“I’m not feeling this is my passion anymore.”

That’s a phrase I hear too often. ‘I’m struggling to find clients, and this just feels like work. I used to love this but now my passion is gone’. ‘Should I even be doing this?’, ‘If it’s my passion shouldn’t I be enjoying it?’, ‘Maybe it’s time to pack it in.’

Now, to be honest, I’ve had those thoughts myself when starting out.

When my energy was forced into struggling to find clients, worrying about whether I could afford to keep going, and desperately trying new things to get my help out to the world, it certainly wasn’t fun. I started to confuse the two aspects – the ‘business side’ and the ‘helping people’ side.

For most self-employed therapists, we confuse being able to help people and understanding our therapy or coaching offering, with being skilled in marketing. They are not the same thing.

We seem to think that it’s about how good we are at helping others that should determine whether we’re busy or not. That flawed logic leads us to a very unhelpful conclusion – ‘I must not be good at this as I’m not busy’.

That’s not the case.

How good we are is nothing to do with how busy we are at the start.

Here’s why: if you haven’t seen many clients then there isn’t yet the chance for word of mouth to amount to much.

If you’re the best ever but no-one knows about you, then how can that make a difference?

It takes years for word of mouth to make a real contribution for most therapists. 3-5 years on average. Longer for things people don’t like to talk about (getting over abuse, depression, addictions etc.) and shorter for things people do like to talk about (weight-loss, fitness, success in business etc.)

Almost never does the 1st year contribute to word of mouth in a big way.

That leads us to put our efforts in the wrong place. Rather than getting good at spreading the word, we focus on ourselves in a more personal way and that eats away at passion, confidence, and momentum.

In reality few of us are passionate about marketing. Let’s be honest, it’s not what we really want to do. It’s just necessary for getting us together with the client and helping them make positive change.

Let me ask you something. If you could just do the work with the clients, without the business side, how much more passion, enjoyment, and pride would be in your week?

Talking to that therapist last week, I gave the example of one of my clients. I work a lot with trauma. I have a client (and I’ll keep the details vague) who suffered hundreds of sexual assaults (probably over 1000 in all) over more than a decade in an institution.

Working with that person is not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not energising. So, at that moment I’m going to say ‘my passion for the work I do isn’t high’.

It doesn’t need to be. The reason is when I see that person living life in ways they could not in the past, it’s all brought home to me why I do this. I love helping. I love seeing the change in others.

Hard as the work can be at times, it’s wonderful to be able to be part of that change, to be there for someone in need, and to do something in this world that makes a difference. This is why I’m a therapist!

Having lived with severe anxiety for decades I want to help others change their lives the way mine changed.

Our passion for what we do isn’t going to be 24/7 but it guides and defines what we do.

Which part of being a therapist or coach energises you? Which part drives you on? Which part fulfils you?

That’s the passion.

Becoming good as the business side is just a tool to let us do more of the good work that is rewarding. It lets us make a difference.

Isn’t that why we became therapists and coaches to begin with?

Another killer of enthusiasm, passion, and motivation is money or, more accurately, lack of money.

When we’re working and not earning enough to pay the bills and enjoy life a bit, the effort feels less valuable.

It’s hard to appreciate the changes as much when as soon as the client leaves we’re back to worrying about paying the rent, our kid’s education, or simply being able to keep going.

It can feel like a catch 22. It certainly did for me at the start.

Just like learning therapy or coaching skills – how to reach the people in need is just a skillset. It’s not about how good a therapist you are, it’s not about people wanting your help or not, it’s not about luck either. It’s about putting yourself out to the world in a way that lets you spend more time engaging with the parts of your work where the passion truly is.

It’s Ok not to be passionate about the business side. It’s OK to be less than enthused about marketing your practice. And it’s OK to acknowledge struggling for money is not fun too.

But, bear in mind why you do this.

Keep the difference you can make in the world up front in your mind. Think of it from the point of view of the person needing help. How much of a positive is it for them to get your help? Value your expertise and effort.

Value the job satisfaction that comes from making a difference.

Value the difference the extra income makes too. We’re allowed to earn a living. We’re allowed to support our families. We’re allowed to keep the roof over our heads and enjoy life.

When we do, we get to spend more time with our passion.

I really hope you keep sharing your help with the world.

Have a great week,

John

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6 Comments

  • Tommy

    Well, John, you are right about everything you say. The money does become a worry when you have to pay for room rental, travel, supervision and trying to get your name about and the number of clients doesn’t cover these costs.
    I think I can also fall into the trap of believing that other therapists are all doing better than I am. When you say, it takes years for word of mouth to spread I think “but I haven’t got years”.
    I realise now that I am losing sight of the joy I get from helping others. The pride I felt from helping a client whose life was home/work and back to bed and who now goes shopping gets to the hairdresser’s and beauticians regularly, lost lots of weight, dances, swims and has a 3 month holiday in the sun every year. Even writing about it brings back that feelgood factor.
    Time for a re-think.

    • admin

      Thanks for that Tommy. Staying focused on the help we deliver makes it a lot easier alright and while word of mouth can take years, we can be successful much quicker by proactively putting the message out ourselves and not waiting for clients to do it for us. Keep going and keep helping! Have a great week, John

  • Brilliant article, as always, John. Every therapist should print this out and pin it to their wall. I often think the worst when the number of clients dries up so it’s good to know I’m not alone! Thank you.

    • admin

      Thanks Mike. That’s high praise indeed. Glad you agree with the sentiment and thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s much appreciated. Have a great week, John.

  • Hello John,

    What an interesting article. Most of it I can relate too (sadly)
    But having said that, we must keep going and ignore our own self-defeating talk.

    Every day is a new opportunity to turn things around, just do something different.

    Michael

    • admin

      Hi Michael, Nicely put. The only voices we should really heed are the ones of our clients 🙂 As I said to my daughter this morning ‘Just think of all the things we can do today!’ As you say, another opportunity to turn things around indeed. Hope you’re having a great week, John.

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