• Kat Fulton

Life By Design

Life is beautiful because it is insecure. Life is beautiful because there is death. Life is beautiful because it can be missed. If you cannot miss it, everything is forced upon you, then even life becomes an imprisonment. ~ Osho “Living On Your Own Terms”

I love it when my coaching clients ask me “What should I charge?” We all feel trepidation when setting rates. For employees, negotiating rate of pay may evoke strong emotion.

The sweaty palms, thumping heart, second-guessing, along with a plethora of defeating thoughts… The mental hurricane might paralyze us in the midst of an epic milestone in personal development. But if we can lean into those feelings and move through it, oh it is SO WORTH IT.


Let’s dig deeper. If you have these thoughts, you’re not alone: “I’m not experienced or qualified enough.” “I would disappoint them once in the position.” “It’s too much to ask.” “My pricing would take away from other services and end up hurting the clients.” “I didn’t get into this field for the money.”

“I feel greedy.”


Or my personal favorite: “What if they say no?”


When you are designing life, you can choose how these fears impact you. Will they propel you forward, or make you cower and avoid the whole thing?

Recently I went live in the Music Therapy Leaders Facebook group and discussed how I’ve been paid $17/hr and $3000/hr for music therapy in my career. To this day, I feel solid in my decision to say yes to both rates under each circumstance. When I remember the days of $17/hr work, I know that I designed it that way! That feeling of empowerment set me up for success long before I proposed $3000/hr a few years later.


When you can identify the self-designed parts of your world through the chaos, unpredictability, and hardships of life, your feelings of empowerment will drive you into the future with steady confidence.


What parts of your life have you designed?

Here are a couple of mindset hacks that have helped me live Life By Design:

1. Although we cannot control everything that happens, we can always choose our response. When I received a couple of ominous letters in 2016, I went straight into a panic attack. The panic attacks recurred for several months. I felt as though I couldn’t control my body. I responded by reaching out to people for help and creating a wellness plan for recovery. I recovered. It was hard. But best of all, I gained renewed empathy for others who suffered from anxiety. My point is that our response doesn’t have to come from us alone. Overall, the world around us WANTS to support us! Tapping into resources, people, planning, reaching out… these are all healthy responses that allow us to feel a sense of choosing and designing.

2. Make decisions based on love instead of fear. Fear is not unique to you. Fear is the unknown, the mystery, and the insecurity of life. We all feel it and face it. When making big decisions, tap into your feelings of love and expansion, and remember that support for your growth is far greater than resistance. Put your needs first so you can overflow with support for others.

Here are 2 rate-setting specific tips:

1. Naming a rate is not the end-all. It is the start of a discussion. Same thing for negotiating rate of pay if you’re an employee. They say no? Approach their response with caring curiosity. Ask them what they are really looking for in a solution. Ask them what would make them say yes. Don’t walk away. Turn it into a discussion, not a final decision.

2. We’re always encouraged to set rates high. But in the end this is your decision, and you don’t have to take that advice. In 2005, when I asked for $50/hr for work in a mental health community and got a stern reality check, I had to make a calculated decision. They only paid $17/hr. My goal with this position was to gain experience in this setting. The question I had to answer was “Is gaining experience with this population worth earning a lower rate?” I eventually said YES, with a qualification: The number of hours I worked needed to be 3 days or less per month so that I could fill most of my time with higher paying work. I designed my experience working at a lower rate by setting my own parameters around the work. That feeling of empowerment was priceless and has helped me develop into a seasoned professional with confidence.


My wish for your heart is to have the courage to become vulnerable enough to explore all the nooks and crannies of what makes you tick. May you feel supported in sharing your true essence with the world!


Would you like mentorship and support? Come join Kat in our mentorship program: MusicTherapyEd.com/Mentor


Kat’s bio ~~~

Kat Fulton, MM, MT-BC, is a passionate keynote speaker and advocate for music therapy and self-care. She's been quoted in major media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, HuffPo, and Epoch Times. She's facilitated drum circles for the US Surgeon General, Americans for the Arts, NAMM, Mu

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