Working with thought leaders on shaping their speaker platform is an incredible privilege. In this intimate conversation, a relatable and powerful speaker, Dr. Sonia Chopra, DDS., talks honestly about balance at home and work and why delegating is everything.
Tricia: You are someone who is confidently in and out of balance. Tell me more, Sonia.
Sonia: A book that blew my mind was 'The One Thing' by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. When I read the chapter about there's no such thing as balance, my entire life changed. It says, "The truth is, balance is bunk. It is an unattainable pipe dream. The quest for balance between work and life as we've come to think of it isn't just a losing proposition; it's a hurtful, destructive one." It's basically saying a balanced life is a lie. And that's so true. I can't tell you how many times I have told myself the story of how horrible of a mom I am, of how horrible of a boss I am, because simply being, I was just going...I was just swaying from one balance to the next. You can't have a perfectly good balance.
And when you finally make that realization and you have that awareness that you're literally zigzagging from one bucket to the next, you forgive yourself. And you realize that that's the way life truly is. That was huge for me. Then I was like, "Oh, I'm okay with it. Today, I'm going to work on this bucket, and next week I'm going to work on that bucket. And that's okay." It just allowed me to be more at peace with myself instead of running ragged, which I feel like somebody who's a mom of three, who has a very successful, growing practice and then is starting this side hustle, all those three things combined and now that my side hustle is also successful, that's a lot to juggle. Not to mention my nonprofit and all that stuff. Everyone asks me, "How do you do it?" Well, it's because I give something attention, and then I move on, and I give that thing attention.
Tricia: Let's talk about that a little bit, how fast things accumulate in your life because you have your hands in so many different buckets.
Sonia: And I literally need octopus hands. My mom keeps calling me and yelling at me because I don't pick up the phone. Well, I can't. I'm literally cooking over here, doing something over here, wiping somebody's face. I have three kids, and I don't have another hand to pick up the hand and answer at that moment when somebody's calling me. And again, instead of beating myself up about it, I've got to say, "You know what? I will get to it when I have time for it." You have to reestablish new boundaries for yourself, for sanity. Again, unapologetic. Being unapologetic about things is freeing.
You have to reestablish new boundaries for yourself, for sanity. Again, unapologetic. Being unapologetic about things is freeing.
Tricia: Let's go back to the beginning. Moving out of dental school into the specialty of endodontics and starting your practice. Were you ever in the place of perfection and absolutely declaring "I'm going to be balanced", and then all of a sudden you made the shift when you read the book or was it a slow progression into being okay with your version of balance?
Sonia: Well at the time, I was not married and I also was not a mother. I just had to worry about myself. When I started my practice I didn't have any other responsibilities.
Tricia: When did you start your practice?
Sonia: In 2008 and that was the year I also got married. I got married in August of 2008 and then I opened my practice on my birthday in 2008. That was my birthday present to myself. It was a good one.
Tricia: That's a great one.
Sonia: I had about six months to really get my practice up and running before the doors opened, and I had six months to get used to being married. So a different set of obligations and responsibilities at that time than now, and so I've literally had to grow into my responsibilities. 
Tricia: Did you understand balance at that point as a wife and an entrepreneur, as a business owner?
Sonia: No, because I really didn't have my entrepreneurial spirit at that point. I just wanted to build my practice and make sure I had patients to treat. At that point, I didn't consider myself an entrepreneur, even though I had a business, if that makes sense. And I would have to say that most dentists who own a practice don't consider themselves an entrepreneur at that stage of the game. As I started getting into it, I realized, holy moly, this is way more than just patient care. This is the stuff they don't teach you in dental school. So then I had to start learning how to run the business aspect, which if you ask any dentist out there, we're all really bad at it because they don't focus a minute on it in dental school.
Then it started to consume me, and I don't think while I was doing it, I realized how much it consumed me. But again, I didn't have other responsibilities besides myself. My husband was working, so we were independent of each other in a way. I just had myself. Then I got pregnant, and that's when my world changed, when I started to have to take care of somebody else in addition to my practice. And then I had to start finding ways to put time back into my life.
Tricia: And how did you do that, and how long did it take you to become conscious of needing to do that?
Sonia: My daughter was born July 4, 2010, and she had some medical issues that we had to deal with, and we were in the hospital for a while. So that was the moment that I realized, "Okay, something has to change, and I can't put my entire self into this business anymore." I had to figure out how to create more of this balance. And it took me from 2010 to probably 2018, if I'm going to be truthful about it, to say that that's how long it took me to really get it to a point where I was really comfortable.
And I continue to optimize it. The first thing I did was bring on another doctor in my practice because the scope of my work is emergency dentistry. So every time somebody had a toothache, no matter what time of day it was, what day of the week it was, what holiday it was, it was on me to have to provide that care. I can no longer do it as I used to when I had no other responsibilities. I decided to make the decision to pick lifestyle over work. I had to get rid of working so I could work ON my business. I could no longer BE the business anymore. So when my new doctor joined my practice, I went from working five days a week to actually work three days a week, and it was liberating.
I decided to make the decision to pick lifestyle over work. I had to get rid of working so I could work ON my business. I could no longer BE the business anymore. 
And I made that intentional decision, and it was really hard for me to give up the money because that's what it came down to. I was giving up money for lifestyle. But the funny thing is what came of that is that I really didn't give up money. Once I realized how to change my schedule to make it a little bit more efficient, the money stayed, and I suddenly had more time.
Tricia: And what you just created was balance.
Sonia: But it's more than just finding the doctors to take over the clinical work. What about all the administrative stuff? The stuff about running a business? That is where I had to really create a culture in my practice where my team understood that I should be there to just do the root canals and everything else should be handled by the team. That was a major shift. As a leader, I started to understand proper communication because when I was pregnant for all those years and hormonal, my communication was really bad. I had to look inward because I had a lot of turnover within my team, and the common denominator was not other people. As much as I wanted to blame others, I knew that the problem was me. Having that awareness and making that first step was huge. That's when I started to go on my personal development journey, which probably started around 2016, and I started working on myself, working on the way I communicated with others, and then I started to recreate my team culture.
I learned how to delegate properly with accountability, and then all of a sudden, my time opened up because people were doing stuff that I thought I could do better, and the truth is, that's not the truth. Other people can do it way better than me, and it didn't need to be done by me. I made a list of all the things that I was doing and what I could actually give away and that I didn't enjoy so that other people could do it since it was their zone of genius. And when I got over the fact that I didn't have to do it, I didn't have to micromanage people and I could stop being the bottleneck in my business; that's when I started having all this time for my side hustle and my nonprofit. And my side hustle and my nonprofit were both born in the same year, which was 2017.
Tricia: Amazing. Let's talk about the importance of letting go and forgiveness when it comes to balance and imbalance.
Sonia: I think a lot of our imbalance comes from beating ourselves up mentally and being really hard on ourselves. When you can acknowledge that you weren't your best and you forgive yourself, and you pick up and move on, that's where the magic happens. You don't have to dwell on it; you realize, "Eh, that wasn't my best. What can I do to fix it? What's the lesson here?" And then you move on and then try to recreate a new habit or establish a new system or whatever it may be. You learn from it, then you correct it, and then things just fall into a better place.
Tricia: And is forgiveness and letting go a constant practice when it comes to trying to achieve balance, or are you—as you said at the beginning of the conversation—very comfortable zigzagging between imbalance and balance. But you also said, "I focus my attention on this bucket, and then I move onto this bucket." So that, for me, doesn't feel like you're going in and out of balance. For me, it feels like you're always in balance. You've decided where to spend your energy, and that's how you stay in balance.
Sonia: And that's a great way to reframe it because some people don't define it in the way you just defined it. And just set your boundaries. For example, this is what I can handle this week and stick to that, and it's okay. Everything else can wait until next week when you have time for that.
Dr. Sonia Chopra is a Board Certified Endodontist and founder of Ballantyne Endodontics in Charlotte, NC.
Tricia: What else would you say supports you and how can you share it in order to support the audience being comfortable with the ebbing and flowing of balance in your life? What else can you do besides set boundaries, forgive, and let go?
Sonia: I think just managing your schedule is really key and saying no and doing the things that you really want to do. I still have trouble with the FOMO. I still say yes to things that I probably shouldn't, and I'm still working on that, but now I have this awareness that that's what I do, and so I'm still working on that. I think just respecting your schedule and sitting down and really thinking about how you want to spend your day. Once you realize that, you just make that a priority and be committed to it.
Tricia: In Amanda Gorman's interview with Hillary Clinton, she said, "I learned that no is a complete sentence."
Sonia: That's beautiful.
Tricia: And what would you say right now, because there's so much imbalance at home, because we are all at home and not only are we working from home, we're teaching from home, we're schooling from home, we're socializing from home. What would you say to women out there who are feeling this imbalance at home and out of control and feeling like they're drowning in all the things? How could you support them and what would your story be around that?
Sonia: I would say, something to just counteract what you're getting too much of. If you're in the house too much, get out. Get outside. Do something different just to spice it up.
I also feel like some people don't accept help when it's offered. I think accepting help when people offer it is okay, and there shouldn't be guilt around that. You can always pay it forward to that person again. I think that's nice. I mean, my husband and I have an understanding that Monday nights, when I'm on these calls, he's doing bedtime. Luckily my girls are older now where they can brush their own teeth, and they can put themselves to bed, and they understand that too. They know why mommy's doing it. I like the fact that they can see me work. I think that's really important because I think it's also instilling a very important value in them that they're learning at a very young age. Mommy's doing this because she enjoys working hard. Mommy's doing this because I want to be able to take that trip with you. So they understand the importance of work, so there are other beautiful lessons that can come out of it too.
And be smart. There are so many other things you can outsource. You can use Instacart now and have somebody drop off your groceries. Boom, that's like two hours. You can use a crockpot. Boom, that’s another 2 hours!
A little bit of planning goes a long way. If you plan it, it ends up going a little bit easier. The weeks that I forget to plan because that happens too, it's a little bit more of a cluster.
Tricia: If you had one thing to say about self-care and the importance of it in relationship to balance?
Sonia: It's so necessary. For example, I have already set up my massage for Sunday. After E-School Live (which means I have a very big weekend ahead of me) is over this weekend, my masseuse is coming at 7:00 PM so she can just press out all of my stress knots, and I can just roll into my bed after. So again, that planning of knowing I'm going to have a rough weekend and I need a little self-care in the middle before I get back to work on Monday is really critical to my happiness for the next couple of days after.
Tricia: And when you're happy, everyone else is happy.
Sonia: Oh for sure. Oh yeah. My husband would agree, my business partner would agree. My team would agree.
I just think that there are so many hacks. I also think that people have a lot of guilt. I had a lot of mommy guilt, which was a big struggle for me, but I also think that every mom thinks that they need to do everything to be a good mom, but a good, smart mom learns how to outsource properly.
I also think that every mom thinks that they need to do everything to be a good mom, but a good, smart mom learns how to outsource properly.
You don't have to cook every meal. You don't have to wash every dish. You don't even have to cart your kids around to every activity. It's okay if somebody else does that. 
Tricia: The importance of mindset around balance and imbalance. Your discovery and your self-development discovery started only a few years ago, so at what point did you feel an acceleration towards balance because you had a different mindset?
Sonia: Once I realized that I just created like three different work buckets, my business, my side hustle, and my nonprofit in addition to my kids-I guess that makes 4 buckets, I realized I had to change my mindset from thinking I had to do everything around the house and everything for my family to receive this award for mommy of the year, and instead I was like well nobody knows what I'm doing, nobody knows what I'm not doing, I'm just going to do the things that I love, which are these four buckets. I really love to do these things. This is where some of my self-care comes from doing these passions that I have. My side hustle didn't just come out of nowhere. It's a passion. My nonprofit didn't come out of nowhere, it's a passion. So I should be allowed to do these things, and if I don't want to scrub my house and do my dishes and cook every meal, then it's okay. I'm getting other people to do that, so I could create more self-care of doing these passions of mine then. That's what I should be doing, and that's how I create fulfillment in my life.
More beautiful things can come of all of this too.  My side hustle has even changed the way my team looks at me at the office, which is even neater, and they all buy into my vision of both the practice and the side hustle, which is amazing. So it's really cultivated all of my relationships, and again, it just keeps pouring into more fulfillment overall, like the whole thing.
Tricia: The balance and the time and the preparation have given you expansion ultimately. And that expansion allows you to have more impact and to serve more people.
Sonia: Nailed it, yep.
Tricia: I think what's really great about this conversation too is bringing awareness to the importance of being a human being and moving in and out of balance and being conscious of when you're out of balance, so that you can try to move more towards balance, so that you can have a more fulfilling life, and so that you can serve more fulfilling clients, communities, families. It really all does come back to balance and how you perceive it.
Sonia: That's exactly it.
Dr. Sonia Chopra is a Board Certified Endodontist and founder of Ballantyne Endodontics in Charlotte, NC. When she opened her practice in 2008, her goal was to help patients understand the “why” and “how” of their procedure. She works with her local dental community to host seminars and learning events and has recently launched an online education forum for general dentists worldwide, sharing knowledge on perfecting endodontic skills, and focusing on thorough diagnoses, delivering compassionate solutions, and considering whole patient care.
Dr. Chopra is an active member of the American Association of Endodontists and she is a mom of 3. You can visit her website and subscribe to the blog HERE. And follow on Facebook "Sonia Chopra, DDS - Endo for All" and Instagram @SoniaChopraDDS. Grab a copy of her new book Tooth Wisdom: The Empowered Patient’s Guide to Saving Your Smile  


Tricia Brouk