A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

09 September 2009

Do the Voices in Your Head Bother You?

When I first got into the business coaching business, I heard a lot of fellow coaches warn me about "self-limiting beliefs" and "negative self-talk." And I smiled and nodded a lot, thinking I understood what these guys were saying.

Then I heard, from a variety of directions, about the importance of keeping a positive attitude about your business and your opportunities. Things like economic downturns and seasonality, I was told, were part of that body of self-limiting beliefs, and I must refuse to let those things provide excuses for underperforming. Recession, I was told, was all in people's heads. And again, I smiled and nodded a lot, and truly thought I understood.

And then the news was on about the "bubble burst" of the real estate market, and the various other factors that added up to a really pretty serious economic situation that was rocking the country and in turn, the world. This was no ordinary recession, even by alarmist media standards. This was serious. And even those people I admired most, who were really living that positive attitude and succeeding in their businesses, started to struggle hard to keep it together. Some of them even closed their doors - and nobody was as surprised by this as they themselves were. "I've been in business for 30 years," they would say, "And I've never seen anything like this." Indeed, the only people who seem to find this familiar are those who've been around since the 30s. To their credit, they will tell you to quit your whining, because you're still eating a lot better than they did then.

This, then, is the acid test of self-limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. This current economy may very well be the worst you've seen, or will see, in your lifetime. And here's what I have to say about that.


The only thing that happens if you talk about the horrible economy all the way to the bankruptcy filing is that you have plausible deniability about your own role in it. Honestly, is that going to make you feel better? And is it even true?

Your success or failure is ultimately about you. It's about the choices you make and the attention you pay to the realities of the market and your strategies for finding the opportunities in it. As long as there is anyone left in this world who needs what you offer, there will be a business offering it. So it's up to you to decide whether it's you or your competitor who is left standing at the end of the game. The ones who fail will be the ones who listened to the voices in their heads (and the ones on TV) instead of sizing up the situation and getting down to business.

I've come to a much deeper understanding of what all those people were talking about when I first got started with my coaching practice. It's not simply about being "positive," and it's certainly not about creating a set of happy beliefs that fly in the face of reality. It's about tuning in to the reasons why you do what you do, and finding the real passion that makes it worth whatever you have to endure to do it. Tune in, every day, to your personal vision and mission as well as the vision and mission of your business. Get excited about how your work changes the world for the better. And make up your mind, right now, that your customers have a deep and genuine need for your product or service that you owe it to them to meet.

There's nothing lightweight about this "positive self-talk" stuff. This is about true love and true joy -- and that is serious business.

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