She turned to rock painting as a relaxation technique and creative outlet, posting photos of her colorful creations on social media.
Now she manages a Facebook group of more than 36,000 people who paint rocks and hide them around Brevard County, Florida, hoping to spread happiness to all who discover them.
Inspired by this movement, Lynda joined the group.
Then, in preparation for the Successful Start program at the Florida State Massage Therapy Association convention earlier this summer, she painted more than 300 smooth stones with bright yellow paint, smiley faces and a happy message.
Decide to Be Happy
You could feel the excitement in the room as the boxes of rocks made their way around the audience.
Each rock served as a tangible token of our greatest lesson from decades in the industry: Happiness is a decision each of us makes.
Starting out with an attitude of gratitude is a prerequisite to a successful career, not to mention a joyful, fulfilling life.
Merely grasping the fact that you can alter your mindset marks a critical first step.
“Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it’s the realization that we can,” says Shawn Achor, happiness researcher and New York Times best-selling author of Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage.
Once you’ve embraced the idea of optimism, there’s much you can do to cultivate it.
You can choose happiness and pave the way to success each and every day; if you begin by working within the circle of happiness you have, eventually it will grow larger.
A Successful Career
Our combined decades of business and massage therapy experience have led us to these key tactics for starting a happy—and successful—career.
Here’s the advice we offer to brand-new practitioners in the Successful Start program—or wherever we encounter them.
1. Bring a positive attitude to the table.
Whether it’s a massage table, dinner table or conference table at your place of business, stepping up with an optimistic mindset can begin every action and interaction on the right note.
You’ve completed your training, logged hours of practicum and voraciously studied anatomy.
Your hands are now powerful tools for decreasing pain, improving movement and relieving stress.
Believe in your ability to use them.
2. Practice gratitude.
Each day you can take small-yet-concrete steps to reinforce your happiness choice.
Journal, visualize positive scenarios, spend time with people who uplift you rather than drag you down, and end each day by making a gratitude list.
Even on tough days, you have something to be thankful for, and writing it down cements this memory in your brain.
There’s always a little happy while you are working on the big happy.
3. Never stop learning.
For all that you know, there’s yet more to uncover.
Maintain your confidence and relevance by adopting an attitude of lifelong learning. Attend workshops and conferences, read research and news, and discuss new developments with others in the field.
You don’t have to learn every new technique or become as well versed in the medical literature as a scientist, but keeping up on the big picture of research and applications will help you understand the happiness and joy you can bring to your clients.
4. Practice both physical and emotional self-care.
To function properly for the long term, your body needs physical exercise and your mind needs techniques like mindfulness meditation.
Prioritizing these self-sustaining habits from the earliest stages can preserve your happiness as your career progresses.
5. Manage your time.
Delivering the best service and greatest happiness to your clients—without burning out yourself—involves planning and structuring your days, weeks and months wisely.
Use calendars and planners, and build in breaks between clients, administrative work, travel time and vacations.
Saying no to commitments that don’t align with your priorities can be as important as saying yes to those that do.
6. Give back. Place low-cost and pro-bono work into your business model.
Yes, you have to make a profit to build a sustainable practice, but offering free massages to those in shelters or a discount to educators during National Teachers’ Month puts more positive energy into the community—and eventually can bring you new clients able to pay full price.
7. Connect and collaborate.
Relationships grow your business.
Make the time to get to know others in your field as well as health care providers and community members—remember, anyone can be a potential client or referral.
Consider joining your chamber of commerce, marketing in-person to health care providers, and taking a leadership role in a local, state or national professional organization.
Once you’ve made these connections, contemplate ways to make them stick: Send handwritten birthday cards or thank-you notes, offer to help on a project, or introduce two people with common interests to each other.
8. Seek mentors.
Take it from us: Leaders in the field also have a desire to pay it forward as well as to ensure the next generation of professionals carries on the good work of massage therapy.
If you see us speak at conferences or on social media, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for guidance.
After all, we didn’t get to where we are without help, and we’re more than willing to lift others up as well.
Make a Difference
When you first start out, success can seem like a distant goal, a point in the future you may never reach.
But when you reframe the picture and realize happiness comes before success, you’ll see that you have a chance today to make a difference.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve been practicing for years—or even until tomorrow.
You can start right now with a positive interaction with a client, a random act of kindness, or a moment of meditation and gratitude.
Over time, each smile you deliver or inspire adds up.
By choosing massage therapy—a caring career—you’ve ensured yourself a life that’s powerfully satisfying and profoundly world-changing.
Think back to the painted rocks and the joy they bring.
If a rock can provoke such positive emotions, imagine the power you have to spread positive energy with your highly trained, compassionate hands—and how massage can make all of us happy.
Editor’s note: Download the free New Practitioner eBook, The Blueprint for a Successful Massage Career.
Lynda Solien-Wolfe is vice president, Massage and Spa at Performance Health. (Biofreeze, Bon Vital', BVaSpa, TheraBand and Thera°Pearl.) She is a licensed massage therapist and has been in private practice in Merritt Island, Florida, for 25 years. She graduated from Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, Florida, and helped launch the Successful From the Start program 15 years ago. Marshall Dahneke, chief commercial officer, leads Performance Health’s global commercial organization, which includes all sales and in-geography marketing functions within the clinical, sports medicine, specialty products, international, Canadian, retail and e-commerce channels.