The other day I was giving a massage to a kid who was recovering from a number of health challenges. I knew that after his massage that day he would sleep well, something that has been a challenge for him. I was reflecting on how amazing it was to be working with kids, working with medical conditions, working with caregivers…my dream job.
I work one day a week in a hospital, with oncology patients and kids who struggle with eating disorders. This is my idea of a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. I would not be thrilled tearing athletes apart, but you might! It doesn’t really matter what your dream job is. What I am noticing is that the longer I do this work, the more credibility I have, and the more likely people are to trust me with their bodies, and the more likely parents are to trust me with their precious children.
When someone asks me, “How long have you been doing this?” and I tell them it’s been 23 years, they frequently pull out their appointment book.
This is not to say that staying in the business was easy. It wasn’t. Building a practice in massage therapy is a challenge in every way. It is hard in the beginning. It can take an extraordinary amount of faith and deep soul-searching. Entrepreneurship is self-development, plain and simple. It’s so much easier just to get a job!
The hard part can be just hanging in there getting clients, week after week, sometimes in ebb and sometimes in flow. It takes skill to keep them engaged, because I noticed in the beginning of my career that as soon as people started feeling better, it was easier for them to forget how dire their need was in the beginning. Then I would not hear from them in awhile, until they were back where they started. Then we would be back almost at Square One. I learned over time how to circumvent that by keeping the benefits top of mind.
Even if you work for someone else, you still have to keep your clients engaged so they keep coming back. Unless the skills to do that become habitual, it can feel like a struggle. The thing is, your dream job in massage therapy is built by tending to these basic nuts and bolts skills, day after day, until they are just habits. Maybe your practice is not your dream job in the beginning. Maybe you are one of the fortunate ones who create that right away. Regardless of who your clients are, anyone you work with will help you develop the skills to build a practice that you can shape to your liking.
When I started, I wanted to work with women. I wanted to work specifically with women who were struggling with emotional or self esteem issues. When I was in school, they called me the “emotional release queen” because people cried on my table. During clinic, the sounds of emotional release would emanate from my cubicle. I was excited and prepared to go out and help women. Woo-Hoo!
It didn’t work that way. My significant other had a friend who was suffering from shoulder pain. This friend was an architect, and his neck and shoulders told the story of hours over a drafting board. This man was happy with my work and referred his friends. Before long, my practice was full of young male architects!
To this day, I am really good at unlocking necks and shoulders. I learned fast. It was a great skill to have early in the game.
If you take the long view of your work as spiritual practice (for me that is clearly true), then your practice as it evolves will grow and stretch your skills in every way. Just embrace the curriculum and don’t quit. One day you’ll realize you’ve created your dream job!