How to Feel Uncertain and Create Your Dream Business Anyway
Want to create your dream business? Are there things you know will take you in that direction, and you’re not doing them?
Do you know intellectually what you need to do, but have a deeper feeling that you won’t actually do those things, that something is holding you back?
You can probably write down the process or system - that is the set of activities that, if repeated over a period of time, are virtually guaranteed to create that dream business. Or at least you know that if you could just stay in action, if you could just stick to them long enough, you would be able to make adjustments along the way to guarantee success.
And yet, you’re not doing them.
Me too, it’s been very present for me over the last couple of weeks and led to a visceral, emotional reaction in a session with my coach that created a breakthrough for me.
Hang around for a deeper look and three ways to resolve this challenge!
There are many reasons we procrastinate including fear of failure (or success!), avoiding difficult conversations, perfectionism, and “who, ME??”.
Another is a sense of uncertainty. An uncertainty that is a felt sense, that is beyond the intellectual knowing and language that we use to describe our process or system that we know will surely take us to success! This is different to a full-on fear of failing in a public way, or of tangible consequences such as losing your money or your house. It’s more subtle and internal. If that part of us had a voice it might say: “Hey intellectual brain, I hear you, your system makes sense but you know I really don’t want to put that effort in because I’m a bit shaky about whether it will work. I’d rather not waste my effort. Better that we keep bumbling along until you have a better idea, one I can really get behind.” And then that better idea never really comes because you had a great idea all along.
One of the most powerful ways to develop that felt sense is to get into and stay in action. It’s of course a catch-22. We’re not staying in action because we don’t have the felt sense! So how do we stay in action without it?
Bring to mind a time when you confidently followed a process to get the results you wanted. There was no uncertainty, no mind chatter, no doubting, no “there must be a better way”. Maybe you’re great at sticking to a diet. Maybe you can train for a marathon without a second thought. What about in your business? Perhaps you are certain of the steps to build a great team. Perhaps you are confident in your system for getting new customers.
And now think of something you’d like to do to create your dream business, but you aren’t sticking to. Something where you know the steps (you could even teach them), you really want the outcome and yet you’re not doing the work. Check-in with yourself and ask: Do I lack a felt sense that if I do the work, it will work?
Now reflect on the fact that there are people in the world who want the same thing you do, have never done it before either, and yet they do have a felt sense it will work. Strange, eh? What right do they have to have that confidence? The same is true in reverse of course. Something you have an intellectual and felt sense certainty around, will only be present intellectually for someone else.
This felt sense comes from all our collective past experiences and how we have responded to them. It’s multifaceted and complex, and we won’t go there, at least not today.
It is possible to have, or deliberately generate, this felt sense without having had a successful experience of it first - think of learning to ride a bike. You very likely just kept jumping right back on, even after you’d scuffed your knees for the 17th time, trusting that you would eventually succeed.
Another way is to build the structures and beliefs that keep you in action long enough, despite the uncertainty, to get the experiential evidence that creates a felt sense of certainty.
So back to my dilemma. I am sitting with a lot of uncertainty about expanding my business in a new direction, to work with a new client group in a new way. Intellectually I know the process. I even have it written down. It’s crystal clear to me, and my intellectual brain is 95% certain it will work.
But my monkey brain creates a felt sense that leads to second guessing, doubting, getting distracted, and getting very enthusiastic about every single opportunity that looks like anything but the vision I have! Oooo look, shiny objects!
From an outside perspective, it would seem I have everything sorted. A good mate would lovingly (hopefully) tell me: “stop doubting yourself you massive weenie, of course you’ll get the results if you stick to what you’re doing!”
I brought my challenge to my coach, and as we got clear that uncertainty was at the heart of my struggle, she said: What if you had a poster on your wall that said:
Do the work.
Sometimes I will believe it will work, and sometimes I will be certain it won’t.
Do the work anyway.
The reaction I had to this was powerful. I felt like tears might come, and there was a relaxing in my stomach. It was a complete surprise, and a sign that we had hit on something really important. It showed how important my dream is to me, and how vital it is that I do the work!
If this feels like where you’re at, here are three tips to help you do the work.
Make Cars, Not Drama!
Does the operator on the car production line doubt the process? Do they sometimes not show up to work because they’re uncertain whether loading an engine into a car is really going to help? Do they install a couple of engines then start spray painting panels bright pink because they have read that pink is the “must be seen in” colour for this season? No, they turn up and do the work. Do your work with the professionalism of the proud production line worker. Put it in your calendar and commit to doing the work, whether you feel certain, or uncertain!
Track Lead Indicators
Work out what is most important about your process, and track the numbers that are under your control. Want new clients for your business? Track the number of people you talk to, track the number of times you ask for a referral, track the number of proposals you make - these are your lead indicators. These are more important than tracking the “lag” indicator of the number of new clients. Track this too of course, but, having set an outcome target (number of new clients), switch your focus to the lead indicators and get to work on those. That way you can have feelings of success and accomplishment every single day. There’s nothing like good feelings to keep us motivated! Schedule time to review and adjust the process to hit your outcome targets, and get your sense of daily success from the lead indicators.
How crappy does it feel when you compare yourself to others and find yourself lacking? Very crappy, right?! And when you’re carrying a degree of uncertainty it can be incredibly damaging - to your self-esteem and your ability to stick to your system or process. You’ll know you’re caught by this when you see what others are doing and get feelings of self-doubt, or not being good enough, or that you need to do more, or do it faster: Bob is doing things differently so I must be doing it wrong! I just need to do what Barbara is doing, only better! I must get my slice of the pie, even if that means dropping my prices (or pants, metaphorical or otherwise)! STOP! Stay connected to your vision. Switch your focus to what you are creating and do that to the very best of your ability. If you are going to compare, compare yourself to your future-self who didn’t do the work, and commit to not becoming that person!
And if it works for you, create a poster like mine for your wall :)