Excellence in your profession is vital for success, work satisfaction and overall happiness. A massage therapist who commits to providing an excellent client experience will have more satisfied customers and get more referrals.
No client ever says, “You should go see Mary, she’s really average.” Clients want to work with excellent therapists. They seek out the best therapist for themselves and their friends.
The alternative to being excellent is mediocrity. Being average often leads to boredom and apathy. Clients will leave an average therapist or massage practice as soon as they find one that is excellent. Mediocre businesses will not thrive.
You owe it to yourself and your clients to become excellent.
Striving for perfection is unrealistic and exhausting. But excellence is within everyone’s reach. Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Most people who become a massage therapist want to feel like they make a difference, and make a positive impact on other peoples’ lives. As an excellent therapist, you can do this.
This post is about why you should choose to become excellent, and the steps you can take to start this journey.
Why should choose to be an excellent massage therapist?
People who are excellent at what they do will be leaders in their field. They will have greater influence, and be a trendsetter instead of a trend follower.
Excellent massage therapists will get more respect from their clients, co-workers, and referral sources. They will have fewer clients who are late, cancel, or no-show, because their clients won’t want to miss their appointment and have to wait for another opening.
You will also get more referrals. Another word for excellent is remarkable, which literally means: worthy of receiving attention and being liked. When you offer a remarkable service, your clients will tell other people about you.
There’s a lot of research showing a strong correlation between excellence and happiness. When we are engaged in our work, we will often notice increased career satisfaction. This is true for employee therapists and self-employed massage therapists.
Clients will notice a therapist’s positive attitude, especially when they are fully involved and enthusiastic. This attitude will result in an improved customer experience, a better reputation, and ultimately a more successful massage practice.
“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – Excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it” – Pearl S. Buck
Research supporting the pursuit of excellence
Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needstheory that he published in a 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. According to this theory, we must strive towards being the best person that we can be.
He used the term “self-actualization” to refer to the ideal goal of reaching our full potential. To put it another way, we will have the most life and work satisfaction by striving for excellence.
Another interesting theory regarding motivation, happiness and excellence is the theory of Flow. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: /chick-sent-me-hi/) wrote Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
This theory proposes that we are happiest when we are completely immersed in the task at hand. During flow, distractions, time and everything else seems to fall away. Athletes and creative people like musicians, writers and artists experience this when they are “in the groove”.
But anyone can experience flow if they absorb themselves in their task. The interesting criteria needed to achieve this enjoyable state are (1) challenging work, and (2) a high skill level. I believe that both of these criteria can be met when striving for excellence.
Excellence is a choice
Being excellent at anything is a choice. It’s not an easy one, but it is still a choice. We can choose to be excellent, or average.
We get to choose our approach to life and our work. We can choose to be happy or angry, engaged or apathetic, focused or distracted.
Striving for excellence is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Like all choices and commitments, the choice to be excellent needs to be reaffirmed daily.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” –Aristotle
The alternative to being an excellent massage therapist, and running an excellent, thriving practice, is being average.
In a world with so much competition, no one cares about average. The average or mediocre massage practice will not thrive. When businesses don’t rise above average, their services become commoditized, and they have to compete on having the lowest price.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just being “good enough”.
“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude” – Ralph Marston
Keys to achieving excellence
You can sum up the formula to achieve personal or professional excellence with these six keys, as described by Tony Schwartz. I’ve paraphrased the original six keys to excellence, and added my 2 cents in italics.
- Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance. Passion will keep you going long after the motivation has faded and self-discipline has become depleted.
- Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers practice in the mornings, when they have the most energy and fewest distractions. It is critical to prioritize your to-do list. Do your most important task first. Don’t mistake important tasks with urgent tasks. Your most important task is the one that will advance you the most toward your top goals.
- Practice intensely, without interruption in 60 to 90-minute blocks of time. Then take a rest. It is difficult to focus intensely for more than 90 minutes at a time. During these practice or learning sessions, turn off any distractions.
- Seek intermittent feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the easier it will be to make incremental improvements. Too much feedback, or too often, can lead to feeling overwhelmed. You can apply this to your massage therapy practice by going through your client feedback forms once per month. If you see a suggestion for improvement more than once, then this can be the thing you focus on improving over the next 30 days. Over time, you will develop an excellent massage therapy practice and the word will spread. Excellence does not happen overnight. This is similar to the success principle known as Constant And Neverending Improvement (CANI).
- Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides time to rejuvenate, but also to embed learning. Rest periods are when physical and mental growth takes place, but only if the preceding effort was intense and productive. This is also a good time to reflect on your progress toward your goals. Assess whether you are on track or have gotten off course.
- Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. The best way to build skills is to make practice a ritual. To become excellent at anything, focus on making excellence a habit. The more you do it, the easier it will be to maintain the habit of excellence. You can apply this to your massage practice by making the habit of focusing on the client in front of you. When you are giving a massage, be there 100%. Don’t allow your mind to wander by thinking about errands you need to do later, or wondering if someone texted you back, for example. Turn your treatment sessions into a form of mindfulness meditation that will result in an excellent service for your clients. And it will turn you into a more relaxed and centered therapist.
How to be an excellent massage therapist
Here are six strategies that you can apply to help you become an excellent massage therapist:
Surround yourself with excellent people. This is one of the most powerful ways to become excellent. Have a small group of 4-5 amazing people (who are better than you) that you meet with regularly. As the saying goes, “You are the average of your 5 closest friends.” This peer group will have a strong influence that either pushes you to grow and raise your standards, or drags you down into apathy and mediocrity.
Stand out from the crowd. Most businesses and people go to great lengths to fit in and be like everyone else. The problem is that if there’s nothing different and betterabout your practice, why should anyone choose you? Develop your own unique brand image that appeals to the niche and target market that you serve. Identify your strengths and focus on these. Find joy in what you do.
Keep learning. Study your profession daily. This could mean reading or taking a class to build your hands-on massage skills. Or it could mean learning how to become a more competent business owner to have a thriving massage practice. If you own your practice, focus on topics like communication skills, marketing, and improving customer experience. Strive to continuously upgrade yourself. This will improve your competence and confidence.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” –Henry Ford
Make good use of your time. Everything you do, and everything you spend your time on is either moving you closer to your goals and full potential, or it is moving you further from it. Your time is the most valuable resource you have because it can never be replaced.
Give more value. Find ways to over-deliver and give more than expected. Go the extra mile. For a massage therapist, this could mean going a few minutes over, sending a hand-written thank you card to your customers, or taking the time to create a more relaxing treatment space. Customers expect a certain minimum level of competence and service. Excellent therapists always exceed their customer’s expectations. This will differentiate you from your competition.
Take time to revitalize your passion
- Trade massages and get/give feedback.
- Form a small success group with other therapists in your community. Keep each other accountable.
- Get more feedback from your clients.
- Reflect on why what you do matters. Believing that you are making a difference in peoples’ lives will make you more excited about your work.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
You can choose to strive for excellence in life and as a massage therapist. This is the path for a more mentally, emotionally and financially rewarding journey, that has a greater positive impact on the world.