Susan was finally ready to act on her dream of starting an interior decorating business. The soon-to- be-retired school teacher enrolled in my Courage to Succeed coaching program to help her “go professional” at the decorating work she had been doing informally for years. One of her first steps in the program was creating a portfolio of photographs of design work she had done for friends, family and even some small businesses. There was no doubt to anyone who saw the photographs or who worked with Susan that she was a gifted designer who could transform any space and do it on a budget.
Susan was full of enthusiasm as she shared her business plans in our coaching sessions. However, as her plans got closer to becoming reality, I began to notice signs of trouble. For instance, she confessed that twice she had driven to the printer to order business cards and then returned home without going in or even getting out of her car. Then she said she kept “forgetting” to return a call from the president of a local women’s business group who wanted her to speak at an upcoming meeting. Yet I knew that Susan had been cultivating this opportunity for months – we had even gone over her speech together!
When I pointed out an emerging pattern in these events, Susan began to talk about her feelings. “I know I’m great at decorating,” she said, “but something in me freaks out when it’s time to announce my plans to the world.” Then she began to laugh. “ Do you know I even wondered if I should spend a whole $30 on business cards! I don’t know what I thought I would do – hand out little scraps of paper with my name scrawled on them?”
What was going on with Susan? She had a common case of what I call the “achievie-jeebies.” A second cousin to the “heebie-jeebies,” the“achievie-jeebies” is that sudden panic that can grips us when we start to take practical steps toward our dreams. Even a seemingly minor act like ordering business cards can set off the “aj’s” because it is a symbol of our ambition, our belief in our self and our willingness to “blow our own horn.” Like many of the women I work with who are entrepreneurs or self-employed, Susan was comfortable doing professional level work on an informal basis for friends, family and neighbors. But when it came time to tell the world – and herself – that she was a professional, then the “achievie-jeebies,” kicked in.
To be a successful entrepreneur you have to believe in yourself passionately – and publicly. This can cause a conflict with women who have been encouraged to put their own needs and wants second to others. Most of the women entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have struggled with moments of uncertainly, self-doubt and even panic at times. But 99% of them have learned to take risks, to invest in themselves and well, to blow their own horn.
The good news is that the achievie-jeebies are curable. Here are three things you can do when they strike.
1. Face your fear and accept it. You should EXPECT to be occasionally terrified as you take on new challenges. In fact if you’re not afraid once in a while then you’re probably not making much progress. Fear, risk and success are not incompatible. In fact they are quite chummy.
2. Keep your eyes on the prize. Take time to reconnect with the passion that got you started on this journey. Was it the freedom of being your own boss? The opportunity to help others with your unique skills? The joy of doing something you love? Whatever it is, keeping connected to it will give you the energy to resist those achievie-jeebies.
3. Take a courage step every single day. A “courage step” is any action that is slightly difficult for you – it could be starting your business plan, writing a press release or calling a prospective customer. If you do something daily that frightens you – even just a tiny bit – you’ll train that “courage muscle’ to take on risks you can’t even imagine. For instance, Susie scheduled her talk for the women’s business group far enough in advance so that she would have plenty of lead-time to practice in front of friends. And she made an appointment just to talk to the printer before committing to ordering her business cards. Like most of my clients, she found that a daily courage “workout” builds confidence and helps deal with those less frequent but still inevitable achievie-jeebies. So look before you leap, but do leap, at least a little, every single day.
Dr. Ange DiBenedetto of Amherst has over 20 years experience as a coach and therapist. To learn more about Courage to Succeed program and phone or in-person coaching, contact her at 413-549-4145 or visit her Web site at www.dr-ange.com.