How to overcome discouragement and authentically stand for your work

by | Oct 31, 2010

It happens. You put together an offer–a teleclass, a book, a special on your services–and hardly anyone takes you up on it. It’s like throwing a party, but nobody comes. Temporary setbacks can like these can lead to chronic under-earning unless you know how to roll with them so you can overcome discouragement and be a stand for your work.

Stand for, not as, your work
When you care deeply about what you do, it’s easy to confuse your value as a person with the fluctuating value your work may have in the marketplace. When clients flock to your door, you’re ecstatic. When they stay away, you’re in the dumps.

Identifying too closely with your work makes you especially vulnerable to the inevitable ups and downs of self-employment. To overcome discouragement and authentically stand for your work in the world (which is one way to think about marketing and selling) you need to take persistent action without attachment to results.

Non-attachment is a spiritual and practical virtue
When you aren’t attached to results, you don’t get worn down when things don’t go your way. You don’t take setbacks personally. The energy you save can be devoted to creating the results you want.

As a spiritual practice, non-attachment reminds you that you’re not Boss of the Universe. What a relief! At the same time, creating over and over again without attachment to results reminds you that the Universe is full of possibilities. Acceptance of possibility leads to healthy ambition.

As a business practice, non-attachment means taking action again and again, even when things don’t go your way. You continue to promote your work. You refine your offers. You tweak your Web site. Day by day you do what you can to create a thriving business whether or not you are seeing results in the short term.

Non-attachment can be learned
With few exceptions, spiritual and practical non-attachment don’t come naturally. They are skills you learn by noticing when you get wrapped up in a story of lack, loss, or bad luck and choosing, again and again, to set that story aside.

Meditation teachers say the key to meditating isn’t to prevent distracting thoughts, but to notice and let them go. The same is true of non-attachment. The point is not to be perfectly non-attached; it’s to notice when you become attached and make a fresh choice. Sometimes that means choosing 20 times in an hour!

Don’t compare your insides to their outsides
One thing that can derail your practice of non-attachment is comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. That is, comparing how you feel about the way things are going in your biz with how they seem to be going in someone else’s. Even the most successful-appearing people may be struggling emotionally or financially. You just can’t know.

It really is always something, and that’s no big deal
On your way to earning a reliably good living, you’re going to encounter obstacles. I like to say that it really is always something–and that this is true for everyone. The computer breaks down. The phone system goes out. The shopping cart crashes. Unanticipated setbacks happen to everyone all the time. It’s not about you.

The process of creating a livelihood consists of closing the gap between the way things are and the results you want to create. Focus on the things that get in the way, and you’ll get off track. Plans are essential, but when something happens to interrupt them, let go of the plan and focus on the goal.

Tell the optimistic story
In every situation there are two possible interpretations: the pessimistic story and the optimistic story. Regardless of which story you tell, it’s my experience that some pain is inevitable along the path to a good livelihood. But it’s only when you choose the pessimistic story that pain becomes suffering.

What I’d love for you is to remember that you have a choice when things look bleak. Without beating yourself up for feeling discouraged or less-than, see if you can find the optimistic story. Play with the possibility that it is as least as true as the pessimistic one. And stand up for yourself and your business as you create your unique contribution to the world.

Photo by: Tobias Sieben
Under a Creative Commons License