The Shift: Taking Your Business from “I Can’t” to “How Can I?”
Let’s start the year off with a bang!
New Year’s Day is always an exciting time for business owners, both online and off. Along with confetti, countdowns, and champagne, a new year brings with it new opportunities for building relationships with other entrepreneurs, connecting with current and prospective clients and customers, and growing financially. Possibilities are endless and our motivation to go out and kill it is high.
I don’t want to burst the New Year’s bubble before we’ve even made it 24 hours into 2018, but I wonder if it’s possible that we’ve brought some old things from last year into the new year as well without even realizing it.
I don’t mean our work ethic, although chances are there’s probably much more momentum built up now to get things accomplished than there is at any other time of the year. I also don’t mean those resolutions from last year that we’ve decided to dust off and try again this year, although that’s honorable as well. Failure is the precursor to success in most cases.
What I mean here is some of the things we wish would’ve stayed in 2017: the imposter syndrome, the money fears, the comparison to other business owners. You know, the fun stuff.
Have I already ruined your year?
Well, hopefully I haven’t. I do understand though if it feels like I just smashed that New Year’s disco ball on the ground in the middle of the celebration. Who wants to talk about those things, right? Most of us wish we could just leave them in a drawer in our desks and pretend they don’t exist.
I hate to be a fun-sucker (name that movie) but it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately those thoughts and feelings that crop up in our heads and seem like they’re trying to drag us down won’t go away simply because we want them to. Chances are, we have probably been doing some self-defeating things that are keeping those unwanted thoughts and feelings at the forefront of our minds. If we don’t address those sabotaging behaviors now, they have the potential to seep into our plans this year the same way they did last year.
Before you trudge off to wallow in the hopelessness I’ve possibly evoked just now, I’d like to offer a way for all of us to address those mental struggles (mindset issues, if you will). In fact, I’d like to provide a framework for addressing those issues throughout the year in such a way that 2018 could potentially be the most fulfilling year of your business (and mine) thus far.
What is this fabulous framework and how do we get it?
Ever driven a manual transmission? I’ll be the first to admit that I am terrible at driving a stick shift. I also know - or have heard - that once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike (which I also suck at). There’s more work up front to learn how to drive a stick, but the payoff is a less expensive car with lower gas mileage that lasts longer and allows you more control than an automatic.
The Shift is a way of addressing the human needs that show up for all of us as online business owners so that we get stuck less and get moving more. It’s like learning how to drive a manual transmission, but in our minds instead of on the roads.
The Shift is not some multi-step process that you do once and never give so much as a passing glance again. It’s an ongoing way of living and running a business that can lead to greater fulfillment as a person and as a brand and can help us get unstuck whenever stuck happens.
What exactly does that mean?
If you’ve ever learned - or tried to learn - to drive a manual transmission, you know how frustrating it can be. Start the car in neutral. Push the clutch every time you shift gears. Pop the clutch too quickly and you’ll stall the engine. Pay attention to both feet while you’re driving because they’re doing different things. Release the clutch when you’re only halfway in gear and the car makes the worst sound ever.
If you haven’t learned, it might be because avoiding it altogether seems better than going through the discomfort of learning. Besides, that’s why they invented automatic transmission, am I right?
Think of your brain as an automatic transmission. When overwhelm, imposter syndrome, worry, doubt, sadness, money fears, or any of the other unwanted thoughts and emotions show up, we have automatic reactions to them. Our reactions - arguing with our minds, avoiding work, procrastination, pretending our businesses are making more than they actually are, etc. - might not be the best way to handle them, but at this point it’s second nature and way easier than trying to learn to do anything differently.
The Shift is similar to learning how to drive a manual transmission. Instead of going with what we know - especially when what we know is keeping us stuck - we are going to do the difficult yet rewarding work of learning how to relate to our minds in a new way. This new way doesn’t involve fighting with our thoughts, trying to avoid them, or attempting to make them go away. In fact, the beauty of The Shift is that once we learn how to address our minds differently we will be better equipped to step away from the struggle and step toward running our businesses the way we want to.
So, how does it work?
Briefly, before I explain it, I want to tell you that this is not a new concept that I just made up. This is a combination of intensive trainings I have received (on human behavior and the ways our choices and actions can lead to frustration or fulfillment) and my own knowledge and experiences as a business owner and a person who interacts regularly with other business owners online. It is a new way of approaching an evidence-based process (called ACT) that has been developed through a body of research over the last 25 years. It originated as a way to help people live a vital and meaningful life driven by their values and directed by their intentional behaviors. I have adapted it and incorporated my own knowledge and training in order to speak to you and your specific position as an online business owner.
I am excited to share all of this with you because of how tremendously helpful it has been for me and countless others in starting, growing, and running our businesses. I care about you and your success, and I value contributing to the online entrepreneur community in a way that supports everyone in being successful (#communityovercompetition). This is a major way for me to do just that for you.
Now let’s break it down
Everyone (and yes I mean everyone) has basic human needs. Outside of the totally obvious things we need to keep ourselves alive, we also have needs that have to do more with our minds than our bodies. In business (and in life) these needs can be separated into six main categories:
Belonging & Connection
Meaning & Purpose
Coherence & Understanding
We desire these things. We crave them. We yearn for them. These pivotal yearnings create an energy within us so strong, we have to direct it at something, usually by taking an action of some kind.
If that doesn’t make sense, think of it like the feeling you get when you’re hungry. You have a desire to eat and the energy created by that desire is directed into the action of getting food and eating it.
These core desires, however, aren’t always as simple as wanting food and then eating. If we desire to belong to a group and connect with others, for instance, there are a number of ways we could go about satisfying (or attempting to satisfy) that need. Furthermore, we don’t always know which of the myriad ways is going to be the most beneficial way of meeting that need.
Luckily for us, we have our brains to do a lot of problem-solving, and our brains love having something to do. Unluckily for us, our brains are still using a centuries-old operating system that has two main goals: fight or flight. Typically, when our brains get the message that there’s something we want that we don’t have, our brains go to the simplest - and often most misguided - action to take to get what we want: get scrappy or get out.
The actions we take is where the actual problem lies
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to connect with others, or wanting understanding, or wanting purpose in your life or your business. We get stuck when we do things that we think will get us there but actually move us in the opposite direction. It’s like we tried to shift into 2nd gear but we popped the clutch to soon and stalled the engine. Or we ended up going in reverse when we wanted to drive forward.
When our brains decide to take the earnest but misguided action, it leads us to a place where we feel restricted, confined, or stuck adhering to a rigid system, much like being shoved into a giant, human-sized funnel. We started out in an open space but now we’re trapped in a small space with nowhere to go and no room to move or breathe.
Have you ever felt stuck like that?
The reason we end up in squeezed in is that we are focused on the content of our situation.
If you remember from earlier, the brain loves having something to do but also only has two main options to choose from. When it receives the message that we are yearning for something - let’s use the connection with others example again - it finds the quickest solution to what it reads as a problem or a dangerous situation.
What do people do in an attempt to connect with others?
Fight: We lie to make ourselves seem better or more attractive.
Fight: We defend who we are or what we do and attempt to force people to accept it.
Flight: We hide because we believe we will never be able to fit in with others.
And that’s just scratching the surface. There are tons of ways the brain directs the energy created by our desires into actions that seem like a great idea at the time but actually just jam us even further into that giant funnel.
The outcome of getting stuck like that isn’t fun either
When we let our brains take the easy way out over and over again, we end up disconnected, empty, directionless, and unable to even tell what we’re feeling let alone figure out how to respond effectively. We suffer as individuals, our businesses suffer, and the people we started our businesses and brands in order to serve are left high and dry.
Even though we know what we want, and what we want has the potential to serve us and others in meaningful ways, we do things that move us away from what we want and keep us distanced from it.
Thankfully, we can Shift
The Shift is the place in the process where we make the intentional choice to do something different from what we’ve been doing that has gotten us crammed into a tiny space with very few options and seemingly no way out.
Contrary to what our brains like to tell us in the moment, we do have a choice regarding what action to take. In fact, we have lots of choices at our disposal. We just have to get better at recognizing them and then choosing ones that give us room to breathe rather than ones that suffocate us.
The Shift is that moment when we allow ourselves to take a step back and give ourselves more time to respond to what we are yearning for rather than react to it impulsively. It’s focusing on the function of the decisions we make rather than just the content of our desires.
Olivia, what do you mean the function of the decisions we make?? What is the content of our desires??
It’s asking “How can I?” instead of surrendering to “I can’t.”
Instead of assuming we can’t connect without lying to people about how much money our businesses make or defending our email list numbers as the most important pieces of our brands, we could ask “How can I foster connection?” and then seek out the answer. Maybe by finding new influencers to follow on social media or responding thoughtfully to an email from a newsletter we subscribe to. Perhaps we could ask questions and comment on others’ posts in a Facebook Group or join a mastermind that has values that line up with ours.
Suddenly, we are taking actions that move us out of the tiny, restricted space where the action choices are few and the misery is front and center, and out into the vast opening where there are more opportunities for genuine connection and other people looking for it as well.
Additionally, we aren’t limited to one or two unhelpful choices. The Shift toward meaningful engagement with others - or competence, or any of the other six categories of desires - opens an infinite number of doors that lead to an infinite number of ways to act that aren’t sleazy or lack integrity. We are able to take our businesses and brands in new, purposeful directions because we are redirecting that energy away from constricting choices and actions and toward ones that serve us and our audiences.
Notice that I didn’t say that these expanded options aren’t uncomfortable. Actions that serve us aren’t always going to be easy or exist within our comfort zones. (Learning to drive a manual transmission is H-A-R-D, y’all.) That’s the main reason why our brains don’t choose these options from the start. It takes a willingness to push ourselves past what’s convenient and do difficult things to get what we’re actually after.
If it were easy to drive a stick we would all be doing it.
Now that we know what it is, how can we do it? How can we Shift?
This year this blog will be all about how to Shift.
Every two months there will be a focus on one of the six main desires. As a refresher (since they’re way up there) those desires are:
Belonging & Connection
Meaning & Purpose
Coherence & Understanding
Each desire will be broken down and explained (with even more metaphors!), including specific examples of some of the rigid and narrow reactionary actions we tend to make. We will also dive deep into how to Shift with respect to each desire, and develop a repertoire of possible actions we could take that would provide expansion and freedom for us as business owners.
We will discuss the content that keeps up wrapped up in our minds, the unhealthy and sometimes detrimental outcomes of actions fueled by that content, and the benefits of making choices based on how they can actually work for us. Over the next twelve months we will build up an arsenal of tools, strategies, know-how, and support for addressing our desires in ways that get us out of our heads and back into our businesses.
Yes! What do I need to do?
All you have to do is keep showing up to the blog.
There will be a new blog post every Monday. In these posts we will learn in-depth about each Shift, develop ways to take action in our businesses or brands, and learn from the experiences of other online entrepreneurs who have Shifted in their own ways.
While I make no promises about the specific results you might see over the course of the year, I can say that it has been profoundly beneficial for me to relate to my own desires in a different way.
We don’t have to waste our time trying to make unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories go away or trying to get around them before we can move forward. Our desires are normal and human, and our minds can pop up whenever they want and say whatever they want about it and we can keep running our businesses the way we want to. Seriously.
That means no more “I have to get rid of this first” notions. (Anyone who has had a business for any length of time knows that waiting for imposter syndrome to go away before doing anything means nothing would ever get done. I don’t want that for you or anybody else.)
Are you ready to Shift?
I hope so. I’m excited for us to take on this incredible and rewarding challenge together. It will be uncomfortable at times, and it will require us to move past what’s known and what’s comfortable. It will also be worth every bit of discomfort we experience and effort we put in.
Get ready to Shift in 2018. I can’t wait to see what happens over the next twelve months and I’m honored that you’re joining me!
Until next time,
P.S. Want to get started before the next blog post?
Here’s a short action you can take before we even dive into the first category:
Grab an index card and a pen (or a marker or whatever you feel like writing with. Just make sure you can’t erase it.)
On one side, write down something you want for yourself as a business owner or something you want for your business (this works better if it’s something intangible, like “a network of support around my business” and not something tangible, like “a new photography studio” or “money”)
On the other side, write down some of the actions you’ve taken to try to make that happen that have not gotten you the outcome you wanted
As a reference, I’ve got mine pictured below. (They're half sheets of paper so I could write larger!) There’s nothing in any of this that I’ll ask you to do without doing it myself as well. We’re in this together, y’all.
When you’re done writing, place your index card or piece of paper somewhere you can see it easily and often.
Hang onto that card; we will be referring back to it (and doing other things with it) as we move through the year.
P.P.S. Are you as excited as I am about The Shift and having a meaningful, profitable business this year? Pop a comment below and let me know what you’re looking forward to the most!