Is it Possible to Change Habits While Under Stress?

What does it take to initiate behavior change, particularly when under stress?

Last weekend I participated in a SAFE AS Avalanche Training clinic run by some of the most impressive professional skiers and snowboarders in the world.

It was a women’s tailored, avalanche awareness and safety clinic. With the intention to foster an open, welcoming, and enthusiastic environment to encourage participation and communication in the mountains during the winter safely.

What impressed me the most was that the entire day was customized and focused on intentional communication and strong leadership.


Avalanche rescue is incredibly stressful and requires following a non-negotiable, repetitive pattern of proven systems:

  1. Avoid avalanche terrain by studying and analyzing the snow, weather, forecast, and danger levels.
  2. All team participation in discussing the plan. 100% agreement on all goals.
  3. Perform equipment checks and select a leader best suited for the task.
  4. Successful rescues require repetitive practice and continual learning.
    • An avalanche victim has only 15 minutes to be rescued. Time and efficiency are critical
SAFE AS Avalanche Clinic, Solitude Resort, UT


My lessons learned were many. 

First, I needed a lot more practice and coaching before I head into the backcountry.

Second, the team you partner with should all have the same ethics, values, and goals.

Third, always following a systematic plan reduces the chance for errors and wasted time.


As I reflected on the day, I realized that our dental practices could benefit from the lessons I learned from avalanche training with experienced coaches.  

  1. By evaluating our current systems and processes regularly, we can discover vulnerabilities and apply new ways of working that help us avoid risks.
  2. All team members should have consistent, continual training.  Decisions and goals should be discussed with the entire team and everyone should be in agreement on not only the goals set but the path to achieving them.
  3. Check in with every team member on a regular basis. Now more than ever, we need to be sure everyone is feeling valued and included. Practice Bi-Directional Leadership to focus on everyone’s strengths. Watch the video below to learn more about Bi-Directional Leadership.
  4. Practice, adjust, practice, adjust! The more comfortable we are with the communication, the language, and the systems, the easier it is to change.  Particularly when under stress.

Just as in avalanche rescue, intentional, collaborative system development initiates efficient, effective, and successful dental practices.

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