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Ignorance isn’t Bliss: Why You’re Avoiding What You Need Most—and How to Coach Yourself into Action

Jumping in

What’s stopping you from jumping in?

What are you avoiding because you feel like a total newbie?

What physical pain are you not getting checked out, because it’s scary to think of what might actually be wrong?

What unmade phone call or inquiry is draining your energy?

How would it feel to have that action behind you?

What would you be able to do with that extra energy?

—–

Back when I was first setting up my business, I was terrified about the financial and legal aspects.

(Remember, People Like Me don’t have businesses. Other People do.)

What business structure should I choose? How should I be keeping records? Should I become an LLC? What the hell is an LLC, anyway? Who should I hire as an accountant? What if I’ve already done something wrong without knowing it?!?

What do we do when we’re scared?

A lot of times, we do…nothing.

 

Four Fears, and a Fix

I had never worked with an accountant before—that had always been something that Other People (all of them Real Grownups) did.

I’d always had a job with tax money taken out for me, and my taxes were so straightforward that I’d never felt a need for professional help.

Now, in all my uncertainty, this much I knew: the days of TurboTax were clearly behind me.

Nevertheless, I was blocked by fear.

Fear of what?

It boiled down to four things, all of which had to do with the unknown:

 

1. Fear of Finding Out

This is the fear of the information you’ll get if you do deal with the thing you’re avoiding.

If I never find out, you may tell yourself, I don’t have to deal with whatever it is. It can stay safely in the realm of Imaginary and never has to become Real.

In this example, I was afraid that when I met with the accountant, I’d find out that I’d already done something horribly wrong.

By putting it off, I didn’t have to find that out.

 

2. Fear of F*cking Up (or Messing Up, if your clean ears prefer!)

This is the fear that if you do take action, you’ll make the wrong choice, or make a mistake.

By never doing it, you may think, I avoid doing it wrong.

I was afraid that I’d spend the money to meet with someone and have it turn out that I couldn’t move forward with that person for one reason or another. I was afraid of making the wrong choice for my business structure.

By not taking action, I never had to face taking the “wrong” action. (That’s in quotes intentionally, readers!)

 

3. Fear of Feeling Stupid

That’s one nasty s-word, but we sometimes apply it to ourselves when facing big scary areas of ignorance.

If I hide my confusion or stay in my comfort zone, you may believe, I never have to expose myself in all my not-knowing (read: admit that I’m totally freaking confused).

When trying to do something we’ve never done before, we can get stuck because it’s scary to admit or be with our own ignorance. So we don’t ask for clarification, get the help we need, or take the first steps towards educating ourselves.

When I was putting off finding an accountant, I was afraid of what I didn’t know. By not moving forward, I didn’t have to face that Newbie Nervousness! (Of course, knowledge is power, so I felt disempowered in this state of ignorance.)

 

4. Fear of Flying Higher

This is sometimes called fear of success.

If I take this step and get into action, you may imagine, I’ll have to keep going…I’ll have to keep this up…I’ll be playing on a different level…(and who the hell do I think I am, anyway?!) If I stay stuck, I never have to do that.

For me, investing in setting up my business structure and building my financial team meant taking the next step—inwardly and publicly—in getting serious about my business. It wasn’t just about taxes. It was about saying, “I’m really in this, 100%.”

When taking a step means playing a bigger game—stepping into a bigger arena—we might avoid action because the momentum that action will create feels terrifying.

 

The Fix

When I could feel myself procrastinating, I decided to give myself what I needed to move forward: clarity and accountability.

I got really clear on just why I was stuck, and I promised my own coach that I would take action.

As with most things we put off and put off, the anticipation and the story-building around the action were so much worse than the actual event.

I started asking around for recommendations, found an accountant, registered my LLC, and immediately began to see my financial house come into better order.

It was such a relief to know  for certain that I was doing everything legally.

And I had so much more energy freed up to focus on what I do best and love most.

—–

Ignorance is one of the greatest sources of fear there is.

Taking steps to break through ignorance (i.e., getting information) is one of the most powerful choices you can make.

Again and again, I’ve seen my clients leap from feeling powerless to feeling empowered after they took the steps necessary to get more information.

The funny thing is, what’s scary differs from person to person. Perhaps you read this and thought, What’s so scary about hiring an accountant or registering a business? And that’s fine.

My scary might not be your scary.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is:

What IS your scary?

And what do you want to do about it?

If you’re putting off important action (your scary) because of one of these four fears, I have an awesome exercise for you. Grab a pen and paper or open up a new doc.

 

Step One

First, whatever you’re avoiding, write that action at the top of the page.

Step Two

Get crystal-clear on why you’re avoiding taking action:

Divide your paper into four columns.

Title the columns:
1. I’m afraid I’ll find out…
2.
I’m afraid I’ll f*ck it up by [or mess it up] by…
3. I feel stupid/ignorant about…
4. If I succeed, I might have to…

Get all those fears on paper. You’ll likely find they lose their power when you just call them what they are and get them down on paper.

Step Three

One by one, address each fear with these four powerful questions and answers.

For every single item in each column, you can ask yourself one of these questions, and answer it with four simple answers.

Out loud.

I mean it.

1. Q: What if I find out that ____? A: I’ll handle it.

2. Q: What if I f*ck it up by ____? A: I’ll try it again, or try something else.

3. Q: What if I’m ignorant about ____? A: I’ll learn it, or get help from someone who knows it.

4. Q: What if I succeed and then I have to ____? A: I’ll choose whether I want to move forward when that time comes…and if I do, I’ll handle it.

 

These four answers can be used and practiced like mantras. “I’ll handle it” is one of the most powerful phrases I’ve ever learned. (I believe the wonderful Susan Jeffers put it into my mind—thank you, Susan!)

As you start to take action, and the What Ifs come up, use these questions and answers to help you move forward—out of ignorance, and into empowered action.

And BTW:

You will.

You’ll handle it.

Photo by Sam MacCutchan

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