In a perfect world, all people would be equally valued and equally paid for the unique gifts they contribute to the world. But we all know we're not living in a perfect world. Even so, everyone has the potential for success, though we might nee d a little help finding our way.
In the following pages, you'll find this help. If you've ever thought about opening your own practice, wou ld like to give a new face to a business you already run, or just have some professional goals you'd like to accomplish, this article can serve as your guide. We'll start by thinking about where you are and where you want to be, and then put you on the road to realizing your own potential.
Defining your current state is like entering your starting location into Map- Quest. In order to plot your route, you have to know your starting point. Evaluate the facets of your life that help define your current state, including family, relationships, finances, career path, as well as physical and mental well-being.
Reflect on the things that are going well, along with those aspects that are in need of improvement. Take a financial inventory so you have a clear snapshot of your current assets, liabilities, income and expenses. Review your income and expenses by category for the past year and divide the total by 12 to get a good idea of your average monthly budget requirements. This exercise will provide important information to help you make decisions, both personally and professionally.
Without passing judgment, make peace with where you are. If we resist accepting our present circumstances, vital energy is drained away from the momentum we need to move forward.
Albert Einstein said: "A problem can't be solved from the same state of mind that created it." Becoming aware of our thoughts and how they impact our experiences in life is an important step toward transforming the challenges we face. A variety of studies have concluded that on average we have between 12,500 and 60,000 thoughts per day. This number varies based on the activity level of the individual. More importantly, these studies also have concluded that 80 percent to 98 percent of those thoughts are repeated daily.
The habitual nature of our thoughts is what we need to change if we are going to effectively deal with the challenges in our lives. When we are mindful of the quality of our thoughts, and challenge the thoughts that are a result of limiting beliefs, we are better able to evaluate and streamline our goals and determine what needs to be done to see them through. Since our thoughts drive our experiences, taking action without first being aware of our thought patterns is like driving while blindfolded. Awareness of thought is an inner navigation tool that will never let you down.
Another source of internal guidance is your values. When decisions need to be made, evaluate your choices by examining whether they take you closer to or further from your values. Your values will ground you and keep you steady and strong as you navigate your course to success and fulfillment.
Clarifying your vision is equivalent to entering a destination into MapQuest. How can you plan your route if you're not specific about where you're going? Some people might just want to deal with life as it comes, and this approach can work. But, if you have specific goals you would like to achieve, in all aspects of your life, bringing a dream to reality requires you to see it clearly in your mind first.
Allow your vision to grow a vivid life of its own in your mind's eye. Incorporate all your senses as you formulate your dream very specifically and with graphic detail. Notice any thoughts that serve to shut your dream down. Be aware of these thoughts and acknowledge that fear is usually the root. In fact, fear can be the biggest obstacle to our heart's desire. Look for the source of your fear and work to gently move through these feelings, making them a gateway for meaningful change.
As you begin to hone your vision of what you'd like to accomplish or achieve, start putting your thoughts in writing—the more detailed, the better. Thought leads to action, and action leads to results. Putting pen to paper is an action that safely moves your vision into the physical and tangible. Does your vision bring you closer to living an authentic life which honors your values, or are there elements that need to be modified? When you imagine yourself actually living in your vision, consider not only what you see yourself doing, but also who you see yourself being.
Before beginning your journey, be clear about your intention and your motivation. If your motivation comes from thinking what you should be doing or who you should be as a person, then you're directing your energy outward instead of looking within. Keep in mind that anything created with pretense or disingenuous intent won't last long and will not have the energy needed to sustain forward progression. Your goals will require hard work and commitment, and if you aren't prepared to give 100 percent, you need to reflect on why and how you might fully commit yourself to reaching your goal.
Transition and Transformation
Waiting for your hard work to yield appreciable results is like waiting for seeds to take root and grow. There is a time of invisible activity when it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact new life is preparing to break through the hard shell and soil, headed for the sun.
For many, focusing on the external circumstances feels more acceptable than tending to our internal wellbeing. Sometimes this feeling involves cultural expectations that seem to dictate external circumstances are more important than personal growth. Be sure you don't let this way of thinking prevent you from being clear about what you want and who you want to be in life— even when pursuing your goals seems daunting.
Consider your life transitions like the changing of scenes in a play, where the curtain drops and all the props on the stage are rearranged. You might have a period of time that feels like darkness but is actually filled with changes and adjustments that will prepare you for whatever will follow.
During this time, try to think of what "props" and players you want to remain and those you are willing to let go. Ask yourself if you are honoring your values in the relationships you have both personally and professionally. Are there people you'd like to connect with but haven't? Are there relationships you need to free yourself from? Now is also the time to determine if your financial house is in order, and if not, what you can do to help the situation. (For more ideas about how to get financially fit, see the Spring 2009 and Summer 2009 issues of Massage Therapy Journal).
As you think about all of the above, reach deep into your conviction and determination, rallying the strength to move past the doubt and fear. When you focus your attention on the quality of your thoughts, you will naturally tend toward quality actions.
Getting From Here to There
Once you have an idea of where you'd like to take yourself, the next step is planning how you are going to get where you want to be. What do you need to do? Are there financial considerations you need to keep in mind? Preparing yourself will help you recognize opportunities, and help you deal with unforeseen obstacles.
First, let's think of a few opportunities you have to either start your own practice or build on your current practice. If you have an idea of how you want your practice to look, you can start building a community of like-minded businesspeople. When you connect with people who are either operating a practice you admire or are working toward opening a practice, a tremendous amount of energy, ideas and resources can be exchanged. You'll find yourself motivated, energized and inspired to keep moving toward your own goal. Also, other people's experience can help guide you around potential pitfalls while also offering you direction.
If you have an existing practice you'd like to refresh, think about any additional products or services you might offer that will broaden your appeal and visibility. Are there skills or techniques that you need to learn in order to remain professionally competitive? Are there skills or techniques that you already have mastered that set you apart from the rest of the pack?
Refer to the financial inventory you've taken. What income is going to be required to develop your business while also supporting yourself? Do you have enough income to support yourself during this transition, as well as maintain the integrity of your goals and values? Having a clear financial picture can help you make decisions about what will work best: Should you buy a space or rent? Would travelling to your clients be more efficient and profitable? Do you have someone you would consider sharing space with to help manage overhead costs? Can you partner with other local practitioners, such as a yoga studio or chiropractor's office?
Singing Your Praises
You've tackled the basics, now it's time to think about how you are going to promote your practice and services. There are several ways to approach marketing your business that can help you get more comfortable with promoting yourself and your practice. If that feels risky, remember that you essentially risk everything by risking nothing.
For starters, identify your niche or demographic group. Do your research and learn everything you can about the market you're interested in, as well as the potential client base. Questions that can help you begin thinking about your market and potential clients include: Where do clients in my target market shop? Where do these potential clients work? What do they read? The more you learn about your target market's buying habits, professional and personal affiliations, as well as how they spend their time, the better you will be able to strategize where and how to effectively reach them.
Also consider what your target market needs to know about you and what you want them to know about you. Reflect on your own interactions with people and think about what people respond to most in you. What makes people feel safe coming to you for something as intimate as massage? How do clients sense your commitment to their well-being? Do you have a specialized expertise? This information will help you find the core message that should resonate throughout your marketing material and serve as the foundation for your branding campaign.
At the end of the day, however, any successful marketing effort is going to start with you—and how you feel about yourself. You are your own best advertisement, and a positive self image reflects a confidence that is compelling and draws people to you. In branding, you need to take stock of your strengths, values, goals and personality. Be creative and allow your thinking to roam fearlessly outside the box.
Arriving at Your Destination
One way to ensure follow-through is to set daily, weekly and monthly goals. Having these goals written down helps you create habits that will continually inch you closer and closer to opening or refreshing your practice. Even small steps cover a lot of distance, and you will enjoy the additional confidence and energy that comes from meeting your commitments.
When you focus your thoughts and actions, you have the power to reach the goals you set for yourself. Take the time to figure out where you see yourself and your practice, and then create a plan that will help you achieve this vision. Each step forward demonstrates you take yourself and your goals seriously. Actively working toward your goals will keep you energized and more invested in making your dreams a reality.