Life is filled with challenges, setbacks, patients that don’t improve and clients who walk away unsatisfied. We suffer injuries or illnesses that keep us from our patients, we suffer financial hardships and we are faced continually with questions and scenarios for which we don’t know the answers.

It is easy to look at your mentor or a leader in the industry and think, ‘So-and-so has it all together. They have the answers, and they deal with challenges so well you can’t even tell there was a challenge!’

But the truth is, what we see is only the surface. We see 10% of the iceberg that is above the water, and we miss the 90% beneath the surface, out of sight. That is where people carry their burdens and weariness, their fears and insecurities. We tend to be aware of our own hardships and struggles, and forget that others – no matter how confident they appear – have theirs.

We perceive everything this way. We’re conscious only of the visible and fail to factor in the hardships, disappointments and sacrifices that are hidden from view. What we see when we look at a successful person tends to be a very small portion of the whole picture.

Think about the unseen 90% that makes up the success of anyone you admire:

  • The days, months and years of practice
  • The hours of lectures watched, prepared and presented
  • The years of treating patients
  • The perseverance through hard times
  • The failures
  • The patients lost
  • The clients unsatisfied
  • The refusal to give up on a patient
  • The hours spent consulting with colleagues and searching through textbooks for an answer
  • The changes made to their practice to ensure no client leaves unsatisfied again
  • Hours spent with a business coach to improve their product and service
  • Hours spent with a physical therapist to help solve the aches and pains that come with the job
  • Hours spent with a psychiatrist when the emotional toll becomes too much!
  • The surgeries and recoveries they have endured
  • The refusal to give up.

Your heroes and colleagues have walked a road, just as you have. It is their persistence under duress that placed them where they are.

A few good principles may help us when our confidence wanes, as we tackle the hardships ahead of us:

Don’t compare yourself

Remember that whenever you look at someone else, all you’re seeing is the 10% above the surface. There is 90% ‘ice’ beneath the surface, where hardship, perseverance, past mistakes, difficult decisions, grit and hard work have been ‘frozen’ over time into a strong foundation upon which to build. So don’t compare. You’re seeing the whole ‘you’, and seeing only a tiny portion of that person you admire.

Choose your perspective

Every hardship you face can become a part of your unseen 90% that propels you to success. If you choose to persevere, practise new knowledge and skills, seek answers, never stop learning, rise again when you fall and do better next time, you may rest assured that you are creating something beautiful and durable. Like a magnificent iceberg, you will present a 10% that others admire, and that will make a difference in the world.

Freeze your ice

Choose to work those hardships and challenges into the 90% and make them work for you. In effect, ‘freeze’ them. Use them to establish good and better habits. Use them as the stepping stones to lift yourself higher.

And remember… 

… Despite what you feel at times, you’re not alone. We all struggle with what life throws at us. What matters is the small daily decisions we make to keep trying, to maintain a positive spirit, and to remain committed to the journey we started.

Look forward, not backward! Make the decision to see yourself as you intend to be, not as who you once were.  

Never undermine the value of that 90% where the hard work and daily decisions are made. It’s hidden, but it’s crucial. That is how we steadily, deliberately create a life and a practice that will bring us joy.

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