I was, at first; but what makes it all worthwhile is the personal progress I make.

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