The following post was taken directly from Chapter 1 of my book, Pricing Handmade Soap for Profit, which can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
Obtaining what you want in life and business shouldn’t be left to chance. Unfortunately, most people live their lives this way. They leave their deepest dreams to accident or grace. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people in your life (you may be one of them) who start sentences with, “Someday I’m going to…” or “I hope I can…” or “Wouldn’t it be awesome if…” And what follows is their true heart’s longing. But if you re-read these three examples you will find that the language is weak, and they have left their deepest desires to chance. They will leave their true heart’s desire unattended and eventually just let it go completely because they never actually made a goal of achieving it. Then they see other people achieving their big dreams and say, “Well aren’t they lucky.” Nope. Luck has nothing to do with it. People out there achieving big dreams have set clear intentions and then worked their ass off to achieve them. The most successful people in the world set goals.
YOUR INTERNAL THERMOSTAT
If you set the thermostat in your home to 70º and the outside air is cold enough to bring the temperature in your house down, your furnace will kick on to adjust back to the 70º range. If, in the hot summer, you set your thermostat to 65º and the outside environment is hot enough to raise the temperature in your house, your air conditioning will kick on to adjust back down to 65º. Therefore, you create a “zone of comfort” within your home, with the obvious intention of keeping you from feeling uncomfortable.
Your current level of achievement in any endeavor is just like the thermostat in your home. People get used to a certain level of success, and it becomes their comfort zone. If they slip up a few times here and there at work, or make a mistake, their internal “gauge” kicks into gear, expressing to the conscious mind that it needs to refocus and get back to the level of accomplishment that it is used to. Your subconscious can readily send you alerts to help you refocus and concentrate for the betterment of yourself.
Oddly enough, your internal gauge works the opposite way as well. Let me explain. The more success you want in life and business will require taking risks. If it was easy to start and manage a successful, profitable business, more people would be doing it. There is an enormous amount of time, emotion, energy and sometimes financial-resource investment into starting and maintaining a business. So, usually folks stop before they start. However, if you do go down the entrepreneurial path, you will inherently encounter risks. Your zone of comfort will be inevitably be breached. And, when you meet the challenge, face the risk and come out victorious, guess what happens?
Your internal gauge kicks into gear, expressing to the conscious mind that it needs to adjust back down to its current zone of comfort.
Wait, what?! Why the hell would it do that?!
You see, your mind is assuming that your current level of comfort is where you want to stay, even when you breach your comfort zone by means of a positive endeavor. I believe this concept is the single biggest deterrent of most people’s success. Most people have not engaged and developed a personal relationship with their mind and feelings enough to know that sometimes their internal gauge is opposed to what they are consciously doing, even when the thing they are doing is ultimately for the betterment of themselves. Crazy, right?
When you breach your comfort zone, shit gets real. You realize you did it, and are in this new “space.” And, even though you really wanted to get to this new space of success—as you did so by facing down your fear—the feelings of achievement can actually feel uncomfortable or even downright scary.
At this point, your subconscious will begin to devise a way to get you back into your current level of comfort. You will get sick. You will forget to set your alarm clock and miss a meeting. You will forget to charge your phone and miss an important opportunity. If you are new to the concept of self-sabotage, this may sound extreme, but believe it or not, this is how we operate on a subconscious level. And before you go berating your subconscious, consider that it is just trying to protect you. Your subconscious is completely neutral; it doesn’t really understand “good” and “bad” like our conscious mind does. It is merely downloading your current status and then making adjustments to fit what it perceives to be your current level of comfort, i.e. your comfort zone.
Do you see how this process can hinder your success? Your biology is literally constructed to avoid risk at all costs, which was an awesome little ditty when we were running from saber tooth tigers and foraging for food. But our fight-or-flight response kicks in the exact same way when facing a scary business challenge. Even though our lives are nowhere near being at peril, our stress levels shoot up, our heart rate gets faster and our deeply primal instinct is to brawl or run. And when it comes to breaching the comfort zone by means of taking risks and attempting to achieve more, 97% of people run back to safety. They don’t rise to the occasion. They don’t take the risk.
This, my friends, is why most people talk about their dreams in the way I described earlier. Because it is safe. It is easy and safe to say things like, “Maybe someday I’ll get to go…” because then they don’t have to face up to the risks involved. As mentioned, 97 percent of people go through life this way, staying in their current comfort zone.
THE “I WOULD, BUT I CAN’T” CLUB
The folks who talk in the forms of maybe-someday…, or I-hope-to-one-day…, or wouldn’t-it-be-great-if… might be the same folks who eventually join what I call the “I WOULD, BUT I CAN’T CLUB.”
A few years ago, I struck up a casual conversation with a perfect stranger on a plane, a woman in her mid-fifties named Pat. She was a photographer. She had just finished photographing a wedding. I thought that was great, and cordially applauded her for her work. She politely shook off the compliment and went on to say that she just freelanced, and that she doesn’t really enjoy working weddings. I responded with something like, “Oh, I see.” I was now chomping at the bit. You see, even during casual conversations with strangers, the coach in me comes out. I inevitably asked her what she wanted to do if not what she was already doing. She scoffed and laughed off the question, looking at me as if I asked her what kind of underwear she had on. But, being a coach of motivation through positive persistence, I inevitably asked the question again! She looked a bit dejected after I asked a second time. She responded, “Well, I would go back to school to get my degree and become a wildlife and nature photographer.” She went on to tell me her hero was Gene Stratton-Porter, an author, naturalist and nature photographer. She loved the lore and life of John Muir, often referred to as America’s first naturalist. Her eyes grew big and her face softened as she told me her passion.
I pleasantly responded with just one word, “But…” She looked at me, puzzled. I said, “Pat, you told me that you would go back to school to get your degree and become a wildlife and nature photographer. You haven’t told me why you can’t.” Her shoulders sunk. The look on her face went from happy to sad in an instant. In the middle of the flight, tens of thousands of feet in the air, it appeared that I had broken this woman. I felt as if I had asked too many questions. I then apologized to her, and told her that it was none of my business.
“No, it’s not that,” she responded. She nervously laughed and said, “In five years, I’ll be sixty years old. I can’t go back to school to get my degree.”
Well, I can’t help myself. The coach in me came back out. I said, “Pat, I have some bad news for you. Whether you get that degree or not, you are still going to be sixty in five years.”
She erupted with laughter. “You know, you’re right!”
We continued our pleasant conversation for the rest of the flight, focusing on her ambitions. When we parted ways, it felt like she was still tens of thousands of feet in the air, imagining all the possibilities she still had in life. Before our conversation, Pat felt that she was too old to start a new project. This was her excuse, which became her crutch, which became her life’s mandate. For several years—probably daily—she would consciously or unconsciously state (either to herself or others), “I would, but I can’t.” She joined the club of folks who live out the clear majority of their lives this same, unfortunate way. Why?
…Because it is safe.
- I once had a friend tell me that he wanted to become a National Park Service Ranger, but he had to get a degree to do that. He then told me that he would get a degree, but he can’t take tests because of the stress.
- Another acquaintance told me he had pre-diabetes, which of course can be reversed with a healthy lifestyle. He told me that he would change his diet, but he can’t because he was just a naturally bigger guy. Um, what?!
- A childhood buddy of mine once told me that he was encouraged by my own entrepreneurial efforts, and that he one-day wanted to open a neighborhood bar. I told him that was a great idea, and asked how I could help. He went on to say that he would do it, but he can’t because all the paperwork, liquor licensing, etc. was too much for him to deal with.
- I was in a former marriage where my wife and I were steadily growing apart. I wanted a new life. For years, I kept telling myself that I would get a divorce, but I can’t because you aren’t “supposed to,” and that it would be too hard on us, our families and our friends. So, I stayed and stayed. Until I finally breached my comfort zone.
You see how easy it is to join the “I WOULD, BUT I CAN’T CLUB?”
We’ve all done it, myself included. Saying I would, but I can’t…, and then giving your reason as to why you can’t, is not only safe, it actually sounds compelling. But your compelling reason for not achieving more in life is most likely just an excuse, and excuses are usually bullshit.
What’s worse, the “I WOULD, BUT I CAN’T CLUB” is not exclusive, it is very comfortable and entirely addicting! It’s a huge club, where members hang out with fellow members, all of whom are incredible at seeking out other people to join. The great Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If even one of those five people are in the club, you are at great risk of joining yourself.
Drop your excuses. They are lies you’ve told yourself and others so many times that you believe they are a part of what makes you, which is completely false.
YOUR BIGGEST OBSTACLE WILL ALWAYS BE YOU
Remember, inherent in your entrepreneurial endeavors is risk. The probability of things not working out, or receiving the proverbial “no” is high. When failing, and you will fail, your subconscious will pick up on the failure and relay messages that prove you shouldn’t try to do things outside your comfort zone. That’s when the attitude of, “Why bother?” might come into play. We see this all the time in business and in life. One or two failures, and people quit. Consciously, they might not want to quit, but the internal messages and security of the comfort zone are so strong that they end up relinquishing their bold behaviors and slink back to the comfort zone. The pull of the comfort zone is immensely strong.
Whatever your comfort zone consists of, you pay a huge price for it. Your life and your business can provide incredible possibilities, but you can’t take advantage of them without facing some failures. If you can’t tolerate failure, you can’t be fully alive. If, for example, you’re shy and avoid people, you lose the vitality that comes with a sense of community. Or maybe you’re creative but can’t tolerate criticism, so you’ll never reach out to people who could appreciate and help you with your work. Or you could be a leader of people, but can’t confront or set limits, so no one will truly follow you. You must constantly push yourself to breach your current zone of comfort. By staying in the comfort zone, you end up relinquishing your most cherished dreams and aspirations.
Thus, our job as entrepreneurs is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We do this through awareness. We become aware of our thoughts and feelings on a deeper level, especially after either a win or a loss in business or life. Whatever feelings and thoughts are evoked—whether you’ve overcome an obstacle, or perhaps when you’ve hit a roadblock—become immensely aware of your thoughts. Understand on a deeper level what it means to literally be pulled back into your zone of comfort. You can feel it happening. Maybe you are a stress eater, and after a bad day you decide to indulge in your favorite comfort foods. Or maybe you feel like your wheels are spinning, and you don’t know the next step to take, so you surf the internet for hours on end. Or maybe you gamble, over-shop, watch hours of pornography or take drugs. These actions are to escape the pain of failure and to seek comfort. Personally, I believe most people’s zone of comfort is over-watching television. According to the “New York Daily News,” the average American watches more than five hours of television every day, which is 35 hours in a week, 140 hours a month and 1,680 hours in a year. If you fall in line with the average TV consumer in America, you are spending 20 percent of your year in the television comfort zone. And remember, roughly 30 percent of your year is spent sleeping. So, between television and sleeping, half of your year is taken up by unconscious activity. Do you really think the most successful people out there spend literally half of their life this way? I don’t think so.
HOW DO WE GET OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE?
Drop your excuses and challenge yourself. YOU get in the way more than anyone or anything.
“I’m shy and introverted. I can’t possibly be good at selling.”
This is a lie. First, statistical data suggests you are far more likely to be an “ambivert,” which is a mix between an introvert and extrovert (It is a complex, sliding scale and very few are solidly one of the extremes). Second, in the scholarly report from “Sage Journal,” Adam M. Grant concludes that despite the widespread assumption that extroverts are the most productive salespeople, research has shown weak and conflicting relationships between extroversion and sales performance. You can find countless pools of data indicating that introverts and ambiverts are just as effective as extroverts in the field of sales.
This is the type of excuse that stems from the much larger excuse, “This is just the way I am.” No, it’s not. It is a story you tell yourself to keep you where you are.
“I don’t’ have enough money to go after what I really want.”
False. The answer to this excuse regarding money involves sacrifice. It’s time to prioritize. What are you spending your money on that could be reduced? Have you really exhausted all options to receiving money to pursue your dreams? Have you tried crowd-sourcing? Have you asked the bank? Have you sought grants and small business loans? Have you simply asked? Have you really done all the grunt work possible to obtain the money you need?
“I don’t’ have time.”
In my coaching program, I’ve worked with women who are employed fulltime while being fulltime mothers. I’ve worked with folks who are going to school for an MBA while working 40 hours a week and launching a business all at the same time. They made the time to succeed.
When I hear “I don’t have time,” I take this as someone not in control of his/her life. Control your power of saying, “No.” It’s okay to turn down invitations when you have bigger plans in mind. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, and cut out any unnecessary, time-consuming matters (Television? Be honest!). You have the time, you just need to make the time.
I have 24 hours in my day. What about you? You see, it really isn’t about time at all; it is about the energy you put into your most important tasks. If one were to use this all-pervading excuse, the more honest statement would be, “I don’t have the energy.”
“I’m too overwhelmed.”
Admittedly, this excuse I’ve used and it feels justifiable. The grand scheme of a goal can be daunting. No matter the size of the goal, the goal itself may appear so large that you don’t know how to get started.
Focus on the minor tasks that will get you to your goal. Focus on the process. Wise people don’t do huge, difficult things. Instead, they see the huge, difficult thing and break it down into minute pieces of manageable tasks. Combatting this excuse really comes down to organization. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
“I’m too old.”
Refer to my story about pat. Don’t let your age be your cage. Only you dictate these terms, nobody else. And if you feel that society has ruled you out of the equation because of your age, time to prove them wrong.
“What will others think?”
Another big one. When I was just starting my company, people thought it was “cute.” My former father-in-law told me that it was a neat idea, but suggested I not quit my day job. “I’ve been in business for myself before, and it didn’t work out too well, so keep that in mind,” he said. Um, sure. I’ll base my potential success off your former failure. That makes sense.
Honestly, what does it matter what others think? Give me one good reason why the opinion of others matters. Inevitably, on your path to bigger things, you might be inclined to quit. It is normal and natural. And guess what? All the naysayers and Debbie-Downers in your life will only validate that inclination. They’ll protest your goals because they are not ambitious enough to go after their own. Don’t let the negativity of others hinder you. Take their advice or leave it. That is a choice you get to make.
“What if I fail?”
The real question is, what if I succeed? Failure is always a risk. Get used to this. Very few things in life worth having provide a 100 percent success rate.
Use your excuses as an opportunity. Typically, your excuses can be reframed in a positive manner. This can help you gain momentum. These excuses are all in your head. They’re part of a story you are telling yourself. Once you acknowledge these stories, you can begin to write your new story and get closer to your goals.
DON’T JUST SET A GOAL, PHRASE A GOAL. THE FIVE RULES:
When I ask folks what their biggest goal is, the often can’t tell me. When I press them, they usually say something like, “To have a lot of money.” This is not a goal. This is a vague pipe dream, that when read, looks like a trivial reminder on a post-it note on a desk in a cubicle.
The power of goal-setting truly changed my life. After knowing the ins and outs of how to properly set goals in my life, I came to the shocking realization that not very many people have clearly defined goals. In fact, as much as 97 percent of Americans do not have clearly defined goals. And, of the 3 percent who do, only a small percentage of them write them down and review them daily. Having clearly defined goals that are stated correctly and reviewed daily is the key to their accomplishment. I believe there are specific rules to follow regarding goal-setting. Let’s take a closer look at my rules to find out how to set clearly-defined goals:
RULE ONE: STATE EACH GOAL IN THE PRESENT TENSE
As previously mentioned, never start your goals off with: “Someday…” or “I want to…” or “I hope to…” or even “I will…”
Your goals have immense power when stated, written, read and bellowed from the mountain tops in the present tense. Starting your goals with “I am…” and then using the present tense, as if your goals are being accomplished this very moment, provides energy, power and clarity to your subconscious. Many things happen simultaneously on a subconscious level when you state your goals in the present tense, as if they are happening right now.
Your goals immediately become more believable to you when you state them in the present tense. If all you ever say is “Someday I want to…” then your subconscious sees it as happening in the future, therefore it isn’t concerned with it right now. There is no power of belief because it is far off. I see this all the time with folks…they want to be, do and have so many things in this world, but they never think of actually being, doing and having those things right now. When you start your goals with “I am…” and then finish the statement in the present tense, you are creating a sense of personal ownership each time you read your goal aloud. It starts to feel more real and believable to you. The more you believe in your goal, the more action steps you’ll take to turn your goal into reality.
A second reason for writing goals in the present tense is that our subconscious doesn’t recognize or “understand” the differences in past or future…it really only cares about the present moment. It dynamically responds best and immediately to messages of the present moment…right freaking now!
RULE TWO: START EACH GOAL WITH “I AM” OR “WE ARE”
I AM. These are the most powerful words you can say. Why? Because the words “I AM” precede the subconscious beliefs you program yourself with, and thereby literally tell you how to feel in your body and mind. You are giving instruction to your subconscious every time you say, “I AM.” These words also instruct our Greater Mind—The Universe—to form an outer reality to match whatever word you choose to insert after the words “I AM.”
Using “I AM” is a double-edged sword, for every time you say, “I AM” and then follow it with a negative comment or explanation about yourself, you are instructing your subconscious to create more circumstances for you to feel the same. This becomes a downward spiral into creating (or re-creating) who you think you are. When you realize the power behind “I AM” statements, you will start being very careful what you say about yourself.
RULE THREE: GIVE EACH GOAL A DEADLINE
Your subconscious loves to work. It takes what you say and feel and tirelessly tries to create a circumstance that vibes with what you are saying and feeling. When we give our goals deadlines, we are telling our subconscious that we now have a target and a date. Our subconscious will work tirelessly on our behalf to bring about the people, circumstances and events that will bring us closer to our goals by the deadline. It is like a golden retriever fetching a ball you’ve thrown. It wants so badly to do right by you. When we give our goal a deadline, it becomes just that, a goal. If we don’t give our goal a deadline, it is really just wishful thinking.
The important thing to remember about goal-setting with deadlines is that if you don’t reach your goal by the deadline, simply bump it back. You will see the progress that has been made, adjust course if you need, and bump back the deadline as you see fit. It really is that simple…and better to refocus and bump back the deadline than get discouraged.
RULE FOUR: BE INCREDIBLY SPECIFIC
Casualness brings casualties. This is a biggie when it comes to setting goals. Your subconscious needs specificity in order to work at its highest level. Being casual about your goals by not being clear and specific will not bring about enough energy and desire from your subconscious. You must feed it clarity and exactness.
Which of these two goal statements provides more clarity?
“I intend to lose 20 pounds.”
“I am now weighing 180 pounds on or before November 1st.”
Losing 20 pounds may in fact be your goal, but the question is, what will be your exact weight after losing the 20 pounds? This is what we are talking about when we engage in specificity. In the second statement, not only are we specific with the exact number of pounds to weigh, we also used “I am,” kept in the present tense, and gave it a deadline. Refer to the post-it note example. “To have a lot of money.” This is so vague and casual that it has no bearing. What does “a lot” of money even mean? If you live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “a lot” of money might be very different than what you would consider “a lot” of money in the United States. Get specific. This is your life, after all.
RULE #5: WRITE THEM EVERY DAY, TWICE A DAY
If you aren’t doing so already, after reading these rules, get yourself a brand-new notebook or journal. Every morning and every evening, write out five to ten goals following all the rules above. Do so without fail, until the book is complete. Doing this completely saturates your subconscious with the five to ten things you desire most in this world. Your mind will begin to ponder not only what your desires are, but ways in which to accomplish them. And this may occur without your conscious mind really thinking about it. Completely inundate your mind with your goals by writing them down (using all the rules) twice a day. And, see if you can write them down without looking at your prior list. It is okay if things come and go. This is a practice in polishing and refining what is most important to you.
YOU HAVE THE TOOLS. NOW YOU MUST ACT.
Nothing of great pursuit in life is accomplished without setting goals. You simply can’t hit a target you can’t see. By implementing these rules into your goal-setting process, you will begin to uncover not only ways to accomplish your dreams; you will actually begin to realize your larger life-purpose. You set and achieve goals to feel a sense of satisfaction. And you cannot spell satisfaction without ACTION. The rest of this book will be obsolete if you do not take into consideration what you have just read in this chapter. Drop your excuses and get clear about what exactly it is you are pursuing.