Someone approached me about helping her with strategy to develop her business. She was working in a non-coaching, non-personal growth field, one that I had only a little experience in–but she liked my approach to marketing and the conversations we’d had about business, and she wanted my help. (**Note: I have her permission to write about this).
She felt stuck and stalled; she’d been working in her industry for nearly ten years and while she’d always been able to make ends meet, things were hand-to-mouth, feast-or-famine, and she saw other people who weren’t as talented taking on clients left and right.
We began the initial work together; I asked her most of the same questions I ask coaches when we do one-on-one consults to develop their coaching practices, and we were underway.
There was just one thing: I kept noticing resistance. Overwhelm. Hesitation.
Initially in the face of her reactions, I kept double-checking my ideas. Perhaps, being less with her industry, what I was suggesting she try was not something that would reasonably work.
“No, that’s not it,” she said, grimacing. “It’s just…well, it just seems like a lot of work.”
A Lot of Work or a Lot of Fear?
Her statement was not a complete shock, to me. We were talking about her business, but her response was in line with the sort of fearful responses that people bring to the table when they start to do personal growth work. Sometimes, fear shows up as, “Gosh, that sounds like a lot of work. Maybe I was just fine where I was.”
We talked about fear. We talked about overwhelm. We talked about courage. She felt better. “I’m just afraid, that’s all,” she said. “I just need to dive in there and do what we’re talking about. I’ve got this.”
Then, the next time we met, I’d check in on her progress. She was doing the things that we’d talked about, but then– “I mean, is this really even going to do anything?” she asked.
Hmmm. As far as I could tell, we were covering important bases. She had wanted to establish her niche, learn how to market to them, get a full website review, and start planning how she would launch a product. We were in the process of covering all of that. She had already started to receive more phone calls and her Twitter followers had gone from 0 to 40 in, oh, two weeks–some pretty good growth!
I said that with time and consistency, I thought that yes, her efforts would “do something.”
“I don’t know,” she said, that hesitant look on her face. “It just seems like so much work!”
But I knew the truth: It wasn’t really so much that it was a lot of work. We had established in another session that she would only spend a few hours on various tasks, total, each week. Really, it was a lot of fear.
The One Ingredient
I define the practice of courage as:
* feeling afraid (because no one gets out of that part and it’s a fallacy to think that you can);
* diving in anyway (because what would you do otherwise–stay stuck?);
* transforming (because that’s always what happens when we meet our edges and face our fear).
What was happening with my client was this: she was feeling afraid and resisting her fear (a major energy drain that only makes the fear worse!). Then she’d talk to me and we’d have conversations about being with her fear, letting fear be okay, and she’d feel better–even though the fear was still there–because she was being with the fear instead of resisting it.
But–then she’d be on her own, and she’d stop practicing what she had practiced when we were together. Suddenly, fear was an enemy and a problem. Without something external telling her that things would be okay (me), she wasn’t practicing courage.
As much as I know and believe that suffering is optional, I have yet to meet a successful business owner who has said that it’s really simple and easy, all of the time. Like anything else in life, working for yourself waxes and wanes. There are times when it’s easeful and smooth, and times when it’s more difficult. Even nuttier? The difficulties change–something that’s a huge challenge one year can be easy the next, and then another challenge arises to take its place.
My client was feeling afraid of stepping into a bigger dream for herself and her business.
* That’s why she had spent ten years just muddling through, taking on whatever work came her way, while silently feeling inferior when other people who had graduated from her same college at the same time had gone on to become hotshots in her industry.
* That’s why she had never gotten onto social media even though her particular industry was one of the first to start using it.
* That’s why she wasn’t regularly collecting deposits from clients, and then finding herself resentful when they paid the final bill late, for work that had already been completed.
* That’s why she didn’t have pre-formatted contracts or requests for proposals set up and ready to go so that she could expedite getting things to a new potential client.
* That’s why she didn’t enter competitions in her industry (“Someone else has probably already done it, and better”) and that’s why, when I suggested she request interviews from some of her personal heroes in the industry to post on her blog, she responded with: “Why would that person want to talk to me?”
Courage is a practice. We’re more familiar with things like practicing patience or practicing compassion. And like patience, like compassion, like so many other practices in life, we are practicing courage to some degree, or we are not.
When we’re practicing patience, some part of us wants to snap and tell people to GET IT DONE, NOW! but we don’t.
When we’re practicing compassion, some part of us wants to tell the person that they’ve royally screwed up–but we don’t.
When we’re practicing courage, we want to give up and say forget it–but if you’re practicing courage, you don’t.
You continue to meet your fear. You allow the fear to be there just as the impatience would be there if you were trying to practice patience and the urge to get snippy would be there if you were practicing compassion. You breathe through it. You trust that there is a larger reason for practicing courage, just as there is a larger reason for practicing patience of compassion.
You feel the fear, dive in anyway, and transform–absolutely every time.