How to get unstuck when you’re feeling down
You work hard. Every day you are prospecting clients, pumping out valuable content, and perfecting your craft.
But do you ever feel like, no matter how much work you put in, maybe you’re just not the type of person who does this?
I’m not the type of person who can start their own business… I’m not the kind of person who could ever write a book… How can I call myself a “consultant”?
When you do get results, maybe you brush them off as just luck. Or you feel like you have to be “tricking” people somehow into thinking you’re smarter than you are.
Well, I have some great news for you.
It’s not just you!
According to a 2011 report by the International Journal of Behavioral Science “It is estimated that 70% of people will experience at LEAST one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives”
Everybody struggles with these kinds of thoughts, especially if you are trying to achieve a new goal. Something that you’ve never done before.
I’ve been struggling with this over the last 2 weeks myself.
Last night I was laying awake at 3 in the morning thinking to myself “What the hell am I even DOING with my time?” and stressing myself out!
It can be so easy to feel bad about yourself.
But you know what? After working my way through it, I realized I was actually way productive this week.
I went to all of my classes, was able to do all of my homework assignments on time, went to an Innovation Summit in another city, I finished quite a few lessons in a marketing course I’m taking, and I finished not just one — but TWO client projects while I was at it. On top of that, I did some errand running for household stuff and was able to check off my 3 priorities for the week.
So what gives?
How can I be doing all of this stuff, and still not feel good about myself?
For me, the worst thing about Impostor Syndrome is how it can mask the value of the tasks that I’m spending my time on during the day.
I wasn’t thinking about all of the stuff that I did this week while I was stressed. Do you know what I was thinking about?
I too busy beating myself up and making myself feel guilty!
I was making myself feel guilty about a concert I went to on Tuesday (I was able to do a lot of stuff for school, but not that many things for my clients that day), and for chilling out on Thursday and… Well… Basically not doing anything.
I was beating myself up about not walking my dog 30 minutes every single day, and that I haven’t practiced German lately, and I haven’t been reading every day (even though I’ve already read 5 books this month!).
Anyway, all of this stuff was going through my mind last night — and I wanted to talk a little bit about the strategies I use to try to overcome the feeling.
Because the negative anxiety feelings can definitely paralyze you! It can make you feel like nothing you do moves the needle in your business or makes a difference, why should you bother trying something else, what would you even try?
There are 2 strategies that I use that I find super helpful.
But before I get into that, here is the first thing you need to accept:
If you are practicing your “craft” (whatever you think you “can’t” do, or “aren’t the type of person” who does “that”), then you are the kind of person who does that!
If you have a novel you want to get out there that you think about all the time, then you are the kind of person who’s a writer!
If you have a cool new product that’s always on your mind, then you are the kind of person who’s an entrepreneur.
Whatever types of ideas, or dreams, or goals that gravitate to you the most naturally? They come to you easily, because YOU’RE “that” type of person ;)
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Here are my 2 simple strategies for overcoming Impostor Syndrome:
#1 Commit to Pushing Through — NO MATTER WHAT!
Steven Pressfield wrote an entire book called “The War of Art” to hammer this one point home: If you want to be a writer, or an entrepreneur, or a polyglot, or whatever it is you want then… You HAVE to show up every day!
Remember, the only way to lose is if you don’t show up at all.
What if you’re not sure what to do next? What should you work on?
Gary Vaynerchuk has a philosophy called “The Clouds & The Dirt”.
To sum it up: The principles behind your greatest product, the message you want to express to the masses through your art — all of that feel good “higher plane” crap? That is the clouds.
The dirt is the grime on your face after you’ve spent a day sharpening your craft.
It’s reading HUGE quantities of your favorite literature to cram all those good ideas in there. It’s reading your industry journals to keep up to date. It’s studying with mentors, or in high quality courses to in an extremely focused way improve your skills.
And those are the only things that matter.
Gary says that most people waste their time living in the middle.
If most of your day is spent putting out fires in your company, or debating on which payment processor to use for online check out then you’re not in the clouds or the dirt.
How can you use this as a strategy to fight back against Impostor Syndrome?
Make a list of “agreed upon” activities in advance!
Use a Tony Robbins style of goal planning, and get super clear on what it is that you actually want.
Ask yourself “What NEEDS to happen for me to feel successful?”. Be honest with yourself.
Do you have a revenue goal? A # of email subscribers? To be “successful” as an author do you need to publish 1 book? 3 books? 12 books? Should those books sell a certain number of copies? How long of a conversation do you need to be able to have in your target language?
Those are just some suggestions, but it’s okay if your answer is different! The key is to understand what needs to happen for you to feel that you’ve successfully accomplished your goal.
Next, brainstorm a MASSIVE list of every single thing you could possibly do to get yourself to this success.
You will probably be guessing — and that’s okay! Tony calls this a Massive Action Plan (MAP), you should have a paper overflowing with ideas on next steps you can take to reach your goals.
If you have time to watch the video I linked to Tony’s goal planning workshop, there is a lot of helpful advice in there that explains how to take a long term goal (like “To feel successful as an Entrepreneur I need to have 3 businesses with a revenue of over $700,000”) and chunk it into smaller sub goals.
Don’t skip it!
Alright. So, now you have a few things here that will guide you in creating you “agreed on behaviors” list:
- Gary’s “Clouds & Dirt” philosophy
- A clear idea on what you need to do to feel that you’ve successfully accomplished your goal
- A big brainstorm of everything you think you could try to get yourself there
Using these 3 things to guide you, start reflecting on what you need to “close the gap”! How will you get from here to there?
Some things to start you off on what you could include on your “A-Okay!” list would be: reading books, taking courses, working on your company culture, of course sitting down to do your craft (so a writer for example, sitting down to write or a freelancer working on a client project OR creating a sample project) would all be things that could help you get to where you need to go.
Here are some of the things that are on my “Good to Go” list (you can call the list whatever you want lol):
Working on a high quality marketing course, reading a book, reviewing relevant academic research, working on writing something for a client, writing a high value article, doing lead generating activities.
You could even list specific websites you want to stick to, listing sites that have consistent high quality information and are low on distractions.
But if you can think critically and agree in advance with what is okay for you to be doing, then there’s no reason to feel bad about it after the fact.
You have already sat down and decided that the type of person who is a successful writer does X, Y, Z and taken the decision making out of the process.
#2 — Count your wins!
Look, when you’re trying to make positive progress obviously a lot of your attention is focused on “where you’ve got to go”.
But you shouldn’t let your wins vanish into the night either!
If you use a paper journal, an online “gamification” tool like Habitica, or use a Google Keep note (if you turn on “checkboxes” — Google will show you items 1–3 that need to be checked “And 27 checked items!” or whatever at the bottom) then you will be able to quantify your progress as evidence of your completed tasks pile up.
Seeing your accomplishments stockpile like this can help your quantify what’s actually coming out of your spent time. Reviewing this list of wins can also be a great source of strength when you’re feeling stuck.
The easiest way to crawl up from the lowest lows of Impostor Syndrome is to change your focus.
When you’re making performance driven decisions, of course your mind is going to be on your endgame a lot.
An easy way to shift your state is to instead look back, and simply appreciate how far you’ve already come :)
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