Massage Therapy Canada

Hard-headed: Mental toughness and how it can help RMTs in practice

March 15, 2021  By Ken Ansell

Clearly define your goals: Define them, write them down and use them as a roadmap. TakakoWatanabe/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images.

When someone hears the phrase “mental toughness,” an image of a highly trained soldier or marine with nerves of steel on the battlefield may come to mind. But how about an image of a massage therapist working towards retirement? Not the most common thing to come to mind, but the concepts of mental toughness can be a massive part of their success as well.

Mental toughness is the ability to perform as focused, confident, determined and resilient, especially under pressure. These principles have been taught in the athlete world for many years. They can also translate perfectly into business and everyday life. Let’s have a look at how the principles of mental toughness can fit into your massage therapy practice.

When a concept is in the form of an equation, it becomes a lot easier to comprehend. This simple equation is the foundation of the mental toughness program I teach to athletes and business people: Potential – Interference = Performance.

Performance is pretty straight-forward to understand. It is how you end up performing, playing or succeeding in what you do.


Potential is your skills, talents, abilities. It is what you are capable of doing based on everything you have learned, practiced and acquired that relates to your capability to perform. We spend years in school, doing mentorships, continuing education, and business classes. Building our experience through years in practice and all of the other things we do to “improve ourselves.” The part of the equation that we work on the most is to perform better.

Interference is mostly the thought processes that we have that hold us back from being able to perform to our true potential. It’s the area that people tend to struggle with the most yet spend the least amount of time addressing. It is no different when it comes to a massage therapist – the most common areas of interference center around how we think.

One of the best places to start decreasing interference is with the first concept of mental toughness. (Being focused.) We can all relate to how much better things go when we are dialled in and focused on the task at hand. The first step to becoming more focused in practice is to set goals. Goal setting is like taking a road trip to an unfamiliar destination, a place we may have never been to before. Think of goal setting as your roadmap, or GPS, and your plan for how to get from where you are to where you want to get to, and what you want to accomplish along the way. You should have a main long-term goal (your destination), as well as several shorter term goals with the steps needed for how to achieve them.

You probably have some goals of what you want to accomplish, but it’s important to take the time to clearly define them and use them like a roadmap to get you to your destination. First off, for goals to be effective, a “SMARTER” format is the best way to lay out your roadmap for success.

S – Specific. We need to be very specific about our goal. I often see a goal of “I want to be the best massage therapist I can be.” And although commendable, it is not specific. Now a goal of “I want to see X number of patients per week” is a specific goaland gives us a focused target.

M – Measurable. Without the ability to measure your goal, you have no way to know if you have achieved it. The goal of “I want to increase the number of patients I see in a week” compared to “I want to see X number of patients per week.”

A – Achievable. Your goal needs to be something that you can achieve. To have a goal of seeing 50 patients a week in you first month of practice is probably a goal that is not achievable. If you set a goal that is too far out of reach, you can lose your desire to follow it through. Unachievable goals become demotivating.

R – Reach. For those of you who have learned goal setting before, you may be familiar with the R being realistic. I prefer “reach.” Goals that are worth striving for should be motivating and require extra effort to achieve them.

T – Timed. This is the step that most people leave out. Without having a time constraint, there is no focus and motivation to push forward.

E – Evaluate. Evaluate your progress along the way. This is very helpful with short-term goals that help build the segments towards your main goal.

R – Re-Adjust. If needed, re-adjust your goals as you progress toward your long term goal. You may find that your goal is not attainable. Rather than scrap you goal, adjust your goal to something that is achievable but will still require you to reach for it. Adjust the time frame or number of your main goal.

In order for goals to be effective, write them down: it helps us focus on the destination, stay motivated and reminds us of what steps we need to take to get the success that we desire.

Long term goal: See 50 patients per week by the end of September 2020.

Short term goal 1 – Build up to 25 patients a week average by the end of May 2020. Steps needed to achieve this:

  • Starting immediately, be in charge of all patient treatment plans by rebooking patients appropriately for their condition so they achieve the desired treatment outcomes.
  • Send emails to the email list once a week every Wednesday

Short term goal 2 – Increase from 25 to 40 patients a week average by end of August 2020.

  • Increase social media presence by posting to Facebook 2x per week
  • Increase emails to 2x per week
  • Continue doing everything in goal one
  • Increase referrals through cross referrals with other care providers

Here is something to keep in mind: Do not focus solely on the goal, but instead on the steps needed to achieve the goal. For it is the actions that we do, or do not do, which we are in control of. Achieving the goal is the outcome of the planning steps we implement. If we can stay focused on what we need to do, we will more often achieve and surpass our goals. On top of that, we will build our level of mental toughness, reduce our interference and perform to our true potential.

KEN ANSELL, RMT, D.Ac., has been a massage therapist in Regina for over 24 years, obtaining his educaton from the Western College of Remedial Massage Therapies. He is a member of MTAS, the Provincial Medical Acupuncture Association, and the Canadian Contemporary Acupuncture Association.


This story was originally printed in the Spring 2020 edition of Massage Therapy Canada.

Original web post June 09, 2020.

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