“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
I’ve repeated this cliche statement about a thousand times to about a thousand clients throughout my professional career. It typically spills out of my mouth when I propose a new campaign, plan of action, or platform that the client is unfamiliar with. In situations where I’m recommending something out of the box or new to them, their first impulse is to push back because they’re not sure if doing something new is the right move, even when data tells us otherwise – drop off in organic traffic, decrease in leads, whatever the case is.
That’s when I need to pull out this statement and explain why I’m recommending what I am, the results we can expect, and then I always end it with – “If we go down this path and it’s not producing the results we want or that we’re expecting, we change our course of action. That’s all.”
And then, because they trust in the process and in me, we move forward strategically.
I’ve dealt with this scenario more times than I can count between the hours of 8:30am and 6pm, Monday through Friday. But, as I was catching up with a friend of mine on the phone today, I found myself saying that phrase to her.
My simple statement, the exact one I’ve said over and over and then some more, made me stop and realize that I was missing a huge opportunity in my life.
I’ve never once applied that statement to any other part of my life – to my relationships, to my own career, to my own passions.
I said this as I was talking to her about relationships and the type of men I usually date. And believe me, I’ve got a type – in the entertainment industry, who like to party, who have tattoos, and who typically like other things (cough cough themselves cough cough) more than they like me.
And I kept wondering why my relationships never seemed to work out…
Of course they kept ending because I kept dating the same type of guy. I kept putting myself in those “all too familiar” situations. I wasn’t doing it intentionally but that’s the problem, isn’t it?
Without stopping to take relationship audits, career audits, whatever audits in your life, you miss out on seeing important patterns – are you constantly dating the same type?
Do you continually find yourself unhappy in the jobs you accept?
Are you always backing away from the hobbies or passions that you find yourself drawn?
Are you holding yourself back or holding onto your comfort net because you’re scared of what others might say or what might happen if you fail?
I’ve been reading the book, “Emotional Agility” by Susan David and there’s a section in this book that has stuck with me these last few weeks. She explains how important it is to: Recognize your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.
(Please note: I’m about to copy and paste random sentences and sections of this article to prove my point so if this is interesting to you, I’d recommend checking out the full article from Harvard Business Journal)
“The first step in developing emotional agility is to notice when you’ve been hooked by your thoughts and feelings… When you’re hooked, the attention you give your thoughts and feelings crowds your mind; there’s no room to examine them. One strategy that may help you consider your situation more objectively is the simple act of labeling. Just as you call a spade a spade, call a thought a thought and an emotion an emotion.
The opposite of control is acceptance—not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. Take 10 deep breaths and notice what’s happening in the moment… When you unhook yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you expand your choices. You can decide to act in a way that aligns with your values.”
So, the way I’ve used this in my own life is by identifying those moments where I immediately react to a text, a sentence, a situation, or whatever emotional. I get upset. I get stressed out. I react before I can think – send an angry text back or say something I don’t really mean because I’ve been taken over by my emotions.
Instead of reacting immediately, I’ve made the decision to stop, breathe, and then move forward appropriately.
I can’t even tell you how often I’ve used this tactic and how it has helped me make smarter decisions.
And I’m bringing up emotional agility because here’s something that I guarantee – when you realize that you need to make a change in your life to get a different outcome or to put yourself on a new path, chances are you’re going to feel afraid, doubtful, or scared of what’s going to happen, what people will say, and how they’ll react.
That’s your being trying to protect itself from looking dumb. It wants to keep you in this safety net of comfort and mediocrity because if you push yourself, you’re walking on the path of unfamiliarity. And despite what your being is trying to tell you, that’s a great place to be. It means you’re doing something new. You’re challenging yourself to live a happier/more fulfilled/better/whatever life. You’re finding out who you are when you’re faced with fear or uncertainty. You’re not settling for the same old stuff.
So, when you begin to feel those things – stop, breathe, recognize that your emotions are taking over, and then move forward appropriately. What I hope for you in this situation is for you to recognize that you’re just scared of the unknown but that I hope with everything that you also decide to explore that unknown.
Whether you decide to face fear now or months or years from now, you’re always going to have to face it at points in your life. It’s how you tackle it that matters. It’s about recognizing that it’s just another emotion and you don’t have to become what you feel – you can separate yourself from the things you’re feeling and then move forward based on your values or your beliefs.
Recognize that fear is just fear and it’s not going to dictate your life or your happiness.
Don’t let it control you – if you want to write more but you’re scared of what people will think of what you have to say, start a blog anyway and share it with friends before you’re ready to. If you want to become a photographer, dedicate a few hours every weekend to go take some photos and open up an Etsy shop.
Happiness and fulfillment typically lives on just on the other side of fear and discomfort.
But to make a change, a true change, to live the life that you’re yearning for – you’ve got to put yourself into new, exciting situations. You have to follow your heart when you’re not sure how everything is going to work out. You have to ignore the haters and the people trying to tell you that “it’ll never work” and you need to push forward.
Whatever you want to do will likely be scary but it’s up to you to not hold yourself back.
If things don’t work out how you hoped, then just take what you’ve learned and try again. Very few decisions are final – keep trying and trying until you find a way or a path that will work for you to get you to where you want to be.
If you want to get a result that you’ve never had, you’ve got to tell fear to gtfo, because you’ve got chances to take and things to accomplish.