This article was written by Carmen MacDougall, previous owner of VACT.  Carmen MacDougall came from a corporate background as a PA and Office Manager before establishing her VA business  after redundancy. She went on to establish herself as one of the leading trainers on setting up and running a successful Virtual Assistant business through The VA Coaching and Training Company using her own experience as well as her NLP and coaching skills, and has trained many award winning VAs in her time.  Carmen retired from the VA industry in 2015 and The VA Coaching and Training Company became part of VACT Limite

Carmen Macdougall examines why we may hold ourselves back from creating the life we want.

‘Everyone imposes their own mental limits. We tell ourselves we can’t possibly do things. But if one pushes those limits just a little bit further and breaks the boundaries, anything is possible.’ Debra Searle, Transatlantic Rower, and Author of Rowing it Alone: One Woman’s Extraordinary Transatlantic Adventure.

As human beings we like to be in control of what’s around the corner, our destiny. If anything upsets that, then we often experience feelings of stress and anxiety. We don’t like being out of control.

But can we really control everything? We can do all we can to prepare for the outcome we would like to achieve, or what we believe may happen, and we can be prepared for the possible barriers and create possible solutions by creating contingency plans.

Get out of your comfort zone!

In order for us to personally develop and move forward in life, we must give ourselves permission to venture out of our comfort zone and into our “adventure‟ zone (or fear zone as some would call it). Whether it’s to look for a new job, apply for a promotion, or take a new direction such as starting up as a Virtual Assistant.

Once we become familiar with the aspects of the adventure zone, then it actually starts to feel comfortable, and we actually start to like it! But, if we are really honest with ourselves, is our comfort zone really that comfortable? It may be what we’re familiar with right now, and because we’re familiar with it, then we believe we are in control. But, and this is a HUGE ‘but’…are we happy with the comfort zone or are we experiencing an element of pain? Do we wish we were doing something else that fitted in with our values and commitments?

You may tell yourself that, although the other side appears greener, there will always be the ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts’, and the ‘just in case we are taking a risk, then we will stay where we are…just to be on the safe side’.

People who have succeeded in life have had to take that huge step into their fear zone. As a result, they have developed themselves beyond what they initially imagined could be possible, and they keep persisting, entering fear zone after fear zone, only to manage it and succeed further and so on.

And yes, they may make some mistakes, but learning from those experiences has allowed them to be the people they have become today.

What’s stopping you?

It may be a lack of confidence or a low self-esteem that is the real issue here, because, let’s face it, it’s easy to give ourselves excuses, as we can then take ourselves off the hook…done!

If you knew that you could make that leap of faith by believing in yourself and knowing that, whatever happened, as long as you had the support and that you could be prepared you would succeed, and as a result it would boost your confidence – what would life be like for you then? What would be different for you? Imagine how positive that would make you feel.

It’s about choices: we have the choice to stay where we are or move forward.

As each person and experience from your past provides you with a belief, you take it and place it into your mind-set’s storage box. Is your storage box weighing you down for any good reason? If you were to examine all of the beliefs contained in your box, and take a good look at them, how many of those beliefs would be supporting you and how many would be holding you back?

What beliefs do you need to get rid of?

As part of our behaviour as humans, we may find ourselves saying something so often that we believe it’s true and it becomes part of our beliefs. However, we may not actually have any evidence to support those beliefs. They may have been bestowed upon us from people around us; both from the past and present, yet will still live by them. These may include:

‘It’s scary starting your own business isn’t it?’ – My response is… who told you that it’s scary? Have you set up a business before that you found scary? What specifically is scary about starting a business? Because, if it was that scary, nobody would ever do it, would they?

Without the experience to justify this statement then it is unhelpful to you. However, where perhaps they did set up a business before and found it scary, then I would ask them what they could take from the past as a learning experience so that this new experience may be a more positive one. What would they do differently or better this time around?

‘What if I fail?’ – My response is… What is failure exactly? I know that most of the very successful entrepreneurs or inventors have “failed‟ many times, but what sets them apart from the rest, is that they found other options to go forward, as opposed to thinking, “That’s it, I am giving up because I am a failure.” Think about what you can do to be prepared for a barrier, and, if you can, create as many options as possible to ensure that you re-route your map. We all make mistakes. It is unrealistic to assume otherwise. However, it does create feelings in us that we don’t like, such as feeling upset, angry and frustrated.

By focusing on exactly what we want to achieve and knowing the destination we want to arrive at, then mapping for your journey and planningffectively is important. Yes, you may take the wrong turn, but this is again part of that valuable learning experience, provided that you acknowledge the mistake, and, rather than giving up because you believe you have failed, go back to the main route on your map and seek out your other options. If you anticipate failure, worrying that it will happen, then, guess what? It will happen. You get what you focus on. But, if you focus on failure and waste your valuable energy worrying, then you will miss the wonderful opportunities in front of you. They will pass you by because you were looking in the wrong place!

OK let’s go for it!!

Do you keep waiting for the start of the year and think, ‘Right I’m going to do something new now’, but your beliefs start niggling at you and you come up with those reasons why not to go for it? You may be waiting for when you have some time, or the ‘right time’, or when you have space, or when you don’t have too many other things to think about. That is life! There will never be the right time, you will never have the space…unless you make it the right time, and you create the space. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOU.

Who Can Help You?

When you find yourself sitting there allowing your unsupportive beliefs to hold you back, it could be that some important answers are missing that could help you to move forward, to hold your hand through the process of making that change.

Think now who can help you, a mentor, someone at work, a friend perhaps? Also think about whom else has been in your current situation, and has now achieved what you want to achieve. People love being asked for advice, and of course, anyone that has changed their situation is often very happy to share how they they did it.

Clear Milestones

Set very clear milestones for yourself, so you can start to measure your achievements. Keep focussed on what is motivating you, and remind yourself of the negative consequences if you do not take action.

Have a flexible plan, focussed on your vision. Referring to what I mentioned earlier in the article, imagine now what life will be like for you when it is different. What would you notice happening? What would you notice being different?
So that you can start to mould your vision, have a very specific plan, but allow it to be flexible, because life does throw other challenges our way. Although we are on a journey, we have to be prepared for what could actually happen.

What Now?

If You Can Only Do One Thing, Do Something!!

If you could explore just one small opportunity, then it would be worth taking that one small opportunity…would it not? Small actions lead to big results – even if that action is making just one phone call. When you start to face things head on, that’s when things actually start to change for you, which is really exciting. You can decide to allow your beliefs to keep you in your current situation, but if you want something new, you must act now, otherwise you will regret it.

Make this year the year you change your beliefs around…you are in control!

This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any Administrative professional.  You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us.  Visit the website to find out more and to get your 30% discount email [email protected] and tell them that VACT sent you.