The Cathedral Effect
Creating Personal Sanctuaries for Dental Professionals
–By Dr. DeAngelo S. Webster
A beautiful workspace and environment can bring out the best of us. The best of us not only in our work at our dental practice, but also the best version of ourselves in all contexts of our lives. It may seem like an unlikely connection, but the truth is that the power of awe – the feeling we get when we stand before a magnificent cathedral – can be harnessed by dental professionals to improve their practices and personal lives. This phenomenon, which I call the Cathedral Effect, occurs when we feel inspired and elevated in the presence of beauty, be it in architecture, nature, or art. There is a feeling one gets when they walk into a cathedral which leaves them walking away feeling inspired, creatative, and motivated to put something as amazing out into the word as the vision they have just taken in.
In this article, we’ll explore the Cathedral Effect’s potential to transform both dental practices and personal lives by creating personal sanctuaries – spaces where dentists can retreat, reflect, and recharge. We’ll reveal the power of an inspiring envinroment to unleash the untapped reservoirs of creativity and excellence within dentists, their practices, and their personal journeys.
The opposite can also be true. If your workspace is constantly cluttered, your desk is covered in trash, the walls are barren and faded, and the floor is dusty and dirty then you will be subconsciously effected in a negative way. You will not be able to do your best work.
The Sanctuary Paradox
One might think that dentists, like all professionals, would benefit from a relentless focus on their work. But in my research on success and achievement, I’ve found that the most successful people often have a paradoxical relationship with their work. They are deeply committed to their profession, yet they also know when to step back and recharge. They do not exist in a hard-nosed grindstone environment focused only on work. And that’s where the concept of a personal sanctuary comes in.
Renowned author and public intellectual, Neil Gaiman, was known to deeply care about the aesthetic of his environment as a catalyst for his creativity and productivity. His writing room was a carefully curated sanctuary, a testament to his appreciation for an atmospheric workspace that sparked his imagination. The space was characterized by shelves overflowing with books, knickknacks from his global travels, and peculiar artwork that served as a constant source of inspiration. His desk faced a window with a panoramic view of the countryside, providing him with the tranquility of nature. For Gaiman, this meticulously crafted aesthetic environment was not just about visual appeal; it was an integral part of his creative process. He found that surrounding himself with objects of beauty and curiosity fueled his creativity, helping him to weave intricate worlds in his stories. This attention to environment fostered a space where he could delve into his work without distraction, and give his best to his craft. There is a picture of his writing shed to the right. You can see more about his private writing sanctuary space here.
To Gaiman, his writing shed was a cathedral. He is employing the Cathedral Effect to imbue himself with an environment that brings out the best of him by surrounding himself with the beauty of nature.
A personal sanctuary is a space – either in your home or dental practice – that is imbued with elements of beauty that inspire and elevate the spirit. It is a place where you can connect with the Cathedral Effect and rejuvenate your mind and spirit. In the following sections, we’ll explore specific examples of how dentists can create personal sanctuaries both at home and in their dental practices. Your personal sanctuary woud be something that was in fact completely personal to you. Perhaps to you, there is no more inspiring environment than walls lined images and memorabiliaof your favorite sports team. Or perhaps for you it is simply the blend of the right calming colors painted on the walls and a potted plant.
Taking the time to reflect upon what type of envinroment makes you feel most happy and inspired is a worthwhile investment of time.
Creating the Cathedral Effect at Home
Choose Your Sanctuary’s Aesthetic
When crafting a personal sanctuary, one of the key considerations is its aesthetic. This aspect is truly personal and should be a direct reflection of your unique taste and preferences. The aesthetic appeal of your sanctuary plays an integral role in fostering an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration, which is essential to connect with the Cathedral Effect. It’s about creating an environment that feels like an extension of your soul, a space where you feel a deep sense of connection and comfort.
The aesthetic of your personal sanctuary could be embodied in many forms. You might be drawn to soothing colors that calm the senses and promote relaxation. Soft blues or gentle greens might envelop you in serenity, while warmer tones of yellow or coral could instill a sense of coziness and warmth. The choice of color can set the overall mood of the space and is often a good starting point for your sanctuary design.
Artwork can also play a significant role in shaping the aesthetic of your sanctuary. It’s not just about decoration, but rather inspiration. Choose pieces that speak to you on a personal level, that stir your emotions or provoke thought. It might be a landscape painting that reminds you of a favorite vacation spot, a photograph of a loved one, or an abstract piece that captivates your imagination. Art can be a powerful conduit for the Cathedral Effect, imbuing your space with beauty and profundity. In my private office at my dental practice – I have a large canvas print of a family photo. The wall behind me also carries photos of loved ones which fills me with a sense of peace during my day.
Steve Jobs was famous for doing his best work in a minamalist setting. To him, he imbued the Cathedral Effect by creating a personal sanctuary which had few distractions and only a select few items. Here is a famous photograph taken of him in his home. At the time of the photoshoot he stated, “All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo.”
Comfortable seating is another element that can significantly enhance your personal sanctuary. This might be a plush armchair, a simple meditation cushion, or a hammock swaying gently in the corner. Maybe you want to get a massage chair for your private office at work? The important thing is that it invites you to sit, to stay, to reflect, and to recharge.
A dentist with a deep love for nature might design a sanctuary awash with calming shades of green, reminiscent of a lush forest or a peaceful meadow. Artwork might include nature-inspired pieces, perhaps a canvas print of a serene woodland scene, or a collection of framed photographs from their favorite hiking trails. Comfortable seating could be a soft, oversized chair in a natural fabric, perfect for curling up with a good book or simply sitting in peaceful contemplation.
On the other hand, a dentist with a passion for NFL Football would take a different approach. Their sanctuary might be filled with bold colors and sharp lines, echoing the dynamism and energy of their favorite foodball team. Their decor may consist of life-like miniture statue of inspirational sports figures like Tom Brady, Barry Sanders, or Joe Montana. They may have an autographed football that they look too which gives them a daily dose of motivation to be the best version of themselves. Perhaps they look to a legendary coach as they ponder how they themselves can become a better leader for their dental practice.
In both cases, the aesthetic of the personal sanctuary not only reflects the individual’s personal taste but also serves to inspire, uplift, and stimulate their inner creativity and tranquility. This, at its core, is the essence of the Cathedral Effect.
On the Flip Side…
Our surrounding environment plays a pivotal role in influencing our emotional state, productivity, and stress levels. A chaotic, disorganized, or dirty space can have a significant negative impact on our ability to focus, leading to increased stress and decreased efficiency. This is the antithesis of the Cathedral Effect – an environment that detracts from beauty and inspiration, instead fostering distraction and stress.
Individuals working in a cluttered environment can be more likely to experience stress, fatigue, and frustration. The researchers concluded that physical clutter competes for our attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. Likewise, in a study published in the “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” found that women who described their homes as cluttered or full of unfinished projects were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as restful and restorative. The researchers also found that those with cluttered homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can read the full article here on PubMed.
To illustrate the profound impact a chaotic environment can have, consider the case of Albert Einstein. Although Einstein is often quoted as saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” this quip shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of disorder. Indeed, Einstein’s own workspace, while seemingly chaotic, adhered to his own unique sense of order and prioritization, enabling him to focus on complex theoretical physics problems. For the average person, however, a cluttered workspace could easily serve as a source of distraction and stress. This idea also aligns with the principles of Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese practice that involves arranging physical spaces to achieve harmony and balance. Feng Shui suggests that a cluttered, disorganized environment can negatively affect your energy, mood, and even your health.
It’s important to note, however, that perceptions of cleanliness and order can vary greatly from person to person. What one individual finds chaotic and distracting, another might find comforting and stimulating. The key is to find the balance that works for you and supports your own mental and emotional well-being.
Embracing the Power of an Inspiring Environemnt
By creating personal sanctuaries both at home and in your dental practice, you can harness the transformative power of the Cathedral Effect. These spaces serve as havens where you can retreat, reflect, and recharge, allowing you to tap into the untapped reservoirs of creativity and excellence within yourself and your staff.
Remember, the most successful dentists – like all professionals – understand the importance of balance and rejuvenation. By embracing the power of beauty and creating spaces that inspire awe and wonder, you can elevate your dental practice and personal life to new heights of success and fulfillment. Just as the magnificent cathedrals of the past have inspired generations, so too can the Cathedral Effect inspire you to reach new heights in both your personal and professional lives.
Kaizen — get a little bit better each day.
Want to Learn to Use Social Media to Get More New Patients in Your Practice Each Month?