Isn’t it time to declare your independence?
Soon, those of us in the United States will be celebrating Independence Day, a holiday we normally associate with a political event back in 1776. However, you don’t have to be creating a whole new nation to declare an Independence Day of your own. You can choose to do so at any time you’re ready to let go of habits and behaviors that aren’t getting you the results you want. In fact, now might be a great time to do it if you’re…
- a creative and determined entrepreneur
- who’s gotten into some bad habits
- is frustrated by her stinky results
- worries sometimes that she might actually have to go get a j-o-b
- and is ready to break free of self-sabotage
Ring any bells? Then let’s get to it.
You can choose a better mindset. But will you?
Like any other change you choose to make in your business, getting out of self-sabotage mode is deceptively simple. In fact, there are just two main steps to it:
1. Identify what counterproductive habits are tripping you up.
2. Identify and implement strategies for dealing with them.
Piece of cake, right? Oh, if only! This is a classic case of “simple” being different than “easy”. But if you approach this change strategically and with forethought, it will certainly be less difficult, even – Dare I say it? – easier than it would be if you just jumped in with enthusiasm but no planning.
Give these tools a try and see how they improve your results.
Identify what trips you up the worst.
While everyone’s situation is unique, it’s also true that certain common stumbling blocks affect many business professionals. In my work with overwhelmed clients, I’ve found that the following three behavioral habits are among the most common obstacles that screw up their results:
I see these three problems as being closely related to each other; in fact, any one of them does a fabulous job of exacerbating the other two. (How very efficient….) The question you get to ask yourself – and bring a ruthless honesty to answering – is, “Which of these seems to lead the way for me?”
Figure out and implement a strategy for addressing the obstacle.
Here’s where you get to pull out all the stops in asking for help. Who do you know who seems NOT to struggle with your problem-child behavior? How do they address it? What tools and resources do they use? If you don’t personally know someone who has triumphed over this particular adversity, what social-media platforms can you use to seek help? LinkedIn group discussions, relevant blog posts by professionals you admire, and requests for input on your Facebook page can all contribute potential solutions.
To get you started on kicking bad-habit butt, here are some ideas that have worked for my clients and me:
- Experiment with decisiveness. For one week, follow through on your gut reaction about acting or not acting on anything that shows up in your inbox. See what happens if you immediately delete everything that does not prompt a strong, “Ooh, I need that!” reaction. (Obstacles addressed: procrastination and indecision.)
- Pay attention to when you “should” on yourself. When you tell yourself “I should read that…”, chances are excellent that the unspoken second half of the statement is, “…but I won’t really do it.” So if you’re unlikely to follow through, why not clear your mental decks by letting go of the “should” now? (Procrastination; indecision.)
- Unsubscribe. You’ve heard it before, but have you done it? I will often sign up for a particular free offer that addresses a specific question I have, then immediately unsubscribe from the list. I’m sure the list builder is not thrilled with my choice, but my business and my mental health are. (Distractions; procrastination.)
- Designate a go-to spot for ideas you intentionally choose to address later. Rather than having sticky notes scattered all around, or a dozen windows open and nattering at you, create whatever sort of action-oriented “future file” works for you. One of my clients swears by SmartSheet, a highly versatile program you can use as your go-to location and tool for managing projects, tracking budgets, tracking prospect contacts…and noting projects that are more appropriately done at some future date. (Distractions.)
- Tap the power of “activation energy.” I’ve previously alluded to this concept, which is a powerful tool when you’re ready to break a bad habit or start a good one. The idea behind breaking a bad habit is to increase the effort – the activation energy – required to indulge in that habit.
For example, if you can be easily seduced into eating an entire pint of ice cream at one sitting, don’t even purchase it; instead, require yourself to leave the house to get your fix. If you have to drive or – Gasp! – walk to the store for ice cream, how likely are you to yield to temptation?
Similarly, if you want to start a good habit – say, remaining more focused on your important business-building activities – then make it easy to stay focused by only having open the one computer application (or one website) you need to complete your task right now; eliminating auditory notifications of emails; working away from your home office so your eight-month-old puppy’s antics don’t derail your focus. (Distractions.)
- Practice being brave. Often times we hesitate to take action because we’re worried about consequences. “What will I miss out on if I don’t follow that link? If I say ‘no’ to this opportunity now, will I ever have another chance to say ‘yes’ to it? I’ll deal with that [customer complaint, huge bill, request to speak pro bono, yadda yadda yadda…] later.”
Courage “muscles” need just as much attention as physical ones, so figure out some low-risk situations in which to practice doing something that makes you mildly uncomfortable. You’ll not only discover that discomfort is survivable; you’ll also be willing to tolerate more of it in return for bigger payoffs. (Procrastination; indecision.)
Set an accountability system in place.
As I mentioned in a previous post, holding oneself accountable for changes – especially uncomfortable ones – is rarely as effective as having someone else hold you accountable. The sad truth is that most of us are too often willing to allow ourselves to weasel out of the big, tough, vital activities our businesses require of us.
What do you need for your accountability system to do the job?
- Your accountability partner must be willing to do their part, which means NOT accepting any excuses about why the task you committed to finish never actually got done.
- You must be willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes time to check in with your partner. Trying to game the system by saying you accomplished your homework when you really didn’t is a bad, bad idea. It will erode your confidence, damage your integrity, and keep you stuck in lousy results.
- You must check in with your partner regularly and relatively frequently. For my personal accountability system as well as those where I’m the accountability partner for my client, my preference is for weekly check-ins; however, I’ve successfully connected with clients every other week, as well.
- Your check-in times must be held sacred by both your partner and yourself. Everything gets scheduled around check-ins. The only valid exceptions involve spurting blood or other genuine emergencies.
- You must have consequences in place for not following through on your commitments. I personally prefer something involving either chocolate or cold, hard cash. If you’re really committed, you can ask your accountability partner to comment on your successes – and failures – on your Facebook page.
So there are some powerful tools for throwing a big, honkin’ wrench in the works of any self-sabotage you may be dealing with, so you can break free of those mental and behavioral habits which keep you stuck. Which of them resonate with you? Have you had good success with other strategies? If so, please let me know how you did it; there’s no such thing as too much defense against self-sabotage!
Or are you shooting yourself in the foot so many different ways that you can’t even begin to choose one to work on? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the areas that could use improvement? If so, I might be able to help.
My specialty is showing start-and-stop entrepreneurs how to toss out what’s not working or what doesn’t deserve their attention, then follow through on the important things that will get them the clients, revenues, and satisfaction they crave.
Is that something you could benefit from? Maybe.
One way to find out is to spend some time getting acquainted by phone. If we have the chance to ask and answer some questions, we’ll both feel confident about deciding whether to start working together yesterday or down the road or never in this lifetime.
It’s easy to set up that no-risk-to-anyone get-acquainted call. Just figure out when you’ve got some time in your schedule, then call me at 319-270-1214 with those options . Or you can email me with “It might be time for me to break free” in the subject line. We’ll set up our call and see what we see. And in the meantime, you might want to stockpile some sparklers for when you do celebrate your Independence Day.
(And thanks to Daniel Albi for posting his fireworks image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in action plan, mindset and tagged accountability, effectiveness. Bookmark the permalink.