Why “working on your stuff” improves business

by Cathy on August 31, 2010

This is part of the “Taking My Own Medicine Mondays” series even though I’m posting this on Tuesday.  What can I say–it is what it is.  Better late than never…any other cliches that I can add??? Oh, never mind… just keep reading.

I’ve come to learn that to run a successful business, you really need to have a practice of “working on your stuff” because when you have your own business, you will be confronted with your issues every step of the way.

I used to make a very regular practice of what I thought was “working on my stuff: and what that meant was, facing the grief that I walked with 24/7 and surrendering to it. Spending long stretches of time crying and just getting out the pain.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I would cry for hours and then I’d feel a little better, sometimes a lot better.  I didn’t know what else to do beyond acknowledging and trying to release the pain.  I didn’t know that there was more that could be done; medicine–balm if you will–that I could put on these wounds to help them to heal permanently  not just wash them out and let the air get to them. While that helped to alleviate the surface pain, it did very little in terms of real healing.  I just didn’t have the tools then and so I cried and waited, cried and waited.
I’ve learned a few things since then and now I know that working on your stuff means interacting with it.  My dear friend Gerri has asked me ‘how do you work on your stuff?  what do you do ? what does that even mean?

For me it looks like this:
Event —Thought — Feelings — Behavior—

I know that the painful feelings that I experience around things in life come directly from the thoughts that I have about events and I have come to notice that I often have the same set of thoughts regardless of the specifics of the circumstance.  This is also known as the pattern.

For example, every time I did one of my Feed Your Soul, Feed Your Body workshops the first thought that would come into my head after putting the info out about a workshop would be:
What am I going to say to myself when nobody signs up and this class doesn’t happen?
How am I going to keep myself from feeling like a failure?

Whenever I launch something the thought “how will I console myself when this doesn’t work out” is always my go-to place. It’s even deeper really.  I realize that every time I decide there’s something that I want my first reaction is: that will never happen or it’s not going to work…

And how do I interact with that pattern?
I start by observing where my thoughts naturally go.
I realize that I have a choice.  I can go down the well-worn path or I can choose a different path.  When you look at your patterns and see them for what they are:  just an organization of the same thoughts over and over again, you can decide not to engage with them.  You can see them:  OK, here comes the part where I start contracting and feeling small, amping up for the disappointment.

What helps me is to do something drastic like going in the complete opposite direction.

Please understand this is not about “putting on a happy face” and going into denial.  I am very well aware from all of the therapeutic work that I have done over the years, what experiences have led me to have these thoughts in these circumstances.  Just knowing “why” does not necessarily help with the “how.”  And right there is the difference between therapy and coaching.  Therapy addresses the “why”, coaching teaches the “how”.  Both good, both important.  And the HOW here is how to move past the thoughts of failure and limiting behavior.

I don’t need to keep doing this if I don’t want to.  I can make a choice and do it differently.

Even if you don’t believe that how you think about things affects the outcome there’s still a reason to check your thoughts:  If I’m assuming the best and behaving from a place of success rather than failure then the time from when I launch the course to the time it takes place is a pleasant experience for me rather than me trying to console myself for the ensuing disappointment when what I fear will come true actually does.

And by the way I think that trying to “prepare yourself” emotionally in case things don’t work out is just a recipe for failure.  It keeps you from coming up with creative solutions, from putting your thing out in the world, it keeps you small, and scared.  How does trying to brace yourself for things not working out do any good whatsoever?   I believe in going for things full out and dealing with the outcome when the shit hits the fan.
Again with the Opposites
I embrace the opposite of what is natural for me to feel.  I suspend my regular thought process and see my class as full with people who are eager to learn what I have to teach.  I see all of us learning and sharing, getting so much out of the experience.  It is really a blessing for us all.  Everyone gets many tools they can use to grow their business and tools that they can use to to take care of themselves through the process.

Sometimes I visit that scenario many times a day.
It beats the alternative any day.

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  • Gerrimg

    Hi… I'm the “Gerri” of which you speak, and again, MY dear friend Cathy — you get to the heart of a matter that (I'm pretty sure) plagues us all at some point or another: gearing up for what we think will be the outcome of an event that hasn't happened yet. It's like showing up at a battle field in full armor and realizing someone forgot to schedule the war.

    At least that's been my pattern. And here's how I interact with my pattern: Presuming the outcome of any event or endeavor will be bad (regardless of not having a modicum of proof that such an end will actually come to fruition) so I think of numerous ways to deal with all the misery and failure (in advance) that will obviously befall me, and never ever give a thought to what I would do if the situation were to miraculously take a turn in my favor. What? Something turn out good or positive? That's crazy talk. And, should it happen… why, I couldn't possibly be worthy of something like that, so I'll just focus (again) on all the potential disasters that could be lurking (unbeknownst to me) and decide to be miserable about that! There! Another job well done!!!

    But Cathy has shown me the Event —Thought — Feelings — Behavior paradigm, and having had her coach me through it, helped me discover WHY I do the “pattern,” and as she stated beautifully, then taught me the more important “HOW” to change it. And, as she states… it is by embracing the opposite of what my pattern is. It's not easy… if single habits are hard to break, then complete patterns are even harder. But well worth the effort.

    Although I am not fully “de-patternized”… like us all, I am a work in progress. And Cathy, dear Cathy, has given me the tools through her teaching, friendship, love and expertise to do the work. She is like the Home Depot of coaching: everything you need in one place to build the life you want.

  • Hi Cathy,

    Read your comment on the Heart of Biz blog. Your musical theater comment regarding the video gave me a chuckle.

    Yes, I'm also big fan of going in the opposite direction for just about anything (even video). Tend to be disobedient.

    This is a great line from above, “And by the way I think that trying to “prepare yourself” emotionally in case things don’t work out is just a recipe for failure. ” I used to do that in my twenties with boyfriends. I'd “throw away their toothbrushes,” if I thought they were going to break up with me! It just puts bad energy vibes out there so I stopped doing it – everything in my life improved.


    p.s. love “bridge architect.” Neat! And like Gerri's comment: depatternized.

  • Cathy

    I love what you wrote about interacting with your pattern. –you really are so funny and you're a great writer. You either need to start doing some stand-up or write a humorous take on your emotional landscape–so many people can relate.
    Thanks for the comment–you are the bestest, best best and I love ya!!!!

  • Cathy

    Giulietta–thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I thought your comment on Mark's blog really expressed everything that I feel about doing a video. Until I can produce something that's an innovation on how it's currently being done, I'm just going to skip it.

    I love that you threw away your boyfriend's toothbrushes if you thought they were planning to break up with you–that's not so bad. There's a lot of worse things that you could have done. Glad you got past it… 🙂

  • Riverjules

    This blog is very well thought out and encouraging. I'm learning to change my thought of not showing my jewelry on-line. I have no idea how to do this, but I'll try really to find out through the internet and friends. I think i'm starting to feel this way because one of my customers is so very enthusiastic about my desighns that as you know, she bought 6 necklaces . I purchased more beads with her in mind. They're totally different from the necklaces I sold her so I'm hoping she'll buy more! Good work to you, Cathy, on your blog.

  • Cathy

    Julie–It's great that you're exploring new designs and directions with your jewelry. You are a very talented artist and one of my favorite jewelry designers!

  • Gerrimg

    Yes… stand up about my “emotional landscape.” So true about comedy and tragedy being inextricably linked! xoxox!!!

  • Tina

    Thanks for a most insightful article. I didn't know about the difference between the “why” of therapy and “how” of coaching. Thank you for sharing the “how” of embracing the opposite.

  • Cathy

    I appreciate your appreciation! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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