This is an excerpt from “She Thinks Big: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Moving Past the Messy Middle and into the Extraordinary,” by Andrea Liebross. Liebross is a certified business and life coach who encourages female entrepreneurs to adopt a CEO mindset, transcending drama and achieving business success.
Having a vision for your future is supposed to be a positive thing, right? Well, sometimes it’s not. When the vision has hidden pitfalls, it will undermine your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. However, another obstacle can be attachment. When you’re attached to a specific outcome, it can paralyze you or keep you in Stuck Stress.
Attachment is what happens when commitment goes too far—and yes, that’s possible. Now you’re not just all-in—you’re all-in with unrealistic expectations. Here are seven of the most common things clients tell me will happen when they achieve their perfect reality—which turns out not to be so perfect.
- “Things will be easier when I achieve X.” What this really tells me is the person wants to be free of problems and challenges. But, real freedom isn’t freedom from problems and challenges. That’s not realistic, and it sets you up for constant disappointment when the world doesn’t cooperate with your expectations. When you’re constantly disappointed, you’re also constantly stressed about the results you’re getting. You’re battling against reality. That’s stressful, and it’s not productive.
- “I’ll be more likable/lovable/desirable when I do/ have/am X.” Deep down, this means the person wants freedom from rejection or hurt. But it’s another one of those externally focused expectations that will lead to disappointment. Defining your value or success based on others’ feelings or reactions puts you on a rollercoaster. When someone is upset with you, you often believe it reflects you as a human. You can’t expect others’ negative or neutral responses won’t ever exist. Therefore, using the lack of them as a sign of your success will mean you always feel like you haven’t succeeded. That’s going to bring you a lot of stuck and unproductive stress.
- “I’ll finally ‘feel legit’ when I achieve X.” Expecting to cross some imaginary boundary where you suddenly have the right amount of credibility isn’t realistic. When you’re providing value, people want what you have to offer. If you’re delivering a service or a product and people are smiling, then you’re as legit as you need to be. When you’re constantly evolving and improving, you’ll keep learning and getting better, and that’s the best you can do. Looking for an imaginary line of legitimacy or a gold star of approval takes away from your satisfaction in the moment and can hamper your ability to serve your clients. If you seek the imaginary line as a sign that you’re now valid, you’re setting your – self up to feel like you’re constantly failing. That feeling will definitely bring you stress, and it’s a stress that won’t end until you change the belief.
- “I’ll finally have lots of free time when I achieve X.” Let’s get real. What does free time really look like to you? You’re a high-achieving, ambitious woman with extraordinary goals. Do you truly want free time , or do you want the authority to do what you want with your time? Even if you had free time, how long would it last before you put it toward your goals? All your time should be working to bring you something — even relaxation isn’t really free time. It’s still serving you. Newsflash: What you really want isn’t free time; it’s control over your time. Your time is yours to control. This idea of not having any control over your time or not having enough free time is what created your stress — and not only is that belief unproductive, but so is the stress related to it.
- “Things will be perfectly clear when I achieve X. I’ll know exactly what I need to do all the time.” Clarity comes from knowing what you want and understanding what you need to do to have it. But expecting pure clarity no matter what is unrealistic. You will still have to think your way through problems and challenges (and remember—when you shift your mindset, you might actually start to like this!). You might get blindsided by unexpected events and reactions from others. That’s how life works. If you think your life isn’t working because you’re not sure what to do, you’re being unfair to yourself. Expecting that you’ll always know what to do or what ingredients go into the award-winning recipe will create unnecessary stress you can’t resolve unless you change the expectation.
- “When I achieve X, I’ll have so much money in my bank account!” This is like the “lots of free time” idea. When you have goals, your money should be working toward those. Often, that means it’s not in your bank account (so, remember, the amount in the bank account doesn’t tell the whole story) but invested elsewhere — for instance, in your business to hire new team members or to buy new equipment. Or you might invest it to make your home more efficient or to buy a larger home that better suits your family’s needs. Or you might just have it invested in the market so it grows. If you have a lot of money in your bank account because you’re not doing anything with it to further your success, after a while, you’re not going to have any money because you’re also not going to have success. That’s how this works. It’s fine to set aside emergency savings, but that should be something you calculate based on your needs, too. Now that you have a mindset of financial freedom, can you see how your previous worry created unproductive stress? Again — the change of belief is what will get you out, not attaining a number in your bank account.
- “Once I get to ‘that place,’ then I’ll be able to hire more people, and everything will be great!” Really? What is this mythical place you speak of? And what magical creatures will you be hiring that will make your life suddenly so much easier? Remember: Hiring people adds another layer of complexity. They’ll expand your capabilities, but they won’t necessarily make your life easier. You’ll have a whole new set of lessons to learn and challenges to face in managing them. If you expect your life to suddenly get easier you’re doing not only yourself but them a disservice. It’s unrealistic. And like all the other unrealistic expectations I’ve mentioned, this one will set you up for constant disappointment, too.
Experience a Different World
When you go through this process and start allowing Future You to breathe freely, you suddenly realize your previous version of success looks nothing like real success. Your previous version of freedom looks nothing like actual freedom. And now, you can toss out your previous version of stress because it, too, came from your limiting beliefs and rigid expectations.
In examining what real freedom looks like, you may have noticed we never talked about freedom being security. That’s because freedom isn’t security. In fact, you can’t have real freedom and also have security. You’re going to have to give up one or the other. This is a real either/or decision.
Besides, security isn’t necessarily a good thing. Too much security can be suffocating. An entrepreneurial soul needs challenge, risk, and exploration. You can’t have those and cling to security, too. When you do, guess what? You create Stuck Stress.
When my clients come to me with a problem or challenge and comment on how hard it is, I’m always secretly a little excited for them because I know they’re going to get to do some work to free themselves from the burden they are carrying around unnecessarily. And once they tackle the problem and start living up to their potential and creating what they want, every other part of their lives will be easier — but not for the reasons they assumed in the Seven Assumptions section. It doesn’t get easier because the challenges go away.
It gets easier because doing this work will cause you to experience the world differently. It will cause you to experience yourself differently. It will help you gain confidence. You’ll learn to create anything you choose to do differently.