I returned last night from a glorious 12-day break in England. We rented a small home, converted comfortably from a former 17th century coaching inn in the Cotswolds. This year the village of Charlbury celebrates its 750th year since being granted a charter permitting it to have a Market. I was disappointed to discover that we'd be missing the annual town fair by 2 days (it is being held this weekend) and, this being a special occasion, I was also losing out on being greeted by one of the royal family who was paying the village a fleeting visit! A notice pinned on a board outside the library indicated that "Her Royal Highness will be visiting at 9:30 AM and the Princess will be departing by 10:20 AM". Still don't know which princess!
My limited Internet access in the village of Charlbury was provided courtesy of that same little library with computers available for a few hours four days a week, and the only work I could arouse myself to do was scan my e-mails to ensure that there were no fires to put out or urgent new business to attend to.
One e-mail DID catch my eye as it crystallized quite beautifully the anxieties expressed to me by so many of my physician entrepreneur clients. It came in response to the question I had posed in my 10-part e-Course: What is your biggest question about starting a new business?
The respondent wrote:
How the hell am I going to do this? which I think leads to a bigger question: am I really ready for this? Because the little voice in my head says: you really are not ...you are not ready and likely you will never be! Have you ever finished anything that was not related to your clinical work? Ha? Have you launched anything beyond passing exams, going through medical school, residency and taking care of patients etc? All of this has been put in front of you and you climbed it, grinding your teeth. You did not have to be a visionary to do this! You just had to work harder..etc..
So, the idea of starting a business, an exhilarating one, no question about it, is also scary and overwhelming. I am trying not to pay attention to this little overcritical voice, but the truth is I have not done anything like that in my life before. I have tooled with the idea for some time, in fact for quite a long time and a moment comes, from time to time, that I consider it a little more seriously than before. And then it usually passes and I get sucked in again into my professional life that I so desperately wanted to "upgrade" - make more inspiring, broaden, make more global, more influential, international and touching more lives than I could ever imagine.
So, going back to your question: how do I really stay focused? how do I combat the fear of failure? and don't get distracted and discouraged? How do I not give up???
How true and honest are those doubts and fears!
It's this desire to live a meaningful life and these self-probing questions that I am passionate about addressing on this website. I suspect the responses to this kind of self-inquiry will be different for each of you!
Here's what I wrote in response, with a few edits and additions:
Back to your questions, which strike at the heart of all of us when we want to make a substantial change in our lives and-or careers.
How badly do you want to make these changes (i.e. start a business)? What is motivating you - is it a reaction to your existing life and career? Desire to learn something new? Eager to be your own boss? It's really valuable to be clear about your "drivers" for change, so that you are dealing with your own reality and not just some escapist fantasy. (By the way, there is no "correct" answer - only the one that is most true for you)
What REALLY matters to you? Day in and day out? At the end of your life? Here's where knowing your own personal core values is very important, as they serve as great guides to all your decision-making.
Which of your fears are based in known reality and which ones are "fictional" (imagined or "worst-case")? How do you handle your fears? Do you run from them, pretend you didn't notice them, or carry on despite their existence?
What are your expectations for the life you intend and want to lead? How can you best meet those? What is in the way?
In coaching, we call the little voice you are hearing a gremlin" - it comes from the book Taming Your Gremlin (I ask all my coaching clients to read it as it is so important to learn how to work with your thoughts and these "voices") .........
When I decided to embrace a new career and start my own coaching business, I was plagued with uncertainty. My little voice said: "Who do you think you are that you can make a go of a business and make it grow to the point that your income is what it was as a doctor?" And "What if you fail and have to go back to practicing medicine or being an administrator in a hospital or health plan - how will that feel?"
What made it possible was that I had accidentally encountered a career I hadn't known existed, but once I knew of it, I was absolutely certain it would be the right one for me. It matched all my "dream career" criteria. I was able, with the help of my coach, tame my gremlins, and realize that the little voice represented just an opinion, and a rather ill-informed one at that!
What is your little voice saying? And how would you have responded to this e-mail?