Have you ever felt tempted to ‘quit while you’re ahead’?
Picture this:- You get to the end of a project . It’s taken you weeks, months. It’s occupied your time and your energy, been fascinating and absorbing, and now it’s complete. Things are looking hopeful. This could really be the start of something big; a new source of revenue, a new career even, and a way to make your mark.
And so you feel fantastic; optimistic and energized. Ready to take on the world.
Or do you?
How about scared, tired, depressed, aimless, reluctant to start anything new? And suddenly you have a misunderstanding with your new business partner. Or your child gets sick and you’re up half the night. Or the car breaks down leading to all kind of inconvenience.
Last week I published a blog article entitled ‘Marketing Strategies LOL!’ I was celebrating the wonderfully successful launch of my book ‘The Music Inside’ on Amazon, the start of my new author website and the start of a new career as a writer and coach and, dare I say it, as a business entrepreneur.
I finished my article with a quote by the British WW2 Prime Minister, Winston Churchill:
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.’
This quote spoke to me on so many levels. For starters, a part of me wanted ‘success to be final’. That same part of me that would LOVE to R.I.P, not to have to keep challenging myself, not have to grow and expand any more.
And another part who loves the thrill of success, of a job well done, and of receiving approval and acclaim. And which doesn’t want all of that to be over and to go back to every day, ‘mundane’ life, and back to hustling. The part which says (in a somewhat whiney voice) ‘I need a break!’
‘Failure is not fatal’ and we all know, I’m sure, the expressions, ‘You have only failed if you have given up’ or ‘You only fail when you stop trying.’
The ‘courage to continue’ seems to make total sense after failure. Being brave enough to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, patch up your wounds and jump back in the saddle, risking getting hurt and even humiliated again.
But after success? Courage? Really?
Well, it seems that yes. Courage is very much required after success. Which implies that there are a lot of fears knocking around. Fears which manifest as physical and emotional feelings – what I call ‘quitting symptoms’. They’ve been on turbo strength for me this week!
Here are some of them (you can add your own!):-
Tiredness, ‘laziness’ (I don’t believe in laziness BTW, I call it resistance), exhaustion.
Headaches, swollen eyelids, itchy skin.
Depression, wanting to cry, feeling irritable and overwhelmed.
Butterflies, knot in my throat, tightness in my chest.
Not knowing what to do. Confusion, reluctance to even focus on the next step, resistance to any new ideas, lack of interest.
Manifesting other ‘stuff’. Some call this coincidence, but I believe we ‘create our own reality’ and so somehow we attract things to distract us. Sometimes nice stuff, like the DVD of series 6 of Downton Abbey (now there’s a good reason not to concentrate on my career) or celebrating my daughter’s 15th birthday. Sometimes irritations (how could they have sent a new pair of boots for her, one foot size 39, one 37?) or losing vital things. All good for time wasting. And sometimes even huge life changing things like signing a contract for a new house. J
Quite a week.
But I’ve learnt a thing or two over the last few years…and this time I’m onto myself!
There have been so many times in my past when I’ve ‘done a bolt’. Sometimes after perceived failures, like when I dropped out of music college and literally fled the country to start up a new life and not have to stay with all my feelings of shame and disappointment and anger. Or when I took an audition after four years of playing regularly as an extra with a professional orchestra, didn’t get the job, and moved rapidly in teaching. Once again, too much shame, embarrassment even.
And other times I have ‘cut and run’ after successes.
Perhaps less literally, more by not following through on things, but by letting my creations fend for themselves and moving swiftly onto the next project, ignoring their very existence. I’ve felt like a guilty mother who’s abandoned her babies at birth but somehow can’t bring herself to take the risks and do the work required to raise them. (Thank goodness we’re talking artistic projects here and not my real children!)
So what kind of fears come up when I consider following through, when I contemplate ‘quitting the quitting habit’?
For me there are many fears, but they all fit into the two categories mentioned by Mr. Churchill: failure or success.
So under failure I have fears like:
‘All my hard work will be for nothing.’
I will be ignored and/or rejected and criticized.
People will see me for ‘what I am’; worthless, untalented and useless. (Ouch, where did those painful, spiteful voices spring from?)
And under success. These are the kind of crazy thoughts that run through my head:
Things are really going to change now. I’m going to have much more money, and that’s going to upset people round me. I’ll lose friends, I’ll have to move to a bigger house in a classier neighborhood and people will look down on me. I’ll have to take it all much more seriously, deliver more, give much better value for money, never make a mistake. I’ll be seen, stand out, and risk getting told I’m showing off. And what if this all turns out to be a big disappointment? What if I’ve got my ‘ladder leaning up against the wrong wall’? Been there, done that, like when I built up an immensely successful teaching practice and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my life at all…
And what if it all goes right? Well, I’m not used to that. Much better to stay with what is safe and known.
These thoughts threaten to paralyze me and stop me. But basically they come from a part of me which is trying to keep me in my ‘comfort’ zone (not comfortable at all), and keep me safely within what my past programming has taught me is acceptable and ‘right’.
But luckily (for the rest of me!) I have learnt a thing or two (hundred) over the last few years and so have many ways of getting through these fears and arriving at a place from where I can move ahead.
Here are some of the tools and techniques that I now use, and that I know work for me, and for others, and which help to unlock the self-made prisons that we build for ourselves with our fears and self-limiting beliefs.
Self-compassion. This was a big piece in the puzzle for me and it took me quite a while to reach it on my ‘inner journey’. Whether it felt more like self-indulgence or somehow ‘letting myself off the hook’ (though why that should be such a bad thing I really don’t know), it took me a long time to understand how very important it is to be nice to myself, especially when I am already suffering. Too many stiff British upper lips, possibly, and it was very nice to let them go. To let myself rest and recuperate when necessary and give myself a little time and TLC. The same leeway that I would give a dear and cherished friend.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or ‘Tapping’.
Meditation and Mindfulness.
Using planning and then taking ‘small chunks’ of action.
Next week I will go into these 6 areas in more detail, show you how they helped me to break out of this week’s inertia, get this article written... and feel a whole lot better and excited about moving forward once again.
Albert Einstein: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.