If you're sensitive and easily hurt, comfortable in your poverty, or happy to not be seeing enough clients, you might want to stop reading now.
This is a bit of a kick in the backside to the way we think and hold back... you were warned...
I hate it when I hear therapists struggling and saying things like this. Partly because it's not that long since I was in that boat too.
It's pretty horrible. What should be festive time off with family and friends, can churn up a lot of bad feeling and worry.
It's especially cruel when you consider that self employed therapists actually make a positive difference in the world. Few are wealthy, and most are worse off than their friends who work a regular job just for money.
The people working to make the world better one step at a time, are often left behind by those just after the money. That's a crazy unfair situation.
I hate to say it, but too often we have ourselves to blame.
I know no-one wants to hear this, but in coaching and training hundreds of therapists, I keep seeing the same patterns. We're not going to make positive change inside our comfort zone so we should welcome the bad feeling as a herald of change...
We keep doing the same things even when they don't work well enough.
Year on year we hope to be busy rather than change how we work in order to be busy.
We often refuse to invest in our business – which would reach and help more people – but keep investing in more skills.
We think we should be able to use platforms that help us make money, without paying out anything - Facebook, twitter, Linkedin etc, and refuse to acknowledge it takes money to make money.
And the big part is we shoot ourselves in the foot by being so about the client, that we rob ourselves of reward and burn out.
As therapists and coaches you'd think we'd know better.
If a friend or client came to you and said 'I need to earn more money to support my family' would you tell them that was wrong? Would you tell them they needed to give more and more and not receive in return?
I doubt it, but that's the message we give ourselves through our actions, far too often.
I know people who make a lot of money and make the world no better in doing so. It's just a job for money to them. In many cases you could argue they harm the world due to their carbon footprint, or other aspects of what they do. Yet no one criticises them for earning a good living.
As therapists and coaches we're healers, helpers, pain reducers, suffering reducers, and all about making things better. It stands to reason we're about the help more than the money.
That's great. It's as it should be.
It's just that we go to extremes on this. Our fear of money and of what people may think, brings up so many obstacles that we just accept and don't resolve. But in letting the excuses win, and the bad feeling that powers them go unchallenged, we end up seeing fewer clients and making less positive change in the world.
Here are the five most common excuses we use to hold ourselves back and what I feel they actually achieve...
Healing comes from the heart and should be free...
Ideally yes, but that's a long way from wanting the helper to go hungry. This is a great example of seeing only one side of things. There needs to be an exchange of energy in both directions. When we give 100% all the time we burn out. Then we stop. So fewer people get help.
When someone wealthy comes in they can afford to pay a reasonable fee. Letting them doing so allows us to keep in practice. When we stay in practice we help more people.
If we're not earning a living and we're giving away our time, then we either are already wealthy (which sadly, most of us are not) or someone else is paying for our expenses, be that our partner, social welfare, or someone else.
When someone gets a free doctor's visit the doctor gets paid. Our taxes pay for that. That's a good thing. However if the type of help you deliver isn't covered by free healthcare then you need to earn enough to keep going or you will help less people.
A good thought on this is that when we actually are earning a living, we can afford to give away some time and give a free session when needed, but when we're struggling that feels hard.
I can't promise success so how can I talk about the problems I help?
This stops us putting ourselves out into the world big time. An example I've seen a few times is where a therapist helps cancer sufferers. Do you know how many times I've heard the words 'I don't cure cancer so I can't talk about cancer!'
Really? If someone needed help with cancer and went to their doctor he'd send them to an Oncologist. What does an oncologist talk about? Hmmm... cancer? Sure, so what guarantee of a cure does the oncologist give?
So why do we hold ourselves to a different standard? If you can help people with the stress that accompanies an ailment, if you can lessen a burden, if you can help change a problem into a better future please talk about it – it will let people who otherwise might never find help, become aware of the potential. There's a million miles between talking about your topic and promising a cure or giving a guarantee. The first helps people, the 2nd is highly unethical. In my opinion, however, so is keeping quiet when you can help. That approach kept me stuck in anxiety for decades – help was available, was local, and I could have afforded it, but I never heard about it.
I don't have the money to advertise...
Almost every time I hear this, the person has done more training in their skills. Well, if you're not getting to use your skills what's the point in adding more? Please use what you have now to help the people
you're able to help now!
Dozens of people who've told me they can't afford to spend anything on advertising (which means getting your message of help out into the world) have done training and retreats costing thousands over the year when they apparently couldn't afford to advertise.
How much have you spent on qualifications – learning how to help?
How much have you spent putting those skills into use by finding clients who need your help?
Does that seem like a balanced equation?
I'm just putting it out into the universe and what is for me will come to me...
This is normally code for – 'I'm not actually putting it out into the universe. I'm holding back because I'm scared of what people would think, how much it might cost, or how to use social media etc.'
If we're putting it out into the universe shouldn't we be putting it out in real ways that people can spot and respond to as well?
Practical and hard work win more often than wishful thinking.
People don't have money so you can't be busy...
The average wage in the UK is £27,600 and 95.1% of the workforce have jobs.
In Ireland the average wage is €26,800 and 92.3% of people of workforce have jobs
One of the most common reason for why people reschedule appointments with me is foreign holidays. People buy flatscreen TVs that cost more than a course of therapy. Most sofas cost more than I paid to get over 3 decades of anxiety and depression. A new top of the range ipad costs more, as do weekends away, many laptops, and even some mobile phones. Yet people buy these all the time.
There are people at every income level. Let those that can pay do so, and pay a fair rate to allow you to cover your costs, keep a roof over your head, and live. Then it's easier to give back and help the genuinely poor person for a low or free rate.
The bottom line is that in asking hundreds of therapists and coaches the reasons they had identified as to why they really aren't busy, their response came down to two -
Lack of confidence.
Fear about how to succeed.
We get confidence by doing. That's where we take our classroom and book learning and start to convert it into experience. Experience is the building material of confidence.
If we don't know how to succeed we need to learn that too. When you started you didn't know how to be
a therapist or coach either. That's why you learned. Ask people, take courses, model those who are successful, experiment and keep doing what works best. There are many, many ways to succeed.
They all start with the decision to try.
Your fear of failure has to be less than your desire to help others.
How important is it to you to make the difference you're here to make? You have skills that people need. There are more people stuck, suffering, in pain than we can ever help.
Will you push yourself to overcome any obstacles between you and the help they need, or will you hide in excuses and fear?
It is a choice. It may not be easy, but it can be made easier by finding your reason to make a difference, and planning for success rather than lingering in doubt. Seek the answers you need, help who you can now, build your experience and confidence as you go and you will make a wonderful difference in this life.
I hope you're with me on this.
Well done for still being here. Please leave a comment. It'd be nice to see your comment among the expected hate below. (But if you need to vent, or disagree, you are welcome to do so too).
Wishing you every success,
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John Prendergast is an award-winning Success Coach and and Psycho-Trauma Anxiety Therapist.
He is also the Founder of Therapy and Coaching Success that specialises in helping Therapists, Coaches and other Wellness Practitioners, connect with those in need, build their diaries and earn the income they need.
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