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At the beginning of each year, we often start out with the good intention of resolving to eliminate bad habits and replacing them with life enhancing ones. We promise ourselves to eat healthier, exercise more, spend quality time with family and friends, contribute or volunteer time to charity and a myriad of other good deeds; however, each year also seems to become more stressful as we try to cope with changes around us and survive in a world that has become more technologically oriented and more complex. As massage therapists we interact on a one-to-one basis with our clients. Maintaining balance in our own lives is important not only in being able to be content in our own lives, but to be of value to them as well.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, doesn’t take credit for inventing the concepts he writes about, only identifying and writing about what he calls “universal, timeless and self-evident ‘principles.’” These principles, if applied, can serve to enhance and give depth and meaning to your personal life and your massage practice.

Incorporating the Seven Habits

  1. Be Proactive – Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life and not blaming or turning that responsibility over to others. Be proactive rather than reactive to the circumstances that exist around you. Proactive people use words like “I can and I will.” A reactive person says, “I can’t, I have to, if only” and feels they have no choice, no free will.

There are times when you may need to be proactive in your practice. If you are just starting out, or if the economy is sluggish, you need to be assertive in letting others know who you are and what you are doing. During times when clients seem to be too busy for a massage, or assume they cannot afford what they consider a luxury, you need to feel comfortable about sending reminders and perhaps making concessions in pricing such as holiday specials or reduced price gift certificates. Rather than sitting around depressed or feeling embittered because of circumstances around you, find ways to create an optimistic attitude and become empowered by focusing on those things you can control.

  1. Begin With The End in Mind – As children we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You need to ask yourself similar questions. What will it take to achieve your dream – for your practice and personal life to evolve into what you envision it to be? Think of this in terms of your overall business – where is my practice going? Where will I be in one year, five years or even 10 years? Think of it also with regard to each client you work with. How can I help this client achieve the optimum benefit from massage? What is the goal? Each step you take in the ‘now’ is one step closer to your future.
  1. Put First Things First – Proceeding one step at a time will help you from tripping over yourself or getting in your own way. Prioritize your life, including your family, business and time for yourself. Don’t overextend obligations at the cost of losing something valuable. Is it all that important to work a 12-hour day at the expense of not spending time with your spouse or child? Is skipping lunch or not getting enough exercise in order to fit in one more client as important as your health? Putting first things first is about maintaining healthy balance in your life and managing your time. Taking care of yourself may be the best way you can continue to take care of others.
  1. Think Win-Win – Modern culture seems to stress winning, sometimes at a high price. But in the game of win or lose, does anyone really come out ahead? Winning and losing is based on comparison and competition, sometimes unfairly. Win-win is based on cooperation and, “is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions,” writes Covey. A win-win situation comes about when you approach potential conflict with integrity, maturity and an abundance mentality. That is, you remain true to your feelings, values and commitments; you express your ideas with consideration for others; and, you know there is plenty for everyone. Personal lives and businesses don’t need to be either/or situations. There doesn’t have to be a winner and loser. We can strive to greater heights together.
  1. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – Do you really pay attention to what others have to say? Do you hear what your client is saying during intake, or has it become just a formality? Do you ask and listen for feedback from your client during a session? How annoying is it when you speak to someone and know they aren’t really listening, but simply waiting to tell you what they have to say? We often selectively listen to others and filter what is said through our own reference frames. But just as we want to be understood, so too do others. As massage therapists, we take in information through initial intakes, feedback during sessions and by touch. Make sure you really listen to what each client has to say.
  1. Synergize – Work with others! Consider the effectiveness of creative cooperation. Synergy is all about more being better. It is about open-minded teamwork. It is about bringing in fresh ideas and finding new solutions to old problems. Get together with other massage therapists as well as other alternative healthcare professionals and learn from each other. Provide workshops together. Create a multi-practitioner office. Join professional organizations. Our differences not only make us unique as individuals but also contribute to the strength and unity of the whole.
  1. Sharpen the Saw – Grow, change and evolve. Read and study. Take continuing education courses. Learn new techniques; deepen your knowledge about those things you already know. Spend time with nature. Meditate. Try your hand at creative endeavors – art, music or dance. Exercise not only your body, but also your mind and spirit. “Feeling good doesn’t just happen,” writes Covey, “Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you.”

The problems and conflicts we have are universal. So, too, according to Covey, are the solutions.

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