212: Stop the fear train and become the master of your thinking
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Stop the fear train and be the master of your thinking
Read the episode transcript:
The other night I woke up in a panic. I could feel the anxiety all through my shoulders and my back down through my legs. My stomach hurt, my head hurt, and my mouth was dry and cottony. I sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed my palms back and forth over the top of my thighs in an effort to calm myself. I got up, grabbed my robe and walked into my zen room to do some writing and try to shake off whatever it was that was making me feel that way.
The last time I felt that way was in the weeks before my husband Chuck died after many years fighting melanoma. I remember one day I had gone home from the hospital, where I was pretty much spending the majority of my awake hours with Chuck, to grab a shower and put on some clean clothes. I felt this tightness in my chest and like I couldn’t take a normal breath. It was like a giant cinder block was on my chest and I couldn’t get air all of the way into my lungs. I had no idea what was happening. I eventually calmed down, and a few days later went to my doctor and explained what happened and he said, “Oh, sounds like a panic attack.” He gave me a prescription for Xanax and said to take one if I ever experienced that sensation again.
That was 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, I had no Xanax the other night. I had to ride the dragon and try to move through the feelings without going into a full blown panic. Fortunately for me, Doug was there to help, and we had a long conversation about what was in my head.
Through that conversation, I realized that my brain was on a very negative thought track. It was such a fearful thought track that it manifested in physical sensations that woke me up out of a sound sleep. A panic.
What I was thinking about was my finances. In that moment, I’d let one simple thought deteriorate into a series of other thoughts that were not helpful, not productive, and honestly, not based in reality.
The key thing here to note is that this entire experience, as uncomfortable as it was, was generated by one thought that cascaded through worry into other thoughts that weren’t even based in reality.
And worry is a reality in business and why I wanted to focus this second season of the Simplify & Multiply show on “Dealing with Fears and Unknowns in Business.”
If you’re a solopreneur like I am, you’re smacked in the face with fear a lot. You also make decisions around unknowns and take risks. Nothing’s a sure thing when you’re a solopreneur. And as business owners, how we cope and manage through the fears and unknowns translates into how our business succeeds, struggles or completely flops.
As you’ve heard my guests in the many interviews throughout this season, they each faced fears and unknowns running their business. They shared their “hacks” on how they coped and managed through them as well as provided advice on what you can do to manage through your own fears and unknowns.
This is part of the human condition, and something that’s also uniquely experienced by solopreneurs as we run our businesses. We’ve each had those moments—those “panic attacks”—where we’ve second guessed a decision or were too much in our own heads about something that might happen that we feared or dreaded. We know because we’re out on our own figuring it out on our own every single day.
When things are going well, however, when conditions lend themselves to prosperity, abundance and satisfaction (meaning the bills are getting paid, income is flowing into our pockets and we have a steady pipeline of great opportunities filling our inboxes), it’s easier for us to focus on what’s going well so we can keep our “thinking” flowing in positive, expectant directions. More money. More abundance. More opportunities. More satisfaction. More happy.
However, when we let ourselves shift into a state of chronic worry or let a worry, concern or even a circumstance turn our focus away from the outcomes we want, it’s much easier to allow situations, our business, opportunities, etc., to appear as a “glass half full” perspective that makes us freak out, like mine did.
The one thing we DO have control over is our thinking. And that’s what brought me back from the edge of this full blown panic attack the other night. (well, that plus a good conversation with Doug to help me sort through and realize the messy thoughts I’d allowed to take root).
And you can too. The next time you have any worry or fear, take back control of your thoughts. I have a short, easy process that you can do any time to stop the fear train and be the master of your thinking. And when you master your thinking, anything is possible.
The process goes like this, and by the way, this works for any kind of worry, not just business-related concerns:
When you have a fearful thought or worry about your business, stop and take a moment to isolate the specific thought. This may start with something like, “I’m worried I don’t have enough future work in my pipeline.” So if you’re a professional speaker, you may not have many paid speaking engagements booked in the coming months. If you’re a consultant, you may not have many (or any) proposals being reviewed by prospective clients or contracted engagements in the next two quarters. If you’re a service provider, you may have several clients who are rolling off of their retainer contracts or subscriptions and have nothing to replace their revenue yet.
It’s easy to capture this thought, however, there is a much deeper thought that is triggering the fear that may be driving a physical response like mine was. So the next step is to ask yourself the big “What if” question that explores that initial thought. Such as, “What would happen if I didn’t have enough future work in my pipeline?” The answer will vary depending on your past conditioning, habitual tendencies and where you’re at with your overall business. Some of those deeper thoughts at the root of the initial thought could be, “I’ll have to work harder at getting more sales and I hate sales,” or, “I may have to get a loan to pay my bills,” or, “I may have to close my business and get a J-O-B,” and so on. As you pull at that thread more and more, you’ll get to the core thought that is driving the emotion.
At this point, you want to check in on the emotion tied to that thought. You’ll know if you’ve hit the right one if it triggers strong feelings of inadequacy, not-good-enoughness (which is a classic one we all have to some degree or another) or something similar.
Next, take that trigger thought of inadequacy or lack and flip it to something positive. For example, if your thought is, “I’m not good enough to sustain my business on my own and I will fail and have to go get a J-O-B,” turn that thought into, “I am full of unique talents and gifts that the world needs, and I’m so grateful that I have my own business as a vehicle to do my work the way I want to and for the income I want to receive. I don’t need much to turn this around—look at all that I’ve done in my business thus far! It’s been an amazing ride and I know I will keep going and get better and better at allowing more clients, more opportunities, more referrals and better business relationships come into my experience!”
What you’re doing here is sort of giving yourself a pep talk. But first, you need to turn that negative thought into something positive. If it’s hard for you to be open to a more positive thought, then speak from a general perspective. Being more broad about your fear thoughts makes it easier to orient your thinking toward a more positive outcome. The more detailed you get with your new positive thought, the more it may trigger disbelief rooted in insecurities and cause you to stay in the fearful thinking patterns.
To reinforce the new positive thought, write for 5 to 10 minutes all of the wonderful things that will come about when you achieve the opposite of what you’re worried about. When you get 100 more clients. When your income triples. When you’ve made a great partnership with a mega company that secures your services for years to come. When your intellectual property is licensed around the world. When your book is on the best seller list for three consecutive years. These are all wonderful examples of possibilities that, while in a state of fear and worry driven by negative thoughts, are not even possible nor are they even in your realm of thinking.
This is why we can get blown into a consistent state of anxiety when we perpetually focus on a negative outcome or fearful worry. Many of us do this unconsciously, especially if we’ve had troubled lives and past environments that has conditioned us to think negatively.
Be an advocate for positive thinking as well as YOUR possibility and YOUR future. The number one person in your fan club should be you, and it’s time to root for yourself more often in a positive thought pattern by thinking things that make you excited, eager and happy—not fearful, worried or resigned.
So if you are having (or when you do have) a fearful concern about your business that stems from a deep-seated fear or thought of inadequacy or not-good-enoughness, stop and turn it around. Become the master of your thinking to master your business and your life.
Here’s what I know:
I know you know your stuff. I know you care about your clients and those you work with. I know you have a ton of expertise, wisdom, experience and know-how to help others and that you’re deeply committed to serving others and helping them solve their problems. I know these things because you’re a solopreneur. You’ve adventured into a form of business ownership that challenges you every day and throws all kinds of obstacles that you have deal with and overcome. If you didn’t care as much as you do, if you didn’t feel that you had something valuable to contribute to others, and if you didn’t have such a strong desire to live in independence and have the freedom to make your own choices and do things the way you wanted to do, you would have a J-O-B and be working for someone else or punching a clock waiting for retirement.
Solopreneurism is a challenging road, but solopreneurism is also a highly rewarding road anyone can travel. Master your thinking and you can master your business and your life.