I remember when I first told my parents that I had turned down a job with a media company to pursue life as a freelancer. They are baby boomers after all, and their concept of work is get a good job, move up, maybe make a change to another company for a promotion, and along the way get married and have 2.4 kids. Ultimately, I should settle into retirement with my 401K and pension. After all, that’s why they funded a large part of my college education. I remember the looks of dismay on my mom’s face; the lectures from my dad about the irresponsibility of it all, not to mention the risk. That was when I realized that my idea of moving back home to save while my business launched was not a good idea.
Other comments came from friends and relatives. “Do you understand the risk?” “Most small businesses fail, you know.” “You need to re-think this – you are choosing poverty.” Geez. Was there one person who could be supportive? Maybe my dog (well technically he’s not a person).
So, I packed my few belongings and found a small apartment with a friend from college. At least there was no criticism there, and my parents still welcomed me for Sunday dinner.
Getting to Freedom from the “Shoulds”
Criticism can rob us of our energy and enthusiasm; it can cause us to question the wisdom of our choices and decisions. And always with that criticism comes the “shoulds” – those things that would be better choices for us to make. You may never be free from those who need to be critical; you can only control your responses and keep your eye on your end game. Here are 8 strategies to keep in mind in the face of criticism.
8 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Reach Your Dreams
1) Put Your Goal in Writing and Keep it Close
You have passion for what you want to do. You also should be able to verbalize your goal(s) to yourself and then to write them down. One of the best things to do at the start is to visualize where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years from now. If you can do this, then your goal has clarity for you, and you have benchmarks along the way that you can celebrate. This is not your plan; it is just a method for you to remain focused when criticism rears up. You need to post your goal for year 1 in a place, where you will see it every day. The refrigerator is a great spot, by the way.
2) Keep Your Plans “Close to Your Vest”
This is an old saying, but it carries a ton of advice. When your venture or adventure is new, your passion and enthusiasm are bubbling all over the place. You really want to share it with everyone you know and meet. Here are two reasons why this is not a good idea: First, your plans will receive criticism from some of these people. They will be negative about your future; they will tell you how tough it is to strike out on your own and how few really make it. You do not need this. Second, every time you see that person afterward, you will be reminded of what they said, and they will be quick to ask for the details of how you are coming along. If you’ve had a bad week when you see them, you will become more discouraged. The less these people know, the better. When asked, say, “Just great” and move on to other conversation. Wait until you have had some success before you give details – this will help shut them up.
3) You Don’t Have to Justify Your Path to Anyone
Each of us has a path to follow. We choose that path based upon our values, beliefs and passions. As do others choose theirs. You do not have to justify the path you have chosen to anyone but yourself. When you can get into this mindset, you will feel so liberated. When someone says, “Why in the world would you want to do that?” your only response is, “because that is what I choose.” No further explanation necessary.
4) Set Parameters for Conversations with the Naysayers
One of the agreements I made with my parents was this: when we were together, we would enjoy each other’s company. We would not discuss my work except as I chose to share with them. This was a great arrangement, because I did want them to know that I had clients and successes. So I would tell them about those things when I wanted to.
5) Surround Yourself with Successful People
If you are not sure where to go to find successful people in your niche, start online. You will find experts and influencers with whom you can connect. Establish relationships with them through conversations; ask for advice; attend any workshops or conferences you find. Start reading the blogs and other writings of influencers in your niche. Begin a blog of your own on your website. Start becoming a thought leader in your niche as you learn more. And as people begin to seek your advice or praise your contributions to conversations, your pride grows – being proud of yourself is never a bad thing. You may find the perfect mentor who will encourage and support you – this keeps you motivated and optimistic. If others can do this, so can you.
6) Grow Your Circle of Friends Too
When you meet new people, they will inevitably ask you what you “do.” Tell them. If you are a designer, even without a client yet, you are still a designer. If you are an author, say so, even if you are working on your first book. Getting into that mode of always thinking of yourself as what you intend to be and do cements that within your subconscious and makes you authentic to yourself and others.
7) The Small “Wins” are Important
At the end of each day, you need to make a list of all that you accomplished. Maybe you networked with others who can push some work your way; maybe you got a “nibble;” you found a new site that is really going to help you; you signed up for a workshop or podcast. Getting a new client is a big “win” of course, but all of these little things will show you that you are on your path and taking action in the right direction.
8) Be Alone with Yourself
You may feel that you have to hit the ground running every day. And that’s a good thing – taking action is a motivator. In all of that activity, however, you may not have the time to sit back, get your mind quiet, and let ideas come to you. Many people have “aha” moments in a quiet state of mind – give yourself the chance to do the same.
A quote you might want to put on your wall is this from a philosopher who pretty much nailed it all of the time:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
When the negativity and criticism threaten to get to you, read this Dr. Seuss quote over and over again. The operative concepts here are “you choose,” and “you decide where to go.” Don’t ever let anyone steal that from you.
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