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.

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction

My knowledge of the Law of Attraction comes from three books I recently read (in this order): Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn (Grabhorn wrote her book six years before The Secret came out), The Law of Attraction, the Basics of the Teachings of Abraham by Esther and Jerry Hicks and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention.

Grabhorn’s book was a good introduction to the concept, less “woo-woo”. The Hick’s book helped fill in some of the missing holes. It definitely requires you to open your mind a bit more, but by the time I read it, I was receptive to its message. Dr. Dyer’s book only mentions the law of attraction once but after reading the first two books it was obvious to me what it was about. He comes at it from the perspective of intention, citing Shaman and eastern religious philosophies.

Grabhorn’s book was the first published, followed by Dyer’s and then Esther and Jerry Hick’s book (their book was the catalyst for The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which I have not read but I did see the video.)

The Cliff Notes version of the Law of Attraction is this: You get what you focus on.

The concept is that we are all made up of energy. Energy vibrates at different frequencies and like a tuning fork (or magnets) like attracts like. Our thoughts and beliefs create energy in the form of our emotions and it is these feelings that determine how we’re vibrating. When we feel good, we are vibrating at a high frequency. When we feel bad we are vibrating at a low frequency. So the key is to direct our focus to the things we want – that make us feel good – so we’ll attract more of it into our life. It’s remarkably simple – in any situation all you have to do is pay attention to how you feel. If you feel good, you’re on the right track. If you don’t, then you need to redirect your focus or reframe your thinking until you do.

Is it easy? Hardly, because we’ve become so conditioned by habits of thoughts and false beliefs that it is hard to tap into that pure feeling of joy. Most of us have been brought up to focus on the negatives. Think of how many times we heard the word “no” or “don’t do that.” when we were children. And it continues into adulthood. We tend to think about what we don’t want (I don’t want to be fat) or what we lack (I wish I had a better job). Even when we do focus on what we want, we don’t believe we can have it (I want a Porsche but…).

This is hardly new stuff. It’s been written about by all the major religions. The great Greek philosophers talked about it. More current (and still popular) contributors include James Allen’s little tome – As a Man Thinketh – written in the early 1900’s and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

I’ve noticed it in my own life and I’m sure you can bring up examples too. I can think back to my last fender bender. It was raining and the thought going through my head was “The road is slippery, I hope I don’t slide into a car” and guess what I did – slid right into a car!

It’s taken me awhile to be receptive to the Law of Attraction. First of all, some might view it as “airy-fairy” stuff. “Sure,” you might say, “all I have to do is wish I had a million bucks and it’s going to be delivered to my door by some genie on a flying carpet <eye roll>”. And reading the Hick’s Law of Attraction is going to require an open mind because the Abraham they are referring to in the title is a collective of beings channeled through Esther Hicks. Don’t let your skepticism keep you from reading it.

But the underlying message does make sense. Admit it – when you’re in a good mood it seems like everything is going your way. And when you wake up on the “wrong side of the bed”, you just can’t seem to catch a break, it’s one disaster after another. You wonder why you bothered getting up.

Applying the law of attraction is simple. All you have to do is figure out what you REALLY want and focus on it. You can tell if you are doing it right because you will feel good. If you feel bad, then you are focusing on a don’t want, lack of or some other negative thought/belief. Change your focus or reframe your thoughts until you feel good. You don’t have to monitor every single thought you have, you don’t have to examine why you have these thoughts, all you have to do is be aware of how you are feeling.

Here’s the thing many people miss, this isn’t about wishful thinking, you do have to take action. Creating is a verb, after all, and the whole point is to deliberately (as opposed to by default – which is a huge portion of the population) create the life you want. The creation process begins in our heads – we must think it into being, we must see it, visualize it and expect that we’ll get it and then we will be inspired, guided or led to take perfect action. Through our vibrations we will draw the people, events, things, ideas, etc into our life so we can create what we want with ease. “Action that comes from the feeling of inspiration is action that will produce good results,” according to Abraham in The Law of Attraction. In Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting, Grabhorn writes “Does this mean we stop doing? Of course not. We just substitute inspired doing for wasted doing by stopping our constant knee-jerk responses to everything…Action becomes a joy instead of a ‘have to’.”

When we work from a negative perspective, when we are desperate, needy, angry, etc. any action we take is like trying to climb uphill pushing a boulder.

So what does this all mean in terms of creating a business?

The big takeaway for me is to be very clear about what you want and focus on it. What kind of business do you want? What problem are you solving? Who do you want to serve (your ideal client) and get as specific as possible. Only when I was crystal clear on what I was trying to achieve with my business (my vision and mission) and who my ideal client was (it took me over a year of working at my business to figure all this out) and focused solely on that, did it start to grow.

What has been your experience with the law of attraction? I’d love to hear your opinions, comments and stories.

Stop Replaying Negative Tapes

Quit Replaying Negative Tapes

Have you ever said or did something stupid?

Do you let it go?

Or, are you like me and after the fact replay the scene over and over and over again in your mind? So instead of feeling the shame, guilt or whatever, learning from it and moving on, you hold onto it, letting it fester?

Let’s face it, we are not perfect. We get tired, hungry, lonely, angry and we react in the moment only to regret it. It happens. How you think about the situation will determine whether or not you learn from it or let it become another chip in your self-esteem.

In Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by the Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer, there is an acronym – SEEDS – that will help put these events into perspective. You’ll learn the lesson and move on instead reliving the moment over and over again, which is not only unproductive but damaging to your self-esteem.

Here is what it means and how it works:

S-See the situation as neutral. Depersonalize it. It isn’t always easy, especially when you where the one that fueled it to begin with. How do you do it? It’s with language. Don’t let the situation define you. Instead of saying “I am so stupid!”, say “That was a stupid thing to say”

E- Evaluate the situation, who owns the problem? Well, if you were the one who said/did something, chances are you own it. Take full responsibility. “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say.” We don’t want to be wrong or appear vulnerable but when we accept responsibility for our actions, people appreciate it and most will understand and move on.

E- Shift your emotions to fit your evaluation. Just because you said/did something stupid doesn’t mean you are a stupid person. You can still be a good/smart/kind, etc person who said something stupid. Join the club – it’s called being human.

D- Do something about the situation. The mistake isn’t the bad part, most people understand mistakes happen. The real test comes in how you handle the mistake. Productive action gives you back control of the situation. Doing so allows closure by turning a negative situation into a positive one. Otherwise you’re just hanging onto all that negative energy and it will continue to spill out into other areas of your life. So instead of stubbornly denying it or blaming someone else, ask what can you do to rectify the situation? What can you do differently next time?

S-Self-esteem is restored. As I said previously, holding onto that negative picture diminishes our confidence. Using the SEEDS process allows us to shift it from a negative to a positive.

The beauty of the SEEDS analysis is that it can be used for any situation causing you stress, not just the ones that you created. SEEDS helps us put things in perspective and makes us realize that we do have control over how we see things and we do have power to change it.

Emotional Intelligence

I recently attended a presentation on Emotional Intelligence  given by leadership expert and author Dr. Joe Serio.

Emotional intelligence is understanding and recognizing ours and the emotions of others and managing them, according Dr. Serio. The “game” (of job hunting, relationships, life) is about feelings. “It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you feel about what you know.” Your thoughts and beliefs often determine how we feel so emotional intelligence is about how you can better yourself and achieve your goals.

There are four parts to emotional intelligence. The first two are about you and the last two are about how you interact with others.

  1. Self-awareness – What are you telling yourself? What do you believe? What stories are you carrying around? Introspection can be painful as we hold onto past hurts and let them spill into our conversation.
  2. Self-management – how do you behave? Can you control your emotions or do you fly off the handle at the slightest offense?
  3. Social awareness – I have a friend that called it social fluidity – the ability to adapt to different personality types and find common ground in order to make a connection. Are you aware of social cues such as body language?
  4. Relationship management – How are your relationships? If you don’t know, ask them.This can be scary but listen even if you don’t like what they say ask what you can do differently.

As with everything else, it starts by asking yourself: who am I? What do I want? How am I going to get it? Clarity and focus is  the key. Once you’ve answered these questions, the next thing to figure out is your strategy for getting it.

You do have a strategy right? (Winning the lottery is not a valid strategy). Here’s the thing, as Dr. Joe said, in order to have something you’ve never had you have to do something you’ve never done. Nothing is going to change by playing it safe. If you’re not getting the results you want then do something different (I’ve said this multiple times).

Even when you have a strategy, we get stuck in a rut. “Everything happens outside of your comfort zone,” Dr. Joe reminds us.

What keeps us inside our comfort zone? Fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, so many fears. Dr. Joe calls it a “what if” life when we give away our energy and power by mentally playing out negative scenarios.

So how do we manage our fears? He gives us a seven step process as follows:

  1. Acknowledge your fears. What we resist, persists.
  2. Identify it – As Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscience researcher and author of The Upward Spiral, listening, labeling and acknowledging our emotions lessons their impact. It has such a powerful effect on the brain that it is used in mediation, mindfulness and by FBI hostage negotiators.
  3. Measure it – how afraid are you? We let our fears get away from us by being hyperfocused on it and believing it’s real.
  4. Imagine the worst case scenario. Is it really all that bad in the grand scheme of things? If it is, at least you’ve identified the situation and the first step in solving a problem is identifying it.
  5. Gather information and support. Ask other people how they handled this situation. Not only does this help you get ideas on how to deal with the situation, but also let’s you know you’re not alone. Other people have faced what you are and gotten through it.
  6. Contemplate your past success with change. You’ve made it through other problems, changes, etc, you can get through this too.
  7. Celebrate!

The bottom line is – events are neutral, it is our response to them that determines our outcomes. What we believe about ourselves determines how we think. We rarely examine our thoughts and beliefs, they’ve become habit, we aren’t even conscious of them. Awareness is the first key. Listen to what you tell yourself and question whether it is helping or hindering you. You always have a choice to think differently which will affect your emotional state.

What the heck is Psycho-Cybernetics?

What the heck is psycho-cybernetics?

I happened to pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer a couple of months ago. It says on the cover that it has helped millions find greater self-esteem and fulfillment and the premise of the book is “by expanding your self-image you expand the limits of your talents and capabilities.” Bottom line is when you develop positive inner goals you will be able to create positive outer goals. It asserts you’ll never change your behavior until you change your self-image.

You may wonder why I read these books if my focus is on helping entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about marketing, business plans, financials, etc? While those are all important to a business,what I’ve discovered is none of that matters if you can’t get past your own fears and self-limiting beliefs. That is why I spend so much time learning about how we think and exploring our mindset. The first step to creating a successful business is believing you can.

Much of what the book said resonated with me. As a coach, I think the most valuable part of my training was becoming aware of and questioning the validity of my own thoughts and beliefs. We tend to live with them as if they are unchangeable truths, when in fact, we can choose to change them at any time. But the problem is most of us are unaware of what we think and believe because they’ve become so ingrained and habitual. So we react instead of respond and get tripped up by our own negative thinking or as psycho-cybernetics would explain it, a poor self-image.

What does psycho-cybernetics mean anyway? Maltz believed the mind/body connection regulates our self-concept or image. Cybernetics, according to Wikipedia, is “an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities … Cybernetics is used when a system displays a closed signaling loop – a ‘circular causal’ relationship. The action in the system creates a change in the environment and that change is reflected in the system and triggers a system change.”

In English, cybernetics refers to an automatic guidance system. Maltz believed that our brain and nervous system function as a “servomechanism” or goal seeking device. According to Maltz, it is our self-image that determines whether we are successful or not. And what determines our self-image? Our thoughts and beliefs. We always act in a way that is consistent with our self-image.

Like computers (but so much more complex), our brains follow whatever directions we give it. We have a conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind looks at its options and chooses the one it sees best. When it makes its choice, all other options are eliminated at that moment.

The subconscious mind will move in the direction and do whatever the conscious mind tells it.

Our experiences, upbringing, religion, socializing, schooling, etc have all played a huge part in creating our thoughts and beliefs. Through repetition, those thoughts and beliefs have become ingrained and habitualized in our subconscious. Problems in our self-image occur when we internalize negative thoughts and beliefs and we are unable to move beyond them. We think we are bad at math, hence any other options cease to exist so our subconscious mind follows orders – bad at math. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point.

Psycho-Cybernetics is about becoming aware of these habitual patterns of thought and self-limiting beliefs and reprogramming your brain for success.

Psycho-Cybernetics consists of six steps:

  1. Program yourself for success.
  2. Imagine your way to success
  3. Relax
  4. Set goals
  5. Use negative feedback for course correction
  6. Disinhibit your personality

Step one is about being aware of our thoughts. Are they serving or hindering us? Does the belief that you are bad at math serve you when you are trying to look at the financials of your business or do they hinder you, resulting in overspending, low margins, etc. Negative thoughts and beliefs equal negative outcomes.

Our thoughts and beliefs aren’t unchangeable truths. You have a choice. Your subconscious mind will follow whatever you choose, good or bad.

What do you do about those negative thoughts? Maltz offers CRAFT – you become aware and challenge the negative thoughts/ beliefs and replace them with positive ones –

  • Cancel the negative data (actually say “cancel” out loud),
  • Replace it with a positive thought,
  • Affirm your new image to yourself,
  • Focus on the image of a successful you and
  • Train yourself for lasting change (acting as if).

Visualization is also a powerful tool used in psycho-cybernetics. Our brain can’t distinguish between a real or imagined event. By visualizing a successful outcome, you are, in essence, training your brain. Athletes do it all the time with mental rehearsal. It’s the ol’ “fake-it-till-you-make-it” concept.

Programming yourself and imagining success is essentially bringing your thoughts and beliefs into your awareness and challenging those that aren’t serving you and creating a new vision of how you want to be, rewriting a new script, telling a different story, through visualization.

The next step is to learn to relax.The whole point of these books is to take control of your life and create it on your terms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to think clearly or creatively when we are stressed. We actually have three brains. One is our primitive brain – it operates strictly on instinct, one is for emotions and the neo-cortex is what gives us our distinct advantage over other primates. It’s all about higher reasoning and critical thinking. However, when we are stressed, our primitive brain takes over. We are in survival mode. We react, we’re operating on instinct. It overrides all critical thinking. There’s no time for that – we’re in danger.

Managing stress is imperative to being able to achieve our goals.

The key to a lot of modern day stress is to understand most situations are neutral. It is our response to it that creates stress. We also tend to take ownership of problems that aren’t ours. 

Can you depersonalize the situation? Mistakes or problems do not define you. Do not identify with your disappointments. There is a big difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a failure”. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

What’s a guiding system without a target, right? Goals give us direction, otherwise we’ll just be drifting along like flotsam in a river, at the mercy of the current. It’s important to choose goals that are yours – not what your parents want, your spouse, your best friend, etc. (I specifically address the goal setting process in my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It). Goals force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone so take small steps. Give yourself time to grow into your goals. And while you should have a plan, remain flexible and take consistent action. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t get caught in the trap of “trying harder”. You didn’t make a mistake, it’s not you. Consider it feedback and do something different. Keep moving forward.

My take on psycho-cybernetics is when we quit buying into our negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, productive ones, we are on the path to achieving our goals.

 

 

 

 

3 Tools to take action on your goals

3 tools to take action on your goals

What percentage of people do you think achieve their New Year’s resolutions? 50%? 33%? 12%?

It’s actually 8%. I’m not surprised. We sincerely want to quit our bad habits, pursue our dreams and be our best selves, but when it’s time to work on our goals, why are we suddenly compelled to clean out the vegetable drawer – or is that just me? Our intentions are good but our follow through, well, sucks.

To make matters worse, when I set goals I think I have superhuman powers and put unrealistic demands on myself and my time – who needs sleep? I never questioned this approach and each time I felt like a failure because not only did I NOT reach my goal, I barely got started.

I thought I lacked discipline but the problem wasn’t me, the problem was my approach. I didn’t need iron-clad willpower, what I needed was a system that took me from planning to DOING. Action is the only way to build momentum and create new habits and I’ve discovered a few tools that helped me move through my fears and resistance to reach my goals.

But first, I’d like to talk about how our brain works. Our brains have 3 parts:

  • the primitive brain handles our survival instincts,
  • The limbic is our emotional brain and is used for building social bonds.
  • The neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic and reasoning.

For goal-setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience fear or stress, the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every. Single. Time. It’s going to do everything in its power to alleviate that stress. My unrealistic plans triggered some fear and my primitive brain reacted, thus the overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. I needed a subtler approach so my brain worked for, not against me. The tools that work for me are: break it down, the 5 minute plan and low expectations.

1. Break it Down

In my previous process, to use a writing analogy, I tried to jump from never writing to a finished novel overnight. It’s like expecting a baby that just learned how to roll over to start running. I was depriving myself of the learning opportunities in all those little steps and the habits and confidence they built. I finally realized that achieving a goal means growing into it, one step at a time.

2. Commit to 5 Minutes

The 5 minute plan is a another great tool to overcome resistance. I actually thought I could work 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week and another 16 hours on the weekend to work on my goals, in addition to my full-time job and everything else life threw at me. And I wondered why I couldn’t get started! Then a coach suggested I turn it down a notch and start with 5 minutes. It seems counter-intuitive, What could I accomplish in 5 minutes? Never mind that I wasn’t accomplishing anything before

Here’s the thing, getting started is often the hardest part and 5 minutes is ridiculously easy and non-threatening (remember that primitive brain?), that it was easy to commit to. And if you know Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Five minutes is usually all I need to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling.

3. Lower Expectations

The final tool is lower your expectations. Now, I’m not saying lower your standards, always do your best. Just accept in the beginning your best might not be all that good. But in order to improve you have to practice. I read about a pottery teacher that did an experiment. He told one class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they made. He told another their grades would be based on one pot. The class that was graded on quantity actually produced the best pots. Why? Practice! They were focused on the process while the one pot class was focused on the product. In the beginning quantity is more important than but will eventually lead to quality. It’s the process, all that practice that matters, not the product, which is just the end result. So quit worrying about how good it is.

Pursuing our goals is gratifying but the path is seldom easy. It’s good to have some tools that we can use that work with our brain to get us started as well as get us back on track if we slip into old habits when the novelty and excitement of our goal wears off. When you are having trouble getting started I challenge you to apply breaking things down, the 5 minute plan and lowering your expectations.

The Missing Factor in Career Advice

the missing piece of career advice

After a huge transition, an awakening if you will, when I realized I had been letting fear run my life, I decided moving forward that I would live in love.

Love doesn’t seem like a topic for a career blog, but I don’t see my work as separate from my life – my work brings me life and I bring life into my work. Living in love is my personal motto on how I want to live all aspects of my life.

There are some core beliefs to my philosophy of living in love. I chose them because they resonated with me. I keep returning to these when faced with a challenge to help ground me and put things into perspective so I can move forward on a positive note.

Acceptance

I think the first, Acceptance, is the hardest to put into practice. We have strong beliefs and opinions about how life is suppose to be and how people should behave. When things don’t fall in line with what we want, we tend to react negatively – judging, criticizing, or getting angry. But none of that changes the reality of what has happened or who people are, including ourselves. I’ve put myself through so much grief because I was trying to get reality to line up with my expectations. Reality couldn’t care less what I wanted. I was fighting a losing battle, making myself miserable and hurting my relationships.

Acceptance begins with ourselves. It has a trickle down effect because once we accept ourselves, warts and all, we become accepting of others. When we quit judging ourselves, we don’t feel the need to judge others and become open to new perspectives. Acceptance has shown me that I can learn from others when I really listen and try to understand someone instead of trying to impose my beliefs, point of view or prove I’m right. Many of our struggles disappear when we quit fighting reality and accept what is and who people are. Peace comes when we trade expectations for acceptance.

Generosity

Author Jay Woodman said “Just be yourself. You don’t ever have to pretend you are someone else. If you try to do that then you don’t have anything to give the world. Accept and give your gifts with love.”

I love that he used the word “gifts”. I use that word to remind myself to give freely with no expectations. I like to think of generosity as sharing our gifts.

I spent a good portion of my life worried about what others thought of me and twisting myself up like a pretzel to win their approval. I realized that this hyper focus on me (“will they like me?”) was rooted in fear and got in the way of what I wanted to create – meaningful relationships. When I shifted my focus to others, trying to figure out how I could be of service to them, I was able to make the connections I desired with relative ease.

We all have something to give. The media wants us to believe it should be big, splashy, extravagant and EXPENSIVE but the truth is, the most precious gifts we can offer cost nothing – a smile, words of encouragement, a warm embrace, our undivided attention or acceptance because when genuinely offered, they come from our hearts.

I found that sharing my gifts is it’s own reward but it also opened my eyes to the many gifts that present themselves daily – a beautiful sunset, an “I love you” from my son, or a tasty meal. Which brings me to…

Gratitude

Years ago I read a parenting book and the only thing that stuck with me was we get what we focus on. If all we think about is the lack in our life, nothing will ever be enough. If all we ever see is problems, we’ll miss the opportunities. Gratitude opens our eyes to the limitless potential of the universe while dissatisfaction closes our eyes to it.

Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. If we’re thankful for what we have, show our appreciation and return kindnesses then our hearts will open.

Advertisers want us to believe that happiness can be bought, but true happiness comes from cultivating a grateful heart – to be thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t. We are surrounded by riches if we just open our eyes to the beauty around us. Gratitude helps us grow and expand and brings joy and laughter into our lives and into the lives of all of those around us.

My life has changed in ways I could never have imagined since I decided to live in love. I found fulfilling work, richer and deeper connections and a sense of calm and peace. It’s not advice you’ll find in traditional business books but then again, traditional career advice got me nowhere, maybe because it only focused on the brain and didn’t include the heart.