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Get Off The Hook Emotionally

One thing we notice in the most successful entrepreneurs is that they have developed the ability to stay on track and not get hooked for too long by unproductive thoughts and emotions.

It’s not that they think or feel less than other people. On the contrary: Entrepreneurs tend to be very passionate people whose minds are active all the time. What they’ve learned is how to deal with these internal dialogues and feelings effectively so they can continue to channel their valuable personal resources productively toward achieving their goals. The critical skill here is to be able to focus only on the elements of a situation that are helpful for making progress, and to filter out the various emotions and thoughts that derail you, sap your energy, and destroy your confidence.

What Hooks You?

We all have situations that “hook” us emotionally and mentally — dominating our thoughts and diverting energy we could be using to create results. This is especially frustrating when you’re aware of what’s happening and just can’t get yourself unhooked.

While every entrepreneur is different and will be hooked by different things, some common culprits are:

Unmet expectations.
Something didn’t work out the way you planned, someone didn’t act the way you hoped they would, or you aren’t where you feel you should be by now.

You said something and your intention was misunderstood, or your words had an impact you didn’t intend, often expressed in the frustration, “Why can’t they get what I’m saying?”

Outside events.
An uncontrollable event happened and put you off-course. Perhaps you feel you “should have seen it coming.”
Ill-will. Someone is behaving in a way that you consider inconsiderate, unfair, or malicious to you or your company, and it sparks an emotional reaction every time you think of it.

You feel obliged to do something (like fire someone or have a difficult conversation), but really don’t want to.

Unfinished business.
Big or small, your mind won’t rest until you get closure on an issue.

Getting caught in your own spin.
You get unexpected external recognition or achieve an extraordinary result, and you can’t believe how well things are going. Inadvertently, you become more focused on the success than on what got you there. We often hear from entrepreneurs in this situation that they’re “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Getting On Track

Most circumstances that hook us tap into a sense of powerlessness or even inadequacy. No entrepreneur likes to be in this position. Fortunately, we don’t need to stay there for long. By increasing our ability to recognize when unproductive thoughts or emotions are taking us off track, and developing habits and strategies to quickly regain a sense of confidence and perspective, we can minimize the amount of time we spend “on the hook.” In The Strategic Coach® Program, many of our tools work by helping entrepreneurs do just this. While we can’t share them all in this article, here are a few key strategies culled from what we know gets entrepreneurs back on track.

1) Reconnect with your bigger picture goals. Your goals will always help you get grounded in what’s important, and are where you can most productively focus your attention.

2) Be honest with yourself and take a moment to look at what’s really bothering you. All progress starts by telling the truth. Often entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to getting hooked when there’s something really important they’d rather not face.

3) Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work and figure out where improvements can be made. By transforming a highly charged situation into a learning opportunity, you can diffuse much of the negative emotion and get back a feeling of being confident and in control of your future.

4) Don’t take it personally. If you find you’ve been hooked by another person’s actions or inactions, it helps to remember that their decisions are often determined by a vast number of complexities they’re dealing with in life. Rather than being number one on their list of priorities, it’s more likely that you’re number 21 or 51, or even 101! They may not even realize the impact their actions have had on you. Other people always do things for their reasons, not yours. Seeing the behavior of others in this context will help you put their actions in a more realistic perspective so you can make clearer decisions that protect your own priorities.

5) Rejuvenate yourself. Ask yourself if you’ve been taking time off. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a real Free Day™ — a 24-hour period with no work-related thinking or activity — you may be more reactive than normal. By taking Free Days™ to recharge your batteries, you’ll be able to return with a more creative, energized perspective that leaves you less vulnerable to being hooked by unproductive thoughts and emotions.

Most established entrepreneurs don’t suffer from a lack of skills or opportunities. Their biggest obstacle to further success is that they have too much going on in their heads. That’s why when one thought or issue takes over, it can be truly debilitating. The energy behind a thought or feeling that just won’t leave you alone can be taken as a powerful sign that there is an opportunity to learn or see something new. The most consistently successful entrepreneurs learn how to heed these signs in themselves. They also learn when and how to apply strategies to get themselves off the hook. By recognizing when you’re on the hook and knowing how to get yourself unhooked, you can save your valuable energy and attention for the things that are most important and rewarding in all areas of your life.

© 2007 The Strategic Coach
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