If you’re a personal trainer, yoga or Pilates teacher, coach or healing practitioner of any kind, first off, thank you. You could have gone into a career that was almost guaranteed to earn you a higher income, more prestige, or extra points on your curriculum vitae, but instead you chose the way of the heart. You chose to follow your passion. There is nothing wrong with money or prestige, of course, but they are not the main motivations for wellness professionals like us. We know we’re here to share our talents and add value to the world. And we know that if we care well for others, clients—and therefore income—will find us.
But sometimes our work can be draining. We get caught up in deadlines, in client attendance and adherence concerns, or in our fears about whether we’re doing a good job or not. Done well, work should feel more like play, whatever form the energetic exchange takes. Done well, work should invigorate us!
When work drags us down, certain questions crop up: “How can I do what I’m here to do and still take care of me?” “How can I avoid burnout?” “How can I be in service without taking on too much of the burden of others?” “How can I thrive in my chosen profession?”
“It’s All About Intention”—No, It’s Not!
I hear so many people say it’s all about intention. I couldn’t disagree more. In the wellness industry, we all have good intentions, or at least we can justify our intentions enough to convince ourselves that they’re good. What I’ve seen is that there are energies underlying intention that usually go unnoticed but have profound effects on our health and even the success of our sessions.
Typically, we either work from responsibility, excessive empathy, or neediness (I call this, “our pattern”), or we work from true compassion, real connection and unconditional love (I call this, “our truth”). Which of these sounds more restrictive, and which sounds more expansive? Which sounds like a path toward burnout, and which a path toward thriving? The answer may be the difference between a rewarding vocation and an early career change.
Sadly, the underlying energies of “our pattern” are often our default setting. We learn early on to assume responsibility for others’ thoughts, feelings and experiences. It makes us overreach and be too conscious of how we’re perceived. It crushes self-esteem. When we work from neediness, we might do it for an income, to belong, or to have meaning and purpose. These motivations are okay, but they often overshadow the heart’s intuitive knowing that we’re inherently worthy of love, connection—and yes, even income—if we follow the heart’s call.
How can you know which “side” you’re operating from? This requires some self-reflection.
If you’re lethargic or anxious going to work, or during or after work, you may be expending more energy than you’re taking in. This often causes frustration, and over time, pain and illness. Recognize that most of us in care-giving professions are particularly sensitive to the plights and conditions of others. In fact, that’s part of what makes us good at what we do—we sense what our clients need, and we give it to them. But now it’s time to turn that beautiful intuition of yours inward. And even if you’re not intuitive, it’s time to recognize that something’s gone awry if doing your work leaves you fatigued, unfocused, anxious or heavy-hearted.
As coaches and wellness professionals, we too often feel responsible for healing the emotional or physical pain of others—the urge can extend beyond clients to include friends and family, social issues or even the world at large. We feel overly responsible for our clients’ success. This is the metaphysical equivalent of carrying a loved one (or several!) on our back. How long can we do that without getting fatigued? Our job is not to physically move our clients for them, but rather to educate them on how to move themselves. Our job is not to heal our clients but rather to love them unconditionally via our chosen modality. This, ironically, sets up a space where true healing can occur.
We may already know this, but because of our default settings, we often forget. We overdo out of unconscious and unnecessary responsibility—and its associated guilt, fear and shame. We create codependency.
Eventually, if this happens in your case, both you and your client are likely to become resentful. Resentment closes down energy flow like a crimp in a garden hose and leaves you more susceptible to pain and illness, and also to empathically transmitted unhealthy energies from others. Taking on another person’s issues—even with the best of intentions—is often an unhealthy attempt to heal or connect with those persons. Sadly, this is cleverly disguised by the ego and supported by many as a good deed. It’s not.
Determining true responsibility and working from that place is vital to your health and to the success of your sessions or classes. Let go of any attachment to an outcome and just be the best you can be. It’s not your fault if your client doesn’t do his homework. It’s not your fault if someone doesn’t heal no matter what modalities you’re sharing. Don’t take these things personally. (Of course, if an extremely high percentage of your clients aren’t achieving the outcomes they desire, then you may want to look into your part in it!)
Here are three tips to help you take true responsibility:
- Schedule at least one 10-minute break in your day to recenter yourself and check in with how you’re feeling.
- Listen well to clients, but don’t overempathize with them. Stay present enough to ask yourself, “Is this my pattern or my truth?” and respond consciously rather than reacting unconsciously. If a client shares something that resonates with you personally, make note of it and examine it later, on your own time.
- If a client quits for reasons that feel personal to you, take some time to let your reactionary state of mind calm down; assess the situation; and then determine whether or not you need to follow up.
Overattachment is codependency made manifest, and that is unhealthy for all. Working with enough presence to see what you’ve been doing and what you’re about to do is interdependency, a much healthier form of connection that results in a much more successful session. You get what you need (true connection and payment), and your clients get what they need (your undivided attention, presence, knowledge, support and wisdom). When this is done well, it is a win-win. When it’s not, you may find yourself asking, “Would you like fries with that?”