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The Flat Tire Theory changed my life several years ago. I’ve coined that term, but it probably has some cognitive behavioral therapy name, and you probably use it but call it something else. A dentist friend of mine was in the throes of selling his practice a few months ago. He shared some of his uncertainties and woes with me. I listened and eventually shared this story with him. Later he told me that it’d really left a mark on him, and he’s shared it with several other people, so I thought it might be useful to do the same. I don’t always abide by it, but it’s always there when I need it. Buckle up, we’re going for a ride…

On a rare cloudy January day, I drove from Scottsdale to Phoenix to pick up a piece of original artwork I purchased from the artist. You might think this would bring me a sense of joy or other positive feelings.

Instead, my mind ping-ponged from unfounded fears about financial insecurity to work frustrations. The internal self-flagellation hopped off the exit at NoBasisInReality Road, “WHO do you think you are to buy a piece of original artwork. There are people in your family that can’t afford luxuries like this. You should give them the money, you selfish @ss. What will you do if you lose your job or the stock market crashes? Huh, genius, are you gonna eat the artwork? You’re a loser.”

The internal playlist o’ doom was interrupted by the only soundtrack that could make it worse. Nope, not Britney Spears or Migos.

Bump. Bump. Bump. Yup, I got a flat tire.

I pulled over & called AAA. I had never tapped the benefits of AAA, but I was sure glad I had it for this very moment. The personable dispatcher on the other end, informed me that my annual auto-renewal expired because the card on file did, too. “OK, cool, can I give you a new card number & you send someone?” Nope, it doesn’t work that way.

Let’s detour for a quick game of 2 truths & a lie:

1. I’ve never changed a tire before.

2. I’ve never had a flat tire.

3. I’m possibly the least handy person on earth.

I’m disqualified. All 3 are true.

In my “It’s all over now! moment” I reached into the glove compartment for the owner’s manual and began the Herculean task of changing my tire.

Jacked the car up. Removed the tire. Put on the donut spare. Tightened the lug nuts and quadruple-checked them to be sure this situation didn’t literally spin out of control.

No biggie, just running a few minutes behind to pick up the art. He’s an artist. Aren’t they notoriously tardy and undependable? I’ll pick it up & take it home. Tomorrow I’ll have to deal with the inconvenience of getting a new tire.

I looked around and surveyed my handiwork. Sure, I was a bit skeptical of the integrity of the job I’d done changing the tire, but I did it. I was back on the road. Now I had a flat tire and the additional expenses of time and money that accompany it. You might think the flat tire would have accelerated my spiral into the underground parking garage of self-pity.

Wrong. If that was the case, I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street because I was actually afloat with a marked shift in my perspective My view of the situation didn’t just change; I experienced a second order change. I was a fundamentally different human being.

While rolling along at less than 35 mph, I realized that I would have given almost anything to be back where I was 30 minutes earlier with 4 normally functioning tires. The pre-flat existence wasn’t that bad, and that reality was more desirable than this one. In that world, I was just cruising along to pick up artwork. Now, I was cruising along to pick up artwork with a flat tire and all the hassle that accompanies it.

However, I wasn’t driving a DeLorean, and I can’t go back in time. This is where I’m at. This is where you are. Whatever travails you’re going through right now, no matter the hardship you’re enduring, consider this: Imagine if you found out your spouse or partner was involved in a terrible accident. Envision learning that you’ve been fired from your job or getting a call that your house is on fire.

This may seem morbid, but it helps to recalibrate perspective so you can see things as they truly are. It brings clarity like when you’re at the optometrist reading the chart and after several murky rotations of which is better, this one or this one, she hits you with the sharpest, clearest vision you’ve ever had.

Anything we are going through at any time could be worse, exacerbated by other awfulness. However, we are experiencing what we’re experiencing at that moment. Because we are not actually wrestling with the other imagined awfulness too, the Flat Tire Theory strips away the excess and empowers us to focus only on things as they are devoid of the clutter. The problem becomes smaller, sometimes to the point of disappearing while solutions become obvious.

Additionally, adversity teaches us valuable lessons. Now I know how to change a tire. My new car comes with automatic roadside assistance though. Life is beautiful. 🙂 🙂 🙂

If you want other selfy-helpy personal growth insights for dentists, check out a copy my new bestselling book Transform Dental Sleep available on Amazon.

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