I recently started reading an awesome book by Whitney Johnson called Dream, Dare, Do. (To anyone looking for inspiration, I highly recommend it.) In it, she talks about the importance of the stories and narratives that we tell ourselves in regards to our aspirations, dreams, and goals: are they positive or negative? Do they inspire us to pursue our dreams or suppress our hopes?
Once I started thinking about this, I realized that in many cases, my stories have been of the negative, dream-suppressing ilk.
It goes like this: since I was in my early 20s, I’ve known that at some point in my life, I want to start and own my own business. When I was younger I wasn’t sure what type of business it would be, but I knew, deep in my bones, that it was something I wanted to do in the future.
Until very recently, all my education, training, and experience have been in international affairs — and in this line of work, the only way you go the entrepreneurial route is if, after 30 years in the workforce, you set up shop as an independent consultant. This was the most readily available explanation for how I’d eventually own my own business, but it felt wrong to me. It’s a great gig for some people, but it’s not the right fit for this cowgirl.
Knowing this, I briefly decided that since the only entrepreneurial venture available to someone with my background and experience didn’t interest me, like, even a little teeny bit, I should face the music and give up hope on ever being an entrepreneur.
Yeah, that didn’t last more than, oh, five minutes.
There’s simply no denying that it’s something I want to do, so instead of giving up altogether I decided that the right idea would pop up at the right time.
Ideas for possible business ventures began percolating in the back of my mind over a year ago, and I’ve been doing a lot — a lot
— of thinking since then. I realized that I want to turn my passions for health and wellness, food, and fitness into a business, so I’ve spent the last 9 months studying holistic health with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
— and I love it. It’s a huge shift from international relations, but I have some good ideas for how I want to weave that part of who I am and what I love into my business model.
Although I’ve been getting really excited about my ideas and am enjoying building strategies and plans to implement them, I find that I often get derailed by my own internal stories and limiting beliefs. Here’s a sample of some of the old standbys:
— 90% of new businesses fail. Think of all the stories you hear about people who pursued their dreams and wound up destitute – do you want to become a statistic? Does living in a refrigerator box and eating Ramen sound appealing to you?!
— This is ridiculous. Just because you have new and innovative ideas doesn’t mean they’re any good.
— No one is going to want what you have to offer.
— Everyone is going to think you’ve lost your mind.
— Just because it worked for people who wound up on Oprah doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
As you can tell, there are some real gems floating around in my inner monologue.
As Johnson talks about in her book, the stories we tell ourselves and the beliefs we have about our own ability have a huge bearing on what we achieve. So, in the interest of no longer beating myself up, I decided to come up with some strategies to combat and shut down the old standbys.
Old Standby: 90% of new businesses fail. Think of all the stories you hear about people who pursued their dreams and wound up destitute – do you want to become a statistic? Does living in a refrigerator box and eating Ramen sound appealing to you?!
Rebuttal: First and foremost, I’m making the shift towards entrepreneurship gradually and thoughtfully. I’m keeping my day job and will be operating the business on a very lean budget with very little overhead. By keeping my regular job while standing up my business, I’m not going to be dependent on my business in order to earn a living, and by keeping my costs down, I can maximize whatever revenue I earn.
This circumvents one of the key factors leading to entrepreneurial failure: many businesses don’t start earning large amounts of money right away. When there’s a business loan to pay off and overhead costs to manage, you need to be prepared to be in the red while getting started — and many people aren’t. However, I won’t face those particular problems.
Old Standby: This is ridiculous. Just because you have new and innovative ideas doesn’t mean they’re any good.
Rebuttal: Maybe, but maybe not. My ideas are exciting to me, and they make me incredibly happy. I trust my instincts on this and believe that if something makes me gasp with delight at the very thought of it, I’m probably not the only one in the world who’ll feel that way.
Old Standby: No one is going to want what you have to offer.
Rebuttal: Not necessarily. The people who I’ve spoken with about what I want to do and how I want to do it have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive — so there’s reason to believe that other people will feel that way, too.
Old Standby: Everyone is going to think you’ve lost your mind.
Maybe, yes. It’s a big change from what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years, but my friends know me well enough to know that I’m not about to become some patchouli-scented flower child who bums around on a beach in Cambodia while accruing massive debt, trying to find herself, and chasing after a ridiculous pipe dream. They know me well enough to understand that I’m doing this carefully and pragmatically — and if they don’t, then maybe they aren’t such great friends.
Old Standby: Just because it worked for people who wound up on Oprah doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Rebuttal: Yeah, but just look at how many people Oprah interviewed — people who’d pursued their dreams and passions, and who were met with incredible success. It takes hard work and perseverance, and it’s definitely not going to be a cakewalk, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If all those other people can do it, I can do it too.
I’m amazed by how long I’ve spent shutting myself down at every corner, convincing myself that my dreams were simply impossible, and generally making myself miserable. I find that deploying these rebuttals in the face of an Old Standby does wonders for my outlook. And yes, I’ve decided Old Standbys are now their official name — I decided to also attach the mental image of a grouchy, crotchety old man to the name Old Standby, just so I can get a visual representation of how distorted those views really are.
Do you have any Old Standbys that keep you from pursuing your dreams? If so, how do you rebut them or turn them around into more positive statements?