One of the challenges of working for yourself is recognizing when you are stuck. Being stuck can happen many ways, but for self-employed people it often looks something like this:
- Your income is level, or perhaps has taken a slight dip.
- You are feeling a lack of enthusiasm toward your work.
- You have one or more big decisions to make, and you find yourself churning them over and over rather than making the decision and then taking action.
If you've been self-employed for more than about six months, I can just about guarantee that you've experienced at least one of those three stuck places. The danger we run when we're self-employed is that we don't have others around us to take up the slack when we've backed off. We feel the results of our stuck place faster and deeper than a person who works in a large company, because in a large company someone will either step up or confront you and get you going.
Another problem we have is that we often don't even realize we're stuck – we just see the results of being stuck (one of the three above, for example). If you sit at your desk and ask yourself what's wrong, you're liable to go around in circles trying to think your way out of your stuck place. It's exasperating and it doesn' do much good.
Here's a better way to start getting at the issues.
- Get a few pieces of paper and get out of your usual work environment – go outside or to a favorite coffee shop.
- Ask yourself “what am I tolerating that I don't really like?” and write what comes up on your paper. Really take the time to let all the things you are tolerating boil up to your consciousness. You'll find that it could be little things (my chair really isn't very comfortable at my desk) to big things (my webmaster is returning my work too slowly to suit me these days). Keep at it until you have at least ten things you are tolerating in your life.
- Pick just one thing off the list, and to the right of it describe the opposite. Using the webmaster example, I might say “my webmaster is enthusiastic about my ideas and comes up with great solutions in just a few days.” Once you describe the opposite, you've already come up with what you really want and need. You don't have to analyze or even think much more about it. You now know what you need.
- Resolve to take action on this one thing. Don't worry about the rest of your tolerations list right now. Just make the one “opposite” thing happen. If I were going to take an action about my webmaster, for example, my plan would be:
- Talk to my webmaster and tell her how I feel about the turnaround time for my work. Be sure to use the exact words of the “opposite” which, for me, would be “I need a webmaster who is enthusiastic about my ideas and comes up with great solutions in just a few days. Can you do that?”
- If the conversation doesn't go well, immediately start interviewing other candidates for my webmaster position.
You'll find that if you focus on and resolve just one toleration, you suddenly will feel more energy and enthusiasm toward your work. You'll feel great that there's one less thing to tolerate, and you'll look forward to the new arrangement. The next thing you know, without even going back to your tolerations list, you will have found the opposite of what you're tolerating and taken action to get rid of a few more on your list. You are working your way out of being stuck, and taking actions that move yourself and your business in the right direction. And that's how to get out of being stuck if you are self-employed.