Pretty Little Liars

Michelle Nicole Martin

Leadership & Performance Coach for Small Business Owners

Hey there, I want to introduce you to my client, Devon.

She is a young mother of two who is full of energy, genuine, warm, and wears her heart on her sleeve.

Ever since she got out of school, she's been the owner-operator of a learning center that her mother ran before her.

As anyone with a parent who runs a business knows, it's usually your first job working for your parents! I guess you can say.... this learning center is all she's ever known.

Fast-forward to today, and Devon is proud to say that the learning center is up for sale, and she's exploring her next entrepreneurial adventure—coaching!

How serendipitous!

When starting a business, especially a service business, it's critical to figure out what you want to create and how you want to live your life.

Naturally, we began with exercises to reconnect her with her strengths, experiences, and what she wanted to help others do or solve. We then started to build the foundations of her new coaching business.

We would talk, explore, and I would give her exercises. She would do her homework, and we would repeat the process.

Then, one day, she showed up without having done the homework.

I had a sneaking suspicion that something was coming up for her. This is normal; when we have a goal and start working towards it, our skeletons seem to find a way out of the closet, even the ones we didn't know existed.

So, she didn't do her homework—no big deal—but as a coach, I'm always curious about the real reason.

I asked why.

The first thing everybody always says is time.

That should be your first sign that you're not being honest with yourself. Time is never THE issue.

I listened patiently, and as people tend to fill the silence, the issue magically shifted from time to self-doubt.

How do I know that I can make this a successful business? There just seem to be so many unknowns.

That's valid.

But see how we went from time to self-doubt in almost the same breath? I knew there was more.

I asked her to tell me more about the unknowns that concerned her.

What if I put it out there, try so hard, and then I fail? Then I have to go back and say, 'OK, I'm not doing that anymore.' I'm changing my mind again. Is coaching even a real thing? I don't know any coaches. She looked down in dismay. "Is this real? Can people make a living out of it? It would be so much easier if I knew this was real and going to be accepted.

Another shift—from time to self-doubt and now to fear of judgment and criticism.

We're getting deeper. If I had focused on the "time problem," we would have gotten nowhere because time wasn't the issue at all.

But I sensed something deeper.... so I went for it.

"That's not true...well, not entirely.

For sure, it's not the biggest truth of all the truths.

I'm sure there was a time in your life when nobody approved of a choice you wanted to make. Nobody believed in what you were going to do, and you did it anyway because it's what you 100% wanted and you 100% believed you could do it. Has that happened in your life?"

She gave a shy smile, laughed, and told me how her family initially disapproved of her husband because he wasn't degreed. After sharing the story, she said it all worked out—they love him now because he's amazing.

"So is this really about time? Is it about your friends accepting your new path, or is it more about you not entirely believing you want to do this or that you can do this?"

Yeah, I'm scared. I don't know if I can do it.

"What is it about that thought that scares you?"

What if the only thing I can do is operate a learning center? I never even wanted it in the first place. I felt pressured by my mom to take over the business, and I did. It's all I've ever done, and I'm really good at it, but what if that's all I can do?

And there it is—the deepest fear.

Just like how your body works to process a virus—sweating it out, sleeping it out, and working to process it—when it comes to our fears, coaching conversations are one way to get it out and process it. When it stays within us, our fears keep us prisoner.

In another newsletter, I talk about the power of "Name it, to Tame It"

Here's the Catch-22 of fear: when you fear, "What if all I can ever do is run a learning center?" trying something new and failing proves the fear true, even though it's not true, but that's how we interpret it.

Our brains look for evidence to support our beliefs, even when our beliefs are fears and even when we don't actually want the belief.

Fear keeps you stuck.

You continue to run the learning center because your fear doesn't allow you to try something new, so you stay. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when you stay, that's all you will ever do, and therefore, it's all you will ever be good at.

When we try something new, it happens in two ways.

  1. We know what we want, we're 1000% bought in, and we go do it. In these instances, we almost seem fearless.
  2. But when we're moving away from pain, i.e., "I can't do this anymore. This isn't working for me. Something has to change," we're moving away from pain. We didn't decide that something else was calling for us; we're just moving away from something. And when you don't decide, you stay in a purgatory-like state, never here or there.

Just decide.

Drop the decision perfectionism and decide.

Decisions evolve—the fear of making the "right" decision is another red herring.

You know enough to know the next step - decide to take it or don't. But decide.

You already know what you want and who you are; decide to give yourself that permission to know.

Only then will you consider strategy and tactics.

No matter what uncertainty you face, you always find a way. You have always done something you never knew you could do until you did it.

So why would this be different now?


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