Stop Feeding Your Ego at the Expense of Your Self-Esteem

Stop feeding your ego at the expense of your self esteem.

Ego.

It’s only three letters but those three letters can wreak havoc on our lives.

The ego is a mean-spirited bully. It always wants to be right at the expense of making others wrong, makes us live small, is arrogant, untrustworthy, judgmental and most of all, this whole facade is because it is scared. The ego is all about “me, me, me” and it always has something to prove. It believes there’s only so much to go around so it better grab its share before someone else does. When we live by our ego, we are living in fear.

We all have an ego problem but we can lessen it by tapping into our higher power. I don’t mean this in a religious way. What I mean is we all have a spiritual side. Maybe you call it “intuition” or a “gut feeling”, whatever you want to call it, it is that voice or feeling that nudges us toward the good and warns us about the bad. At some point in our lives, we’ve all had that feeling that something or someone wasn’t quite right or felt so “in the moment” and joyous that time seemed to fly.This is when we are living from our spirit.

When we are connected and listen to our spirit, we become aligned with our true nature and life tends to flow and seem effortless. When we are living from our spirit, we are living in love. We are joyful, we see the abundance and beauty around us, we can tap into our creative energy, we are excited and engaged. When we are operating from our spirit instead of our ego, we feel safe and secure in who we are. We are enough. We can shine our light knowing it takes nothing away from anyone else. We become a light for others to shine. We seek to serve, to share our gifts and talents as only we can.

Obviously the better place to be operating is from our spirit, so why do we get trapped in the ego? Because the ego is sneaky. It plays on our fears and insecurities. It’s subtle. It’s hardwired into our brains.

For instance, I’ve seen this situation play out many times, with myself as well as my friends. You end a relationship because it wasn’t a good fit. No one did anything wrong (cheat, steal, was abusive, etc), it just wasn’t meant to be. But even if you were the one who ended the relationship, it still might take awhile to let go. You or the other party still try to maintain contact. Often, it’s because we don’t like being rejected. Rejection is the ego’s domain. We continue to engage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it gratifies our ego.

But at what cost? Our self-esteem, self-respect and dignity.

We give in to our ego because we fear rejection. It’s a very real fear as we are social creatures and in the early stages of mankind, being rejected from your “tribe” often meant death. There was safety in numbers and we are wired to connect.

But we can’t be everything to everyone. We don’t like everyone we meet so why should we expect everyone to like us? We are not suited to every job that is out there so why do we get depressed when we don’t get the job we never wanted in the first place. We are so concerned about being liked and wanted that we lose sight of what we like and want. 

When we operate from our ego we remain focused on our fears – we want to be validated, we want to win, we want to prove ourselves and as a result, we end up with a bunch of stuff we never really wanted in the first place. We settle for mediocre relationships, jobs that numb us and spend most of our days disengaged – “living for the weekend”.

When we live from our spirit, we live from grace, joy, empathy, compassion and authenticity. We focus on who we are, what we love and how we want to live. We honor ourselves and others by sharing our gifts and uplifting others.

Shifting from an “ego” to a “spirit”  mindset doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong journey. It takes awareness, patience, a sense of humor, compassion and a commitment in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of progression. It’s a balancing act of looking inward to love, accept and forgive ourselves, warts and all, and know that wherever we are, we are enough.

And looking outward with kindness, compassion and gratitude at the wild, messy sea of humanity that we share this planet with and not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, judge others or take things personally because every one of us is acting out from our own fears and desire to be accepted and loved.

As I see it, there are really only two paths in life – love and fear, ego or spirit. Our ego keeps us small but our spirit lets us step into our light and shine.

 

 

 

Invest in Yourself

Invest in Yourself

Everyone talks about investments, but how many business owners invest in themselves?

We have this Lone Ranger attitude in this country, that we’re suppose to know it all and be all. Asking or seeking out help is a sign of weakness. We put on a mask of confidence yet wonder why it’s so hard to get clients.

While working on homework from my coach, I had a HUGE revelation. To make a long story short, what I realized is when I am aligned with my passion, strengths and values, work is effortless and enjoyable. All those times when I struggled, I blamed myself – “I’m not trying hard enough”, “I’m not smart enough” or some other self-flagellation.

The problem wasn’t me, the problem was I was pursuing the wrong work. I can’t begin to explain the effect this had on me. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  Self-limiting beliefs that had been haunting me – literally for decades – were dislodged and wiped away. The clouds parted and the angels sang. Progress came quickly. All because I decided to make an investment in myself.

Coaching is an investment. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles or prestige of a fancy new phone. But unlike that phone, which will become obsolete within a year, coaching will only continue to add value, letting you take control and create a life aligned with your values, passions and strengths. What I’ve spent on coaching and other professionals has shortened my learning curve by years. The ROI has always been in my favor.

By all means, run your business lean but don’t skimp on your most important asset – YOU.

 

Change Begins by Changing Your Mind

Change Begins by Changing Your Mind

I made a commitment to myself. It’s a pretty significant investment in myself and my future. I have no doubts that I hired the right person and it will change the course of my business as well as be a growing experience. When I signed on the dotted line, I was thrilled. This was happening.

And 24 hours later I am terrified. Terrified that I am an impostor. Terrified that I don’t have what it takes. Terrified that I’m going to “blow” it. All over a piece of paper with four questions on it.

And so it goes.

I sit here quietly in my discomfort. What other choice do I have? It’s not going to go away anytime soon so I might as well get used to it. Because there is one thing I know, nothing’s going to change unless I do. 

I want this change.

Change is uncomfortable. Change triggers all sorts of fears, beliefs, resistance – my brain is literally screaming for me to stop – the red light is flashing – “DANGER” as this fear raises my stress level.

Change helps expose some chinks in the armor. If we bring awareness to our fears, expose and examine them, we learn what we need to attend to.

Just writing that last sentence helped calm my mind. It’s shed some light on an area that needs my attention, my compassion. It’s reminded me how much I have undervalued and taken for granted my gifts.

The four questions are innocuous. It’s the thoughts and self doubts that emerged when I read them. This is usually the case and luckily I’ve had enough practice to know just because I think it doesn’t mean it’s true. If the thought isn’t serving me, I can choose to think something different – something that will benefit me, help me move forward towards my goals. What a revelation!

Any change we make begins by changing our mind – getting rid of self-limiting thoughts and beliefs and replacing them with beliefs that empower, energize and excite us. As with so many things on this journey, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. Our thoughts often lie below the surface, silently running the show. It takes practice to bring them to the surface and expose them to the light. It’s a process, but one that will pay off big for us in the long run.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some questions to answer.

 

 

 

Inner Knowing vs. Not Knowing

I recently wrote a post “Not Knowing is the Path” and then came upon a paradox of sorts. As a coach, we believe all the answers are inside of us, a coach merely helps uncover these truths. So how can “not knowing” be the path when we are suppose to already have the answers inside us?

Inner knowing, whether you want to call it instincts, intuition or gut feeling, is about our inner wisdom. Inner knowing is our North Star, our guidance system, not knowing is our map.

Clear as mud, right?

I spent a good portion of my life believing I had to know it all first and then I could act. As a result, I suffered mega imposter syndrome and given my acting skills are horrendous, my discomfort and false bravado didn’t win me any friends. When I had my epiphany – not knowing is the path – I realized action precedes learning. It’s a path you go down, not a stationary place. I’m not suppose to know it all and it allowed me to relax and be genuine.

You have to do something, evaluate the outcome and reflect on it. Did you get the results you wanted? If not, try something different. It’s like the navigation system on a plane – you are constantly making course adjustments to get you to your final destination.  We grow into our goals as we walk down this path. It’s a process and through this process we create our life.

But how do we know if we are on the right path? We need some sort of guidance system and that is where our inner knowing comes in. Our life is a series of choices – what to eat, what to wear, whether to exercise or not, who we associate with, what books to read, what to do in our free time, where to live, what to spend our money on, what career to pursue. How do we choose?

We choose based on our inner knowing. Our inner knowledge comes from action (things we’ve tried and liked or don’t like), our DNA (a preference towards introversion or extroversion for example), as well as on a deeper, spiritual level.

The takeaway is to be in tune with our inner knowing. Your body will always give you a sign if you are on the right track. The key is to listen. Sometimes it’s obvious – something resonates with you and you’re constantly drawn to it. Other times when you’re doing something that conflicts with your true self, it shows up in physical symptoms – lack of energy, stress or getting sick. Or you try to mask it with alcohol, binge eating, surfing the internet…you get the idea. No judgement, we’ve all been there.

Despite my insatiable desire to learn more about personal development, I didn’t trust my inner knowing. I was very aware of what made me tick yet I let myself be swayed by other people’s opinions. Probably because my opinion wasn’t really asked for so the message I got was it wasn’t important. Anyway, this can lead to chaos because everyone has an opinion. I was constantly chasing other people’s and as a result I was frustrated – a lot.

I’ve had to take a step back and slow down. I’m bombarded daily with offers about how I should live my life and run my business as I mentioned in the previous post. Only when I started following my inner knowledge, only when I make choices based on what I love, what really resonates with me, did things start to change. It gave me focus, it gave me direction. I feel assured that I am on the right path.

 

 

 

 

Authentic Marketing

authentic marketing

My inbox is flooded with offers – webinars for turning pinterest into a business, how to use Facebook groups to make money, how to be a six figure author and speaker, etc. Then there’s the calls from telemarketers who can get my name at the top of a google search (for the right price) or “radio” producers who want to interview you for their show, give you 10 minutes (which never airs), lavishes you with praise (“You’re just what we’re looking for!”) only to try to sell you a slot (for a ridiculous amount of money.). One so called internet radio station called me and when I looked them up they had only been around for 3 months yet they claimed to have “millions” of listeners. When I ask for names of other people who have done it, somehow we got mysteriously disconnected. With one station, I actually found some people who had paid for a “show” and contacted them. It was unanimous that they didn’t get a good ROI on their investment.

The amount of promotional materials and marketing calls I get is overwhelming, not to mention, it could get pretty expensive if I bought into every webinar, online class and promotional stunt out there.

I’ll confess, I have bought into some of them and they were fine. There were others I thought about buying but the price tag was a little too big for me. I want my books to be bestsellers. I want sold out workshops. I want financial, emotional and intellectual success so these offers are enticing. So should we succumb to their siren song?

At a recent NAPW meeting, Jean Berry came to teach us the Miracle Manifesting Formula. She is fun, energetic and smart. Check out her game Angels, Peacocks and Butterflies – 100 days of Miracles. But then again, I think play should be a vital part of our business and our life. I’m certainly working to incorporate more play into my business.

Anyway, the big takeaway for me was:

“You need to do what you need to do out of inspiration and that’s how your business will grow”

I already knew this but it was validating. So many “experts” are out there telling you this is how you’re suppose to run your business:

“Facebook marketing is the way to go”

“You need to have an Instagram account”

“Have to have a website”

All these “have to’s”, “should’s”, “musts” – it’s enough to make your head spin. The problem is I’ve tried my fair share of things and you know what? My follow through has been crap. Why? Because they didn’t feel right to me.

This is my business and I can follow the “experts”, try everything, drain my bank account as well as my confidence doing things that don’t feel right to me. And that’s the key word – feel. Does it resonate with you? Are you excited and energized? Or does it feel like one more thing you have to do?

We live in a world where we have lots of options and for that I am grateful. But I learned I have to shut out the external noise about what I “should” or am “suppose” to do and listen to what my gut tells me. And that’s what you get to do too. If something doesn’t feel right, if you can’t seem to make yourself do it, then do something different! Pick something that makes you sing!

 

 

The F-Word You Need to Succeed

The F-word you need to succeed

Entrepreneurship is simple, not easy by any means, but simple. The more questions I ask, the more women I talk to, the more entrenched I get into my own business, the more I realize that creating a business can be summed up with a few key words. One of those words is focus.

Focus

When creating or running a business, your first focus should be on your mission. What are you trying to accomplish? You should have a clear statement of your intent. For instance, my mission is to educate, empower, inspire and support female entrepreneurs in creating financially, intellectually and emotionally rewarding businesses.

Why is a mission statement important? So you have criteria in which to:

  • define your ideal client
  • evaluate all your opportunities,
  • create your brand
  • coordinate your marketing efforts to reach your ideal client,
  • design all your products and services

Everything that I do in my business falls under one of the four categories: educate, empower, support and inspire.

Defining my mission statement was actually the easy part. Lately it’s been my day-to-day focus I’ve had problems with. It’s easy to get caught up in things like worrying about money or get sidetracked with stuff that doesn’t effect your bottom line (i.e. fancy office space when you could work at home) or taking course after course on various topics. Not that any of these things are bad, per se, but when you are just starting out, your focus should be on making sure you are adding value by solving some sort of problem and finding the people who have that problem and are willing to pay for it.

Let’s look at a couple of these distractions individually.

  • Money – I’m not discounting the fact that money is one of the reasons we create a business. After all, part of my mission is about creating financial success. But part of the planning process of a new business is to have a financial cushion. That means either starting your business part-time while you’re still working full-time or having enough in savings you’re willing to invest in yourself and your idea. Money’s been a top distraction creating my business but I realized that when I am focused on my lack of income, first of all I am focused on scarcity, which creates a desperation mindset. Since I believe that we all emit energy, this negative energy attracts only more negativity. Creativity doesn’t do well in such an environment and closes me off to new possibilities as well as people who could help. Second, thinking about money takes my creative energy away from creating value (i.e. products and services), which is what’s going to make me money!
  • Courses – My inbox is full of people hawking their courses – everything from creating podcasts to using video to create a six figure income in three months. While I’m a big fan of learning, I’ve become more discerning about following my own path and choosing what works and feels best for my business. I still read tons of books and take courses but they need to fit my criteria. Be aware if you are signing up for every course you get an email for. Sometimes it’s an avoidance tactic. The best education is getting out there and doing it. There is no way you are going to know everything you need to know before you start your business. As I’ve said before, not knowing is the path.
  • Fears – Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, so many fears. Often when we are avoiding something it’s because we are focused on our fears. The best thing to do is get them out in the open and address them. Fear of rejection was my biggest fear but I learned to stop focusing on me and focus on how I could be of service. Fear of failure is another one. Failure can be a terrifying word. Quit using it. You didn’t fail, you got feedback. Failure is a dead end while feedback is information you can use to move forward.

I’ve come up with a little trick to get me back on track when I lose focus and start worrying – I have three questions I ask myself:

  1. What did I learn? How will I apply it? Who can I teach it to?
  2. What value did I add?
  3. Who did I connect with?

These questions remind me that learning is a vital part of building a business. Adding value keeps me focused on activities that are the core of my mission: empower, educate, inspire and support. And at the heart of a business is connecting with others – even those that aren’t your ideal client.

What are you focusing on?

 

 

 

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

When you have three meetings in a day and in each of them the same word comes up, you take notice.

That word was authenticity.

I like Miriam Webster’s definition of authentic:

true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

It doesn’t surprise me at all that each of these meetings were with women.

I don’t think being authentic is something men worry about. I could be wrong as I’m not a man, but I know women of my generation were told, subtly or not, that to succeed in the workplace we had to be more like men – dress more like them, don’t be emotional, etc. One of the women I talked to told me she was advised to dye her naturally blonde hair darker to avoid looking like “Barbie”, the implication being no man would take her seriously. Can you imagine? She went darker but now that she owns her own business she proudly displays her beautiful blonde mane.

In her book Leaning In, Sheryl Sandberg, points out that success in the traditional workplace was often contingent upon a woman not speaking out but fitting in. We often compromised our goals for our spouses and children, sometimes willingly to be a stay-at-home mom, other times to avoid conflict because, as Sandberg notes,women are discouraged from advocating for themselves.

The point is many women my age have been socialized to play a role because being ourselves wasn’t good enough. When you get to the mid-century mark though, have raised your kids and accumulated enough life experience and time is closing in on you, you get real. Suddenly, you have no patience for all the bull, the drama or squandering time working towards someone else’s dream while yours withers. I think that is why so many women (of my generation) are  building their own businesses, because we’ve been told (subtly and not-so-subtly) that to succeed we can’t be ourselves. I spent decades thinking something was wrong with me so I tried to “fix” myself. Denying my true nature made for some very difficult, unhappy, unfulfilling years. Once I accepted myself, aligned with my strengths and values, a peaceful calm took over me. As a business owner I get to be who I want to be.

For me, being authentic has been a discovery process. I made certain assumptions about myself. Since I started my entrepreneurial adventure and realized the only person’s expectations I had to live up to were my own, I’ve surprised myself. Having suppressed or tried to change my true nature for so long , I’ve learned that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. This was inevitable but it’s been eye-opening.

For instance, I learned that I’m a lot more social than I thought. And I have a deep desire to take what I’ve learned and help others achieve their dreams. Of course there were hints here and there but I was too worried about getting approval and trying to “fit” in or do things the way the “experts” instructed that these gifts didn’t have the space to shine. Now that I’ve come to accept and, dare I say love and honor, my unique qualities, they’re bubbling up to the surface.

Building a business is tough. There is a lot to learn, challenges to overcome and fears to face but the reward for your perseverance is your own little universe where you write the rules according to your values and get to express your talents.

That, my friend, is living an authentic life.

 

 

What It Takes to be an Entrepreneur

What it takes to be an entrepreneur

I’ve been studying and interviewing female entrepreneurs and I’ve noticed some common themes.

In no particular order, this is what I’ve found:

Passion

Starting your own business is hard. Period. Whatever you are doing, make sure you are passionate about it. Why are you doing this? If it’s just for the money, trust me on this, it’s not enough to keep you going through the tough times. Did I mention there will be tough times? Being passionate about what you are doing will help you overcome the obstacles and give you the motivation you need to carry on.

Clarity

When I started my coaching business my mission was to “help everyone achieve their dreams!” It was a grand idea but the problem is, it’s so vague. You need to know what need you’re filling. Is there a gap in the marketplace? Is it a need to express your talent? And you need to know who has that need and is willing to pay for it. You should be crystal clear on what value you’re providing and who your ideal client is.

This will help you in a couple of ways. First, you can quit wasting your time on people who don’t want what you have to offer. Instead of talking to everyone, you can target the people who see the value of what you have to offer and want it.

Second, it makes it a whole lot easier to talk to others about what you’re doing. I used to hate going to networking events. I either got tongue tied or I could see their eyes glaze over and I knew I lost them. When you are passionate about what you do and you can specifically talk about the value you bring, people are a lot more receptive. You’re enthusiasm is contagious.

Support System

It is so much easier when you have supportive people in your corner. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I got a running partner that I realized how important it was. Many women I’ve interviewed or read about had supportive spouses who not only provided emotional support but were willing to jump in and lend a hand. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it could be another family member, friend, coach or mentor.

Learn as you go

I recently wrote about “Not knowing is the path.” I used to have this belief that I had to know it all before I could begin. I now know that part of the journey, the exciting part if you ask me, is what you learn along the way. Sure, it means having to step outside of our comfort zone and that’s why so many people don’t do it. But as I’ve said, the entrepreneur’s journey isn’t all about building a business, it’s who you become in the process. You don’t have to know how to be an entrepreneur to start. You just have to be willing to learn.

Ask for Help

Along with “learning as you go” is not being afraid to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help because we think we’re suppose to know it all and asking makes us appear weak, but guess what? Most people want to help and won’t look down on you for asking. As I’ve mentioned, there are things you need to learn so start asking questions.

Don’t be afraid to invest in experts such as lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. They can help you shorten your learning curve and prevent costly mistakes.

Know Yourself

Know what you like and don’t like to do. Know what you value. Know what your strengths are. Know what skills you have and what skills you need. Know what usually trips you up (fears, self-limiting beliefs) and strategies you’ve used to push through them in the past. Self-knowledge goes a long way in helping you determine what you want to create such as what business model to use (subscription base, brick and mortar store, online retailer, etc.

Believe in Yourself

I didn’t believe in myself for the longest time. I literally thought there was something wrong with me and was constantly trying to fix myself by trying to be more like other people. This turned me into a cranky bitch because I was constantly at war with myself.

After working with a coach, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me (other than the usual human frailties…) What a huge relief. Once I stopped fighting my true nature and accepted myself as the unique person I am, I was able to see all that I had accomplished. And if I was capable of learning how to walk, read, write, drive a car, knit, cook, etc, then I was capable of doing anything else. And so are you.

Sweat Equity

There’s no way getting around it. It will take action, aka hard work, to create a business, especially if you have a limited budget. You’ll probably be doing most, if not all the work in the beginning but learning your business is a good thing and worth the time. This is why it’s important to be passionate about what you’re doing. It will help keep you motivated and get you over the bumps.

If you look at this list, none of it is insurmountable. Whatever dream business you have, with creativity, clarity, passion and hard work, you can make it happen.

Why You’re Stuck and How to Get Unstuck

I just finished reading Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. It’s about creating learning organizations but there were a lot of concepts that can be applied in multiple ways. One of them is creative vs. emotional tension.

When you break it down, building a business is nothing more creating a plan that breaks everything down into a series of steps or goals. The advice is to start with the end in mind and work backwards. And this is usually where I hit my first roadblock. I’m the master planner but I failed miserably at execution. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. How can I want this so bad yet repeatedly get nowhere.

A goal is defined as the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. Goals are something we strive to achieve. There is this gap between where we are now and what we want to achieve at some future date. This gap creates tension. There are only two possible ways for tension to resolve itself. We can change or pull reality towards our goal. This is creative tension.

The other possibility is that we allow reality to drag our vision down. This is caused by emotional tension. Emotional tension has come in the way of a lot of dreams and caused the demise of many goals.

Creative tension is a positive force. When we hold our goals and ultimately our vision, front and center, we tap into our creativity and explore options to bring our vision to life. Robert Fritz says “It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.” We use creative tension as the fuel to generate the necessary change to achieve our goals, pulling us toward our vision. It’s about learning how to expand our ability to bring our goals to fruition. In essence we grow into our goals.

However, the discrepancy between our goals and our current reality triggers emotions. In the beginning our enthusiasm is high. We’re committed and excited. But when things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like them to, or we encounter challenges or fears, these emotions can turn to anxiety, discouragement or hopelessness.This is emotional tension. In an effort to alleviate this tension, we fall into the trap of watering down or abandoning our goals in order to relieve it. We’ve reduced our anxiety but at the cost of our vision.

How can we effectively use creative tension to reach our goals and can we eliminate or at least neutralize emotional tension?

To effectively use creative tension, requires only three things.

  1. You must have a compelling WHY. Why do you want to achieve this? It needs to be inner driven – something you truly want, not something you think you “should” have or do because that’s what your mom, spouse, friends, etc. think. Also, you need to make sure it’s POSITIVE – what you want, not what you don’t want. Senge points out that most adults don’t have a real vision. When asked what they want, most will talk about what they want to get rid of. He had one teenager observe “We shouldn’t call them ‘grown-ups’, we should call them ‘given-ups.’” I’ve been trying for decades, literally, to create a successful business. I can’t tell you how many different things I’ve tried and I would quit or lose interest. (Not all of it was a bad thing. I did learn a lot about myself and what I didn’t want and revised my plans.) At one point I tried to talk myself into giving up. I argued if it was really worth all the frustration and disappointment. My already shaky self-esteem was taking the hit for each failure. Why not just let it go, suck it up and get a job and “live for the weekend” like the majority of the population. But I couldn’t do it because my reason why was too compelling. I had a vision for my life. I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule, pick projects that interested and challenged me and work with people who inspired me. I wanted to make a difference. My why kept me going. I may have fallen but I picked myself back up each time.
  2. Focus on what you want and imagine you’ve already achieved it. This will activate your creative powers. It will energize and excite you. You’ll feel motivated, you are creating your life instead of just reacting to it. In Dan Baker’s book What Happy People Know one of the 5 characteristics of happy people is personal power. Personal power is the feeling that you have control, that you can influence the direction of your life. Tap into that by staying focused on what you want, acting as if it’s already come into being.
  3. Do something that will move you towards your goal. What you want isn’t going to appear out of thin air. You’re going to have to take action. Pick something, try it and if you don’t get the results you want, try something else. Don’t make the mistake I did. When I tried something and it didn’t work, I would try “harder”. You know what the definition of insanity is, right? I thought if it worked for the “experts”, and it didn’t work for me, then I thought I was the problem. I wasted a lot of time when I should have just moved on to something else. I put way too much trust in the “experts” instead of trusting my own instincts.

It’s that simple but needless to say, it isn’t easy. We live in an instant gratification world and our ability to handle discomfort is weak because, honestly, we rarely exercise it. We think discomfort is a sign that something is wrong with us when in fact it’s a normal fact of life. Avoiding it only reinforces our inability to tolerate and push through it. The enthusiasm we had when we started begins to wane. It causes stress and anxiety – emotional tension. Our focus shifts from our vision to our discomfort. And we want relief.

Whether we want to believe it or not, we are not rational, logical beings. We are emotional beings. Our emotions are indicators of our thoughts and our thoughts are formed by our beliefs. We are often unaware of our beliefs yet they drive all of our behavior.

To further complicate matters we treat these beliefs as TRUTHS, unchangeable facts when the truth is, they are nothing but habits of thought developed over time from our family upbringing, religion, socio-economic background and other experiences. The most important thing I learned in my coaching training is we have a choice (another characteristic of happy people) – we can choose what we want to think and believe. (Self-hypnosis is just retraining your brain to have different, hopefully more productive, habits of thought.)

This was an exciting revelation for me and being the introspective, self-help geek that I am, I delved deeper into the subject. What did I believe? Where did this belief come from? Looking back at my childhood, I realized I turned out pretty damn good given my family’s dynamics. Instead of being down on myself, I congratulated myself for making it this far. It was a liberating experience.

However, in order to eliminate or neutralize emotional tension, you don’t need to:

  • psychoanalyze your childhood,
  • know why you believe what you do,
  • you don’t even have to know what your hidden beliefs are.

All you have to do is ask yourself three questions.These three questions will help you get unstuck.

  1. “What am I feeling?” While most of our beliefs are hidden in our subconscious, our feelings are very apparent. We all know what it feels like to be motivated, frustrated, empowered, helpless, inspired, disappointed, happy and sad. Positive emotions fuel creative energy and inspire action. Negative emotions constrict it. Our brain has 3 parts: the primitive brain handles our survival instincts, our limbic is our emotional brain used to build social bonds and the neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic, reasoning and creativity.  For goal setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience  stress – emotional tension – the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every Single.Time. It’s going to do everything in it’s power to bring back safety. Hence our desire to cave in to emotional tension.
  2. Is this feeling (and the belief behind it) helping or hindering me in achieving my goals? Does it make me feel good? Am I excited? Energized?  Are my creative juices flowing? If not…
  3. What thought or belief would make me feel better while also helping me achieve my goal? Deciding to sleep in rather than get up early and exercise may make you feel better in the short term but it’s not going to help you achieve your goal to get in shape. In fact, it often has the reverse effect in the long run because we broke our commitment to our self and it reinforces self-limiting beliefs. Ask yourself “What mental state would be most productive in this situation? And which version of reality will help me get there?” You can choose! How empowering is that! You can change the narrative, you can rewrite your story. You are now the creator of your life.

Again, the process is simple but it isn’t easy. It requires vigilance in keeping our eye on the prize – why we want it and being aware at any moment what we are feeling and reframing our thoughts.

Not Knowing is the Path

Not knowing is the path

I’ve taken up meditation. I’m horrible at it. But at the end I say a little prayer to acknowledge the blessings in my life. I don’t have a set prayer, I usually just say something off the top of my head and yesterday I said, out of nowhere, “Not knowing is the path.”

Whoa! This struck an immediate cord with me.

Not knowing is the path.

Maybe there’s something to this meditation stuff after all. But what does that even mean? A couple of things came to my mind.

  1. Our strength lies in our vulnerability.  Do you think you have to know all the answers before your begin? That’s how we’re trained, isn’t it? But none of us know it all. NO ONE. In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says that mentality weakens us as individuals because “the search for understanding, knowing there is no ultimate answer, becomes a creative process.” He goes on to say, “Then curiosity, previously buried under the belief that ‘I know the answer’ is free to surface. The fear that ‘I don’t know, but perhaps he or she does,’ or ‘I don’t know but I should,’ dissolves”. Not knowing makes us curious and open. When I tried to hide my “not knowing” (that includes my lack of experience) it always backfired on me. I was wearing a mask and it wasn’t fulling anyone, least of all myself. But when I admitted I was a beginner, that I didn’t know but I was willing to learn, a lot of supportive people showed up. People like to help and it takes guts to say “I don’t know.”
  2. Not knowing leads to growth. For me, part of the appeal of being an entrepreneur is exploring new ideas, developing new skills, facing new challenges. I am easily bored. I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over and over again. Not knowing is the path because when you choose to go down it, that’s were the magic happens. That’s where we stretch outside our comfort zone (sometimes we are dragged there), where we learn about ourselves and our ability to grow into our goals. That’s what this whole journey, at least for me, is all about.
  3. Not knowing keeps us open to the possibilities. I told a friend I never would call myself an “expert” because once I did, I was closing my mind off to new possibilities. No matter how far I come, there will always be something new to learn, areas to grow. It’s never ending. I never want to be at the point where I say “I know it all, there is nothing more to learn on the subject.” Life is continually changing and we can move forward with it or we can stop. I’ve seen first hand what happens when people stop. It’s tragic. I want to stay engaged in life.

The takeaway is don’t let not knowing stop you from doing what you want to do. Creating a business is a process, a journey. It’s not plug in and go. There will be parts you feel confident about and other parts you don’t have a clue to how to do. And there are still parts you don’t even know you don’t know – yet.

It’s good to have a starting point, know what you want to do, who you want to do it for and how you’re going to do it but there’s still a lot of leeway and flexibility. You don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t so try something. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not knowing is the path.