The feel good trap.
One of the traps self-employment can set for us is believing
that it should feel good. Even if our work pulls us out of
self-absorption, it's easy for the feel-good trap to keep us
from doing less appealing things. Like marketing. Or
selling. Or bookkeeping.
Perhaps it is the intimate connection between our emotions
and our work that tricks us into thinking that
self-employment ought to feel good.
It's a dangerous belief.
When you believe self-employment should feel good, you enter
a vicious cycle of make-wrong. It starts with not feeling
like doing whatever needs to be done. When you avoid the
task, your momentum slows. When momentum slows, enthusiasm
drops. And pretty soon you're feeling even less like working
on the project than when you started. And then you berate
yourself for procrastination.
And it all started because you thought you needed to feel
good about doing something.
Why feeling good isn't relevant to taking action.
The fact is, you don't need to feel like doing something to
do it, not even to do it well. Our moods are actually rather
poor indicators of how well we will do on a specific task.
More important is being clear about what we want to
accomplish and choosing the next step to getting there.
Like writing this article. Sometimes writing just flows. And
sometimes my brain feels like mush and I can't remember
where I put my authentic voice.
But experience has proven that putting it off doesn't help.
The longer I avoid writing, the harder it gets.
And every time I choose to focus my attention on the next
indicated step, the writing is good enough, and often even
better than that.
I'm not talking about stuffing your feelings.
You probably already know that stuffing your feelings makes
trouble. Whatever you send underground leaks out somewhere
else, usually in embarrassing or destructive ways.
What I'm talking about is accepting your feelings and then
taking the next step in the creative process. Because every
aspect--not just the obvious ones--of self-employment is
part of a creative process.
This means getting some distance between you and your moods
and emotions. Just enough space that you are not completely
identified with your feelings. Enough wiggle room that you
can make creative choices, one step at a time.
How to get out of the feel good trap.
Okay, so how exactly do you do that?
Recognizing that you don't need to feel good (or "feel like
it") to take action is the first step. This in itself
unhooks you from your emotional state.
Next, understand that momentum comes from an accumulation of
small actions, not from big, enthusiastic pushes followed by
grinding to an unenthusiastic halt. When you really get
this, you can take baby steps regardless of how you feel.
And those baby steps add up. (Like jotting down a few ideas
for this article. And then putting one sentence after
another without insisting that they be "right.")
When the way you feel is getting in the way of taking
action, tuning into your body can help. Notice how your
emotions are showing up in your body. What is the sensation
in your belly, your chest, your shoulders or jaw? Paying
attention to these things makes you more aware of how your
feelings are affecting you. And awareness leads to change.
Refocus your attention. When your attention is locked onto
how you feel, you can't pay attention to what you are trying
to accomplish. Remind yourself why this is important. Not to
overwhelm yourself with significance, but to clarify what
you are up to. Then identify the next step in the process
and take it. Don't wait until you can take it perfectly,
just take it.
Talk it out. Have a buddy or mastermind group you can talk
to when your emotions take over. Reporting what is going on
can often create the distance you need to get unstuck.
Self employment is a creative act.
Self employment is a creative act. Whether you are creating
an income stream, a marketing piece, or a benefit for one of
your clients, the rules of creating apply. One of them is to
watch out for the feel good trap.