Monday, May 2, 2011

Procrastination and Fear of Success

Procrastination and Fear of Success - Getting over it so you can Move Forward!

Fear of Success is a confusing concept, but in general it refers to a situation where you want to achieve something but at some level are holding yourself back, usually because if you DO succeed at achieving your goal, it will likely set off a chain of related events – some that you really don’t want to deal with.

One example is that if you get a promotion, it will change your friendships with your peers, and they may be resentful or suspect your motives. Another example is finally getting that job but then having to deal with going to work every day and proving yourself to a group of new strangers.

The problem is that when you are experiencing fear of success, it’s not very logical or very clear. You often have no idea what you are avoiding or why. You may notice yourself procrastinating on the actions that will bring you success. You may even pick up on a pattern where your procrastination gets worse the closer you get to your goal.

The important thing to understand is that we all have fears related to change. Some of them are very real and make a lot of sense. Some are pretty illogical, but the fear is just as real. However, the real barrier to success is not fear; it’s lack of awareness.

I have a new strategy for dealing with my “fear of success”, and maybe it will be useful to you as well:

1. I have my goals written down, and my actions in a daily action list, so I can monitor how I’m doing.

2. As soon as I notice that I’m not doing what I promised myself, I ask myself why. Sometimes it’s just because the day got away from me and I’m tired. But sometimes I notice I’m avoiding the task.

3. I then think really hard of what I want to achieve and the tasks on my list to get there, and I notice how my body responds. If I have tingling in my stomach, butterflies, any type of anxiety, that’s my red flag. It tells me I’m afraid of something, and the fear is driving me into avoidance mode.

4. I then pay attention to my thoughts, I try to catch the words of the “What if” thought fragments that run through my mind. I ask myself – “what could go wrong, what could go right, what scares me about this?”

5. Even if no clear answer comes to me, I now have power. I know I’m holding myself back because of fear, so my job is to find another way. I either find another goal that is less scary, or I find different tasks that are less scary. The sooner I acknowledge that I’m afraid, the sooner I can face my fear, and the sooner I can come up with a better strategy.

6. If I get lucky, and I get clear answers to what I’m afraid of, I have even more power. Now I can think through the situation. I can acknowledge what I’m afraid of and talk myself through it. I might be able to take baby steps. Or I might realize I have a values conflict and I really don’t want to go after this particular goal. So then – what other options do I have?

The important key in this exercise is awareness. We often spend a lot of energy trying to understand why we have these various irrational fears, but I’m beginning to realize that no matter how developed a person is – there are always new “issues” to discover and work through within yourself – and we can’t put our lives on hold until everything is resolved.

I currently am working on a big project that will be terrific if I can pull it off, but it’s scary as well. I notice that if I bite off more than I can chew I begin to worry and get distracted. So I’ve committed to taking baby steps and facing my fears over and over. And to date, I’m pleased to report that I’ve made twice as much progress towards this goal than I have in the past.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your stories!

Monday, April 25, 2011

People who Want too Much

One type of “draining” person is the one who wants too much from you. If you could avoid them, you would, but usually you can’t, because there is some level of obligation inherent in the relationship. Here are some examples:

1. The lonely older parent, who depends on your calls and visits to be as long as possible.
2. The dramatic friend, who needs your support through one crisis after another.
3. The needy subordinate, who constantly seeks validation and guidance.
4. The angry spouse, who is never satisfied with what you provide.

The key challenge in this type of relationship is that you are committed to it personally, but all too frequently when you engage it feels like it is sucking the life out of you and inside you want to scream or run away. Here are some tips to help you put a stop on the drain and bring some joy back into the interactions.

1.The first thing you need is to protect yourself by knowing your own boundaries.

Ask yourself which behaviors have the most negative impact on you. Is it the long pause and sigh when you suggest that you need to get going? Is it the nervous hovering near your desk without saying anything? Is it the indignant “fine” when you hesitate at a suggestion to do something together? Make a list, and ask yourself, “if these behaviors were eliminated would the relationship be easier"? Try to get a complete list.

2.Understand that the person is behaving this way because they have an unmet need, but your first inclination, which is to do your best to help them out and meet it, actually does NOT help the situation – it makes it worse.

In fact, the more you try to meet the need, the worse the situation will get. You may have experienced even more of a “pull” from the person after a day when you have put an especially large amount of energy into them in hopes that you would get a break for a few days.

3.Not being the sole “source” of meeting their need, does not mean you can’t help them, however.

There are two goals here: one is to help them become aware of their need, and two is to help them find other ways to get the need met – ways that don’t involve you. As soon as they see that they can get the need met, and in places other than through you, the pull and drain you feel from them should diminish.

4.When the person begins to exhibit the draining behavior, ask, “what do you need right now?” or “what do you need from me?” You need to stay neutral in your tone of voice and know in your mind that this is not about you, however accusingly they phrase their answer.

The key problem here is that they are stuck thinking the only person they can get the need met from is you, and they need way more than you can give. They will focus their answer on you, but if you say neutral you can reflect back to them, “so it sounds like you need attention, validation, love, support” (whatever you can pick up from what they are saying). This helps achieve the first goal, so that they become aware of what they need.

5.Say something like, “I care about you, and I can provide you with some attention, (validation, support, whatever), but I will never be able to provide you with ALL that you need. Where else can you get this?”

In this sentence, no matter how they respond to you, they will begin to “get” that they cannot get their need met solely from you. Their brain will immediately begin to look for more sources of getting the need met outside of you. You can help with suggestions as long as the conversation is going well.

All relationships are different, and this “need” thing tends to be behind most of the awkward, uncomfortable, and “reactive” moments in all interactions. So have patience, and keep trying. Overall hold onto a vision of what could be:

1.When the older parent is able to connect with peers and other companions, the focus on you becomes less intense, and then you are able to connect even stronger when you visit because you don’t feel as much drain.
2.When your friend has other people to be dramatic with, you may find that your time together is more fun and real, allowing you to get more out of the relationship as well.
3.When your subordinate begins to validate him or herself, you have the opportunity to build a stronger mentoring relationship without resenting it.
4.When your spouse lets go of needing you to be perfect, you become more perfect to them as you are

Although it is never easy to have difficult conversations, the most important things for you to remember from this article are these:

1.You can never be “the one” to completely meet someone else’s emotional needs; as long as you try, you will feel drained in the relationship.

2.Everyone in this world has to become aware of his or her own needs, and take responsibility for getting them met. Part of this is to be open to receiving the need from many different sources and to actively give it to ourselves. (more on this later)

3.You can make a relationship less draining by helping the person become aware of his or her needs, and begin to think of ways to get the need met that don’t involve you.

Good luck – and if you have questions or requests for more – feel free to ask, and I may develop my answer into the next entry here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five ways to Deal with Draining People

Some people drain you, and even if you care about them, it’s difficult to stay focused and productive when you spend too much time with them. Here are a few tips you can use to set boundaries without being hurtful:

1. Get clear on what behaviors they exhibit that drain you. (It may turn out that when you think about it, it’s only when they start gossiping or complaining that you feel the life sucked out of you)

2. Develop a vision for what an ideal relationship with this person would look like to you. (If you had your way would you never talk with them, would you only talk to them for a short time each day?)

3. Identify what behaviors they exhibit that line up with the vision. (Perhaps they are a good listener sometimes, or they entertain you or enlighten you on their good days)

4. "Train” them by reinforcing the positive behaviors. You can do this in many ways, including telling them how much you appreciate it when they do X, focusing on them and paying avid attention when they do X, or simply enjoying being with them during these times.

5. “Train” them by NOT reinforcing the negative behaviors. When they slip into the behaviors that drain you, you can disengage directly or indirectly. If you are comfortable being direct, you can say, “I really don’t feel comfortable when you do this and I’d rather stop this conversation now and talk again some other time”. If you are in a situation where it is difficult to be direct, you can still disengage by not listening, excusing yourself, changing the subject, or simply not responding. The important thing is to not “slip” into unintentionally reinforcing the behavior because you feel obligated to argue, defend, listen, or whatever. These responses from you usually fuel more of the behavior.

6. BONUS: Understand that when people exhibit draining behavior, they are usually experiencing an “unmet need” and they aren’t aware of it. They just feel “compelled” to behave the way they are behaving. They may know at some level that the behavior isn’t appropriate, but in the moment it seems like the only way to feel better. You can ask, “What do you need in this situation?” which will prompt them to think about what they need, and this may shift their awareness and their behavior. It is not your responsibility to try to meet the person’s need – in fact that will just defeat the purpose and probably encourage more of the draining behavior in the future. Just being a mirror and helping someone be more aware of their own needs empowers them.

Tune in next time for some specific examples – like how to deal with the mother who expects you to call her every day, or the boss who micromanages you, or the person at the office who never does his work quite right….

Monday, April 18, 2011

Procrastination Tips - Managing Your Energy

Sometimes, we procrastinate because we don’t have any energy left to act. Your energy comes and goes, sometimes in cycles, sometimes because of what is going on in your environment, sometimes because of what is going on inside your body or your mind. One of the most powerful ways to get to your next level is to become more aware of your energy cycles and leverage them. Here are two important energy management tips …

1. Go with it. I used to worry that if I allowed myself to take a nap several days in a row it would turn into an awful habit. What I have found is that if I notice myself feeling tired and sluggish, and I honor those feelings by resting, I usually feel great within a few hours or a few days. It doesn’t have to be a nap, but I can use “intentional procrastination” and put a bunch of things on the back burner for three days and go to bed early, or I might just go outside and sit in the sun on my lunch break or take a walk. When I provide myself with the rest I need, I quickly get my focus back and the desire to rest disappears. On the other hand, when I try to fight the desire to rest and “push through it”, I find that I am “pushing” and struggling with that sluggishness for a much longer time. In fact sometimes it’s gone on for months in a row when I haven’t dealt with it.

2. Notice what drains you and what energizes you. Everything that you interact with either drains you or energizes you to some extent. Different people affect you differently, different activities affect you differently, even the type and amount of food you eat will make a difference. Sometimes I have clients “score” activities, people, and events on a scale to identify whether something drains them or energizes them and how much. In this case, knowledge is power. If you know what drains you and what energizes you, you can find a way to get energy back by blocking out the things that drain you, and spending more time immersed in what energizes you. Of course, you may not be able to avoid what drains you forever, but you’ll always do better coming at it with tons of energy reserves available.

Tune in next time for additional tips on how to deal with specific drainers – like those draining people and activities you can’t avoid forever…

Until then – pay attention, and see what you can learn about your energy cycles.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ultimate Confidence - You are Not your Situation

So, I have a confession to make. I just "got" this.

I thought I knew this concept and understood that “you” are not “your situation”. But today, I realized that I still judge myself based on what I have or have not accomplished, what I do and do not do each day – which in my mind results in my situation. So, when my situation is below my standards or expectations, I judge myself as “being” below my standards and expectations.

I often tell my clients they are not their situation – as it’s much easier to see the wonderful people they are as separate from the often challenging and sometimes humiliating situations they find themselves in. But me – well – we are always hardest on ourselves. And when I step on the scale, or notice an unkept area in my house, or see a pathetic bank account balance, I tell myself I should be doing better and that I am not good enough yet.

Today, I decided to practice with the success mindset, “pretending” that I am exactly fine as I am. But then I realized that I usually approach this task by pretending that I have a different situation. That I have accomplished more than I really have in life. I pretend that I’m thinner and more in shape with a bigger bank account living in a fancier house with beautiful landscaping. For some reason THIS is what I think affirmations are – seeing the potential and imagining it as real today.

But if you are not your situation, then why would you have to pretend that your situation is different in order to feel better about yourself?

One problem with this is that if my situation were different, I would make different decisions. If my landscaping was beautiful, for example, I probably wouldn’t choose to go out and do yard work. If my bank account were bigger, then I might choose to purchase something I really shouldn’t purchase now. If I were more in shape, I would be used to exercising at a higher level, and I might have different conflicts about food.

SO, I thought, OK, OK, to make this easier, I will pretend that my current weight IS perfect, that everything I have accomplished to date is AMAZING and I am absolutely where I should be in all areas of my life.

Pretending that was really interesting. And really different. And really powerful. I thought, “Oh so THIS is what 100% self-acceptance feels like!!”

We say all the time that we need to love ourselves before we can truly love others, that we need to accept ourselves 100% in order to be our best. And I think most of us accept this concept intellectually – but I’m curious how many others aren’t actually living it?

If I’m honest I can’t say that I truly live it either – because it’s not easy to stop judging yourself. But today I got a glimpse - a sense of what it feels like. And NOW after that little taste, I’m committed to practicing this mindset until it’s natural.

I will keep you posted on my progress with it – and I would love to hear your experiences as well!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Time Management to Energy Management

People like to talk a lot about ROI: if I invest this much money in a project, how much will I get back? Sometimes they think of ROI in terms of time invested. If I put this much time into an activity, what will I get back, and what is worth my time?

What I haven’t heard as often is the concept of ROE, or Return on Energy. I started using this with my business owner clients several years ago as it became obvious that different activities that take the same amount of time can take very different amounts of energy, and have very different outcomes.

If you are doing something you enjoy, you can often spend hours on it, even get lost in it, and afterwards feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and even more energetic than you felt going into it. On the other hand, if you are doing something you dread, you can be completely drained after 10-20 minutes. You also might procrastinate or worry about these activities even when you aren’t doing them, which drains you even more.

One of the most powerful tools we will be using in May – our “Time and Energy Management” month, is the return on energy tool, which allows you to assign an ROE score to all your activities, and then sort them based on which activities you should capitalize on, which you should systemize, and which you should delegate or delete if at all possible.

If you’d like to try this on your own – a simple way is to make a list of everything you have to do to achieve a certain end – whether that is grow your business, have a spotless house, achieve a weight loss goal, or anything else. For each of those activities, start by asking yourself, “if I do this activity well, how far will it take me towards achieving my goal?” Then, ask, “how much does this activity energize or drain me?”

What you’ll notice is that some activities, like making cold calls, may get you to your goal, but may drain you so much they aren’t worth it. While other activities, like e-mail follow up, may not get you as far, but since you could do it all day, you may actually get more out of it.

Same with weight loss. It may be that sticking to a particular diet will get you to your weight loss goal in a few weeks. But it takes every ounce of willpower for you to stick to the diet and you rarely make it past the first few days. On the other hand, eating several small meals each day, and allowing yourself one indulgence each day, might not get you to your goal weight for a few months – but it’s something you can stick to – and several days will go by without you even noticing that you were on a diet. In this case – the second option will likely give you a better “return” on the energy you invest.

Sometimes this concept isn’t easy to get at first, but feel free to contact me with any questions, or be sure to attend one of our May Aspyrre Community events to learn more!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When you want something TOO much

A few years ago, I was talking to a prospective new client, let’s call her Janelle. We were talking about discovering work she loved, and going through the steps of career transition. During our conversation, I heard her say, “Oh…if this doesn’t work, if I can’t find that one thing I’m passionate about – I think I’ll just die!”

That was my red flag. It told me, unfortunately, that she was TOO attached to finding her passion. SO attached that she was almost guaranteeing that it would never happen. She was sad and lost, and miserable in her work. Somehow she had decided that if she could find “her passion” then that would solve all her problems. She had decided that “finding her passion” was the magic cure, the only cure, and the only path to feeling good again. I knew right then that there was almost nothing I could do with her as a coach unless I could help her detach from “needing” this outcome so desperately – and an emotion that powerful isn’t something that detaches easily.

It’s the desperation that does it. Remember the last time you were desperate in a relationship? The other person was probably running the other way, right? The same thing happens when we are desperate for a job, desperate to lose weight, desperate to make millions, desperate for our kids to get straight A’s, desperate for anything to happen a certain way. Usually it doesn’t happen the way we hoped and dreamed it would – ever. In fact, the few times we are able, against all odds, to obtain what we so desperately want, we are in for a rude shock- the thrill lasts only a few minutes and then we are back in our slump again. We find out sadly that it didn’t change anything.

The only solution is to stop being desperate. But if you’ve ever been in this situation, you probably know, that you can tell yourself to stop being so desperate – and it doesn’t do a darn thing.

This month in the Aspyrre Community, we will be addressing this issue of getting overly attached to an outcome, and provide a step by step process you can use to help detach so you can more effectively achieve your goal. I will be running both an in person workshop and a telephone class with a workbook for those who are not in the immediate area. For more information on these classes, you can go to the aspyrre website at: and look at our "Upcoming Events" in the center of the home page.

This over attachment cycle is something that can truly drive one mad, and if you can relate, please join us in these enlightening and productive events that give you tangible tools - and some control back.