“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” – James Clear
10 years of working for myself has offered up one big realization:
This journey comes with a few hidden traps.
Mostly traps of my own making.
Subtle forms of self-sabotage that, at times, have hindered my ability to make progress.
I’ve fallen into these traps more times than I’d like to admit.
But I’ve also gained awareness on these challenges and found some unique ways to overcome them.
So today I’ll share some of the self-sabotage traps I’ve fallen for over and over.
And I’ll tell you how I outsmart them.
Sneaky Trap #1: The Deception of ‘Busyness’
Being constantly busy is worn as a badge of honor in the corporate and startup landscape.
I spent 15 years in those environments and the mantra was essentially; the busier you can make yourself, the more “driven” you’ll appear to your peers and boss.
And busyness is just as rampant in the entrepreneurial space.
I should know. Early in my freelance coaching journey, I brought my busyness tendencies right along with me.
I was coaching individuals, working with groups, writing, speaking, podcasting, and networking …all in an effort to appear busy and successful.
I remember thinking; “this is just part of being in business.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was borrowing the ethos of busyness from my years in the corporate and startup environment, and applying it wholesale to my new gig as a coach.
The truth is that my busyness was masking two things:
- Thinking that a jam-packed calendar meant I was being effective
- Not having a clear vision for my business
I started scheduling ‘thinking time’ into my days and weeks. Dedicated periods of time for strategic planning and thinking, free from the clutter of busy-work tasks and distractions.
Where am I headed? What’s most important? Am I being a good friend/husband? Where is there unnecessary struggle? Is this really the right direction for me? Am I being influenced by goals that aren’t in alignment with my values?
It pays to have space for thinking your way back into alignment.
Sneaky Trap #2: Pursuing Perfection
Perfectionism has haunted me for as long as I can remember.
My form of perfectionism isn’t about making things perfectly flawless, but rather an endless tweaking and delaying of plans, overthinking, and waiting for the ‘perfect moment’, which of course never comes.
A few years ago a coach challenged me with adopting a new mindset: 80% is good enough.
What he meant by this is the extra 20% we often fret over getting something “perfect” is usually wasted energy.
We can expedite most of our meaningful work by getting it to 80% good enough and then shipping it.
We’ll have plenty of time to get back to improving the 20% later.
I began using this ‘good enough’ metric as follows: if a newsletter, sales page, workshop description, or new offer met my new definition of being 80% good enough, it was time to ship it and move on.
This shift in my thinking has increased my output and efficiency – allowing me to move much faster and, ironically, create stuff that is a lot better.
Take this newsletter for example. I’ve been writing an article for the past week that went really deep on a subject and as my deadline approached for submitting to my VA, I began procrastinating because I knew it wasn’t going to be ready in time.
I switched gears to revisit an article (this one) that I had mostly completed a few weeks ago.
I was able to get it to 80% good enough, hit my deadline, and move on.
I forced myself out of my perfectionist comfort zone.
So if you find yourself stuck in the fine tuning part of your project, try my ‘80% is good enough’ metric.
If you’re 80% ready, consider putting your project out there for the world to see.
You’ll feel better and get better for having done it.
Sneaky Trap #3: Working in a Vacuum
When I started building my business, I had a handful of friends, peers, and family members who loved and praised everything I did.
Nothing but love and positive reinforcement.
This sounds really nice, I know. But in reality, I needed someone to challenge me and my ideas.
Because when everyone is telling you that you’re great, you miss out on getting the constructive feedback that is absolutely necessary for growth and expansion.
Naturally, most of us seek safety and positive reinforcement. We don’t put ourselves in environments or relationships where we get candid and honest feedback.
I go to lunch with a peer/friend about once a quarter. She’s a savvy and successful entrepreneur.
She is 100% honest and candid with me. If I ask her to tear an idea apart, she’ll do it, no-holds-barred.
It’s never comfortable, but it’s incredibly helpful.
Connect with at least one person who is willing (and able) to give you constructive feedback.
It’s impossible to see our own blind spots and fresh perspectives are always helpful, especially if you’re a small or one-person business.
Sneaky Trap #4: Chasing Shiny Objects
With a variety of interests, I get excited by exploring different ideas. I can get distracted easily if I’m not careful.
This became a problem when I started making headway on new projects, only to abandon them when something new and more interesting came along …over and over again.
For example, I got excited and collaborated with a peer to plan and co-facilitate a multi-city unconference event, even though I didn’t really have the time & energy to pull it off. The pandemic bailed me out on that one.
While exploring new ideas can be good sometimes, the problem with chasing shiny objects is that it will keep you from making real progress on one thing.
And I know this is a common trap, especially for people building their own businesses.
Whether it’s writing a newsletter, starting a podcast, or posting on social media – it’s hard to stay on track and be consistent once the newness of the idea fades away.
My answer for this is to limit choices and set boundaries.
I set a yearly and quarterly outcome that’s meaningful to my business and life. If a project isn’t aligned with my outcome, then it goes into my ‘idea parking lot.’
And if I do decide to take on a new project, it’s only because I have the capacity and it’s aligned with my business vision.
My current business vision is: Do meaningful work that allows me to work less, earn more, and enjoy my life.
As simple as this sounds, it keeps me aligned with high-leverage work that matches the criteria of my business vision and prevents me from overcommitting.
This year I’ve made a commitment to send my newsletter every two weeks and I have 90-minutes carved out on Monday to write.
This is a rigid process I follow and nothing interferes with this time block on my calendar.
Time-blocking, systems, and boundaries help you win.
Moving Beyond Self-Imposed Obstacles
Unmasking these self-imposed traps was uncomfortable to accept at first. But as a coach, I understand that self-awareness is the first step on any path to improvement.
So now I have this enhanced awareness and insight about my tendencies and how I might unconsciously hijack myself.
As leaders, entrepreneurs, and business builders, our biggest challenges are often internal.
We have a lot of power that we can harness to bring about our best self and have the impact we desire.
My challenge for you is to take a good look at your own traps and self-imposed obstacles.
What are they?
How are you limiting your own progress?
How can you remove them?
That’s all for this week.