I work with some of the smartest and driven women that I know. They work hard, have huge aspirations, and high expectations – both of themselves and of others. But occasionally things don’t go as they planned or don’t move as fast as they want. They start making excuses as to why. “I’m not a salesperson.” “I don’t have enough time or resources.” Or, “They don’t want to work with someone like me” are some of the most common statements that I hear on a regular basis. Then they follow up these statements with stories as to why these beliefs are true and why there isn’t anything they can do about it. This type of negative self-talk blocks the progress and success that I know they have inside of them.
Almost, without exception, these statements come from a place of fear. They worry that they will be judged, that they don’t have enough value or credibility, or that when people say “no” they must be rejecting them not what they are offering. Often times these self-imposed blocks keep them from making the decisions and taking the actions necessary to really grow. Or they end up making a decision from a place of fear rather than strength. A decision made from fear is always a wrong decision. Unfortunately, it happens a lot.
It’s scary when we deal with the unknown. We are afraid to ask for a sale because we don’t know how they will react. We are afraid to put ourselves out there because we don’t want anyone to judge us or we aren’t sure how people will respond to it. We are afraid to ask for help because we aren’t sure if that’s really what we need or not.
If you treat the unknown as something you are supposed to know, then the result is anxiety and weakness. Your natural tendency will be to retreat into story mode, justifying your lack of decisive action. The only way to get out of this loop is to discard your current story by writing a new one that leads to strategic decision making and action.
If, on the other hand, you treat the unknown as something you will work with as you create your options and your future, then the result is courageousness, decisiveness, and coming from a place of strength.
How would you rather work with your uncertainties? Here are three ways to break through what’s holding you back.
1. Challenge Your Story
We all have stories that we tell ourselves. Sometimes they empower us and catapult us forward. Other times, they are the excuses that we make to keep us from moving forward. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you tend to let people take advantage of you at work. You take on the projects that no one else wants and you take on extra work that should belong to others. And management never seems to recognize you with the promotions and pay raises that you truly deserve for the work that you are doing. You recognize that your Mother was always a “pleaser” and found her value in how happy she was able to make others by taking care of them or making their life easier. You have believed that the reason you don’t stand up for yourself is that you are a “pleaser”, just like your Mother. You can’t help it. You got it from her.
In order to change your story, you must challenge it. Even if your Mother was a “pleaser” there is nothing that says that you are destined to be the same. You get to choose your story and you get to change your story whenever you want. If being a “pleaser” is not serving you in this situation, then decide what will and change your story to support what you need.
2. Brainstorm Options
Once you decide on your new story, it is time to start brainstorming and resetting your options. When we are stuck in an old story we usually only see one or two options available to us. For instance, “I can keep trying to please everyone here or I can look for a job elsewhere.”
When we change our stories, we open ourselves up to many more options. And options equals strength.
Sit down and start brainstorming every option you can think of to resolve the unknown you are experiencing. Write them down. No filter. It doesn’t matter if what you have written is reasonable or not, just write them down. It’s amazing how much better you will feel about your situation when you see there is more than one or two ways to deal with it. Once you have your list, decide which option(s) is your ideal, which one(s) would be okay/good enough, and which ones would not be okay. It’s from this list that you will make your decision to act.
3. Decide to Act
Decisions shape our lives more than conditions do. My guess is that when you review your list of options, staying undecided on how to move forward was not one that made it into your ideal. That’s good because not making any decision at all makes you weak. Approaching it this way, you are no longer trying to make a decision from a place of fear because even if you make a wrong decision, at least you will know the outcome instead of staying in a place of anxiety and weakness. You can move on when you get it wrong. But remaining in a state of anxiety will eat away at you from the inside.
Quite honestly, there are no wrong decisions when you go at it from this perspective because every decision has some benefit in it. Even if it’s now knowing what not to do next time! However, more than likely, once you go through this exercise, what’s right will become more clear – even if what’s right is uncomfortable. And, once you know what’s right, you can be strategic about it.
Do you find that fear of the unknown is holding you back by allowing you to buy into the stories that keep you stuck where you are? Are your stories keeping you in a place of anxiety and weakness instead of a place of courage, decisiveness, and strength? How can you rewrite your story to give you the options you need to decide to act?