The Four Burner Theory

May 16, 2020 Paul Henny DDS

Imagine your life depicted as a metaphorical four-burner stovetop, with each burner representing a major quadrant of your life, and those quadrants being:  



This thought experiment is called “The Four Burner’s Theory,” and it is similar in some ways to L.D. Pankey’s Cross of Life. Both concepts imply that the pursuit of life balance is a process, not an event, and that each quadrant represents a cluster of related values-based decisions that  lead us into our future. 

Obviously, there are many times in life, during which by choice or circumstance, we find our life is severely out of balance, for example, dental school, parenting children, starting a practice, and so on. 

The Four Burners Theory tells us that to be successful in business we need to initially “turn down” two burners to establish an initial beachhead. But frankly, we don’t want to hear that kind of message. Rather, we would rather hear that we can have it all and soon.  

This impatient, short-term mindset has now permeated our culture, even to the point where many people seem to think that somehow “having it all” is their birthright. But viewing life balance as a birthright is a problematic perspective, because it can never be fully realized, and if we cling to it too firmly, it becomes easy for us to start to feel like a victim. 

And victims don’t act. Instead, they blame-shift. They sulk. They over-think. And they fail to act in ways that will move them toward greater life balance. A much more realistic perspective is to acknowledge that our life is full of seasons, around which we need to be aware, adapt, accept, and respond appropriately. 

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About Author

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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