The Only Resolution You’ll Need in 2011

Stop signs

Credit: brainware3000 on Flickr

Pretend you’re on the phone with your life coach.

I know, I know. But imagine for my sake that you hired one. Then, imagine that your life coach tells you that there’s only ONE question that counts. And the question is this: “What is standing between you and [major accomplishment] in 2011?”

Ditch your highbrow skepticism for a minute and think about it. How would you answer her? And what would you put inside those brackets?

I thought about it. Actually, I’ve thought about it all year. And my life-coaching consultation would go like this:

Life Coach: “What is standing between you and doubling or tripling your business income in 2011?”

Me: “Crippling doubt.”

I know it’s a little early for New Year’s Resolutions, but can we talk about this, please?

For me, the end of the calendar year always signals a period of reflection. Or obsessive analysis, depending on your choice of words. And the end of 2010 is big: it coincides with the one-year mark for Well Versed Creative, as well as my first full year back in the U.S. after three in Mexico.

This was a year of major transitions, obviously, but I’m still here, goddamnit, and I’m doing it. And that says a lot. With only a part-time effort, I’ve managed to create a viable small business that puts food on the table. Not a lot. Scraps, for the most part. But, hey look, food! And I’m ramping up; I intend to double our revenue in 2011. Tripling it would just be gravy.

Intellectually, I’m certain I’ll reach my goals. But emotionally, I’m two beats from throwing myself face-down on the floor and screaming WHY GOD WHY.

But seriously. Why?

I love my work, I love my clients, and I love what I do. I love working through problems with my clients. I love helping them get to the next step. In fact, now that I think about it, I spend a lot of time convincing them to take the plunge, to pursue their goals. So what the hell is my problem?

Well…

  • We pair “crippling” with doubt for a reason. Don’t let it cripple you. I’m going to counter my own advice. Sometimes crippling doubt is just fear. Nothing more, nothing less. And it’s holding you back. Discipline— getting up, going to work, and executing– is the only cure.
  • Perspective is big. Change it. A cognitive exercise (as simple as repeating, “you can do this” to yourself) can rock your world. In July, I told you about why being authentic is important. And how in stepping back, I’ve been able to change my own life. It’s like the tired adage about smiling when you’re unhappy. Infuriating advice when you’re in the dumps, but guess what? It works.
  • Stop waiting. It’s killing you. The most pernicious side effect of doubt is waiting and wallowing instead of acting and learning. Jen Gresham just wrote, “Recently, I started forcing myself to leap before I felt fully ready (a moment that may never arrive).” Acting will get you somewhere. Inaction will bury you.
  • Learning is forever. Lorraine Thompson just wrote, “Commit to learning. Forever.” This post is about new media marketing. But it’s also mostly about doubt. She quotes HBR writer Peter Bregman: “People with a growth mindset feel smart when they’re learning, not when they’re flawless.”

Doubt is about uncertainty. It’s about hesitating to believe. It’s no more “real” than blind faith, but it sure feels real, doesn’t it?

Listen. Your imaginary life coach is betting that he or she can solve your issues without a shred of financial data, without a single fact or figure. She’s not a CPA or a tax preparer. She can’t rewrite your business plan.

But she’s charging you good money anyway, because her method works every time: identify goal. Destroy doubt. Execute plan. Repeat.

And there you have it. The only resolution you need in the coming year, or the coming week, or, hell, the coming hour. But I don’t have to convince you– you do.

16 Comments

  • Or maybe the answer is impatience? Maybe the doubt comes from having overly optimistic expectations about how long it takes to build a business. I mean, success stories on the web spread like wildfire and it just seems reasonable that you, who are very talented and smart and capable, will hit the same milestones.

    That’s why I love reading Scott Young’s blog. He reminds us that 1) most overnight successes took years to get there, and 2) there’s nothing wrong with you or your business if it takes several years to really start reaping the rewads of your efforts.

    You also might want to check out Jennifer Michael Hecht’s book on doubt. She is an amazing writer and I’ve heard nothing but glowing words for that book. Come to think of it, I might pick it up myself.

    Hang in there, Lindsey. Your tipping point it right around the corner, I assure you.

  • “Crippling doubt” goes by lots of names: Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance. Shrinks call it low self-esteem. But you are so right in identifying fear–often irrational, unfounded fear–at its foundation.

    It’s comforting to know that all creative people feel this terror. The trick, as you note, is to not give in to it. Like therapists say, “Have the feeling, but don’t act on it.” That means doing the work–accepting the discipline of regular work habits–no matter what.

    Here’s something that’s helped me: The notion that my work can be “good enough,” i.e., imperfect. When I started blogging, I made a deal with myself: I would post weekly, no matter how much client work I have or what’s going on in my family life. Given the challenges, I’m guaranteed imperfect posts. But if the piece is decently crafted, serviceable and–crucial to me–delivered on time, it’s good enough.

    I’ll wake to write another day.

    Thanks for a fab post–and for the kind mention.

  • I never make New Year’s resolutions mainly, I suppose, because I hate to do things on somebody else’s schedule.

    The points you make here are all valuable. Number 3 resonates most strongly with me. I tell myself I’m waiting till I get all the necessary info before plunging in, but what I’m really doing is vamping around and putting off the actual work to some hazy day in the future.

    I also agree with Lorraine that writing a post a week, no matter what, is an excellent exercise in staying on top of stuff.

  • @Jennifer – I completely agree that part of the issue is the perception that starting a business (or a freelance career, as many of the writers who read this are doing) is simple, easy, or fast. It is none of those things. And thanks for the reading recommendation.

    @Lorraine – “The Resistance.” I love that. Finding your “good enough” spot and focusing on delivering the work is important. It might be the hardest lesson of all. All creative professionals seem to suffer from this same syndrome. I have pushed more than one to deliver in spite of it. Of course, I was still scared to do so myself.

    @savvy – Agreed. The first thing I thought after reading Lorraine’s comment was, “Why do I not have a benchmark like that?” The blog is meant, after all, to keep me in shape and on time. I also agree on the New Year’s resolutions. And although I swear them off, I still tend to dwell on the theme of resolve when December rolls around.

  • I like the way you set up this post. You’re so right. I’m beginning to instill more action into my life and things are looking up. Complaining about something you can’t change is fruitless, and complaining about something you can change takes up the valuable time you could be using to change it.

    • Lindsay, agreed! It’s kind of nice to realize, though, that we all share the same problems — and that it’s often an act of will to overcome them.

  • I made a deal with myself: I would post weekly, no matter how much client work I have or what’s going on in my family life. Given the challenges, I’m guaranteed imperfect posts. But if the piece is decently crafted, serviceable and–crucial to me–delivered on time, it’s good enough.

  • Crippling fear of rejection and failure is what’s keeping me of pushing through with my plans. How I wish I got a very good perspective of everything and got the guts to do it no matter what. This is what I am working about before the year ends.

  • Complaining about something you can’t change is fruitless, and complaining about something you can change takes up the valuable time you could be using to change it. | :P

  • I tell myself I’m waiting till I get all the necessary info before plunging in, but what I’m really doing is vamping around and putting off the actual work to some hazy day in the future. | :P

  • It’s comforting to know that all creative people feel this terror. The trick, as you note, is to not give in to it. | :P

  • Great post! Like therapists say, Have the feeling, but don’t act on it. That means doing the work–accepting the discipline of regular work habits no matter what. Thanks for sharing..

  • Great post! When I started blogging, I made a deal with myself: I would post weekly, no matter how much client work I have or what’s going on in my family life. Given the challenges, I’m guaranteed imperfect posts.

  • I get all the necessary info before plunging in, but what I’m really doing is vamping around and putting off the actual work to some hazy day in the future. | :P

  • She is an amazing writer and I’ve heard nothing but glowing words for that book. Come to think of it, I might pick it up myself. looking forward for the next review.

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