If you were to sit down and think about all the obstacles and opportunities you face in your business, perception has a huge impact. If you perceive something to be an insurmountable problem, overcoming it will be near impossible. Likewise if you feel that something is achievable, you’re likely to manage it. Both are true, regardless of the actual severity of the problem or ease of the opportunity.
We blame our clients, the economy, politicians, competitors, or we write ourselves off as failures or our goals as impossible. When really only one thing has failed: our attitude and approach.
Because obstacles are not only to be expected but embraced.
Yes; because these obstacles are actually opportunities to test ourselves, to try new things, and ultimately, to triumph.
Our perception can be a source of strength or of great weakness.
It takes skill and discipline to bat away those nagging bad perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation, and fear.
Every action you take is based upon your perception of a situation, and your reactions stem entirely from how you perceive situations; therefore if you incorrectly perceive something, consequently your actions will be off accordingly. This means that if you incorrectly perceive something, consequently your actions will be accordingly off-kilter. There isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t – at one time or another – got the wrong end of the stick; followed an instinct that was based on a bias and ended up needlessly in a bad situation.
To put this into context, consider the following scenarios:
1. You’re at a networking event and an ex customer walks towards you. Depending on their facial expression, their body language, and how fast or slow they approach, you may well adopt a defensive or welcoming stance before they’ve said a word. If it looks like they’re coming to complain, your body language and tone will naturally become defensive. On the other hand, if it looks like they’re coming to offer a compliment, your posture is likely to become open and welcoming. Let’s suppose you misread the situation; your perception was wrong and you reacted defensively. Initially, they were thinking about inquiring about your services but, because of the way you reacted, they chose to simply engage in small talk instead; but you would never have known.
2. You’re meeting with a prospective client who asks you lots of questions; far more than anyone usually asks. Their personality type may well be that of a person that simply wants reassurance. Once you give them peace of mind and they feel comfortable with you, they’ll be really easy to work with. If however, you perceive all the questions to be a sign of someone being anally retentive, you may feel that the person would be hard to work with and assume a less than enthusiastic manner. This reaction then might mean they continue their search for someone who provides them with peace of mind instead of hiring you; and again, you’d never have known!
3. You decide to learn a new skill. Let’s say your starting point is from zero but you feel your training goes well and you initially feel confident in your new abilities. However, when it comes to offering this new talent/service to prospective clients for the first time, you start comparing yourself to those that are experienced in the same service. You don’t get booked for that service because you radiated doubt that you weren’t aware of, all because you didn’t perceive you were good enough.
Everything we do is based on our perception of the situation in hand. So, if you have a tendency to think the worst, you may well often perceive things to be worse than they actually are. Likewise, another person that tends to perceive more optimistically will likely spot more opportunities and progress further quicker, and more frequently.
You may feel that there’s nothing you can do about this and you just have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. However, I disagree. I would suggest that choosing to react differently is similar to working a muscle and, like developing any muscle, it requires regular exercise.
The often-quoted Henry Ford’s line, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right” goes hand in hand with perception. This is because if you perceive something as being too difficult it’s probable you won’t even attempt it, whereas the person who believes it is possible will approach it with a different attitude and have a far greater chance of succeeding.
Many people will place an advert in a magazine, get no inquiries, and then deduce that the magazine is not worth advertising in without even considering:
● The copy they used in the ad
● The quality and appropriateness of their imagery
● Whether the ad included a strong enough ‘call to action’ to actually compel readers to inquire
Not only will the person not continue advertising in the magazine, they will likely deduce that advertising in ALL magazines is a waste of time. The result is a huge lost potential opportunity for reaching new customers.
Regularly question your default thoughts
To achieve success, it’s essential to look past our initial perceptions. Especially the negative ones and try to be objective. There are a few things to keep in mind when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We must try:
● To be objective
● To control emotions and keep a cool head
● To choose to see the good in a situation
● To steady our nerves
● To ignore what disturbs or limits others
● To place things in perspective
● To return to the present moment
● To focus on what can be controlled
When we aim high, it’s a time where stress often raises its head. Stuff is going to happen that catches us off guard, threatens or scares us. Surprises (unpleasant ones, mostly) are almost guaranteed. The risk of being overwhelmed is always there. In these situations, talent is not the most sought-after characteristic. Grace and poise are, because these two attributes precede the opportunity to deploy any other skill. Put simply: we must possess a cool head.
The sixteenth-century Samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi won countless fights against feared opponents, even multiple opponents, in which he was sword-less. In The Book of Five Rings, he notes the difference between observing and perceiving. “The perceiving eye is weak”, he wrote; “the observing eye is strong”. Musashi understood that the observing eye sees simply what is there. The perceiving eye sees more than what is there. The observing eye sees events clear of distractions, exaggerations, misperceptions, and fear. The perceiving eye sees ‘insurmountable obstacles’ or ‘major setbacks’ or even just ‘issues’. The former is helpful, the latter is not.
How often do we see what we think is there or should be there, instead of what actually is there? Having steadied ourselves and held back our emotions, we can see things as they really are. We can do that using our observing eye. Perceptions are the problem. They give us the ‘information’ that we don’t need, exactly at the moment when it would be far better to focus on what is immediately in front of us: the thrust of a sword, interpreting the actions of a complaining client, an opportunity, a flash of insight, or anything else for that matter. Everything about our animalistic brains tries to compress the space between impression and perception. Think, perceive, act—with milliseconds between them.
Don’t Focus On You!
Objectivity means removing ‘you’ – the subjective part – from the equation. Just think what happens when we give others advice? Their problems are crystal clear, the solutions obvious. Something that’s present when we deal with our own obstacles is always missing when we hear other people’s problems: the baggage. With other people we can be objective.
Take your situation and pretend it is not happening to you. Pretend it is not important, that it doesn’t matter. How much easier would it be for you to know what to do? How much more quickly and dispassionately could you size up the scenario and its options? You could write it off, greet it calmly. Think of all the ways that someone could solve a specific problem. No, really think. Give yourself clarity, not sympathy; there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
Time To Raise Your Prices?
Have you ever wanted to raise your prices but felt scared that no one would book you at that new higher price? Or maybe doubted that your services/ability really were worth that higher fee?
Sports psychologists recently did a study of elite athletes who were struck with some adversity or serious injury. Initially, each reported feeling isolation, emotional disruption, and doubts about their athletic ability. Yet afterward, each reported gaining a desire to help others, additional perspective, and realisation of their own strengths. In other words, every fear and doubt they felt during the injury turned into greater abilities in those exact same areas. Psychologists call it adversarial growth and post-traumatic growth. “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is not a cliché, but fact. The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.
Once the business starts to come in at the new price you’ll wish you’d done it long ago and at least for most of you reading this, your fears will be unfounded. Regardless of where you live there will always be people with higher paying jobs who can easily afford your prices within a reasonable driving range of your location. The only difference is that you might need to convey your message to them in a different way from those you were reaching at your current/previous fee.
So when you’re frustrated in pursuit of your own goals, don’t sit there and complain that you don’t have what you want or that an obstacle won’t budge. If you haven’t even tried yet, then of course you will still be in the exact same place. You haven’t actually pursued anything.
We talk a lot about courage as a society, but we forget that at its most basic level it’s really just taking action. Whether that’s approaching someone you’re intimidated by or deciding to finally crack a book on a subject you need to learn.
If you would like to increase your rates, here are two different strategies you could try:
1. If you have a good amount of business in your diary for the remainder of 2019 and for next year, then you have a cushion to allow you to start offering the new higher price. Introduce your increased rates for new bookings that come in, safe in the knowledge that you already have work in place at your old rate should you not manage to secure business at the new higher price.
2. Alternatively, you could ease yourself in by quoting all the inquiries/meetings you have in the first 15 days of each month at your current fee and then in the second half of the month switching to your new higher fee. That will allow you to assess any impact the increase has on confirmed business. However, the only problem with this strategy is that if you don’t truly believe you’re worth the new price that will come across in your communication and body language sub consciously and may result in you not getting bookings without you realising. Confidence and belief is a huge factor in this.
Focus On Staying Positive
Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves. Or whether we will tell one at all.
On some Facebook groups there is a torrent of negativity and if you let yourself get drawn into that, it can swamp you and have you believing everything is terrible; that every competitor is out to undercut you and every client will try to treat you badly and rip you off. The problem then is that once you start perceiving life this way, a vicious circle will occur and once you’re drawn into that, life will indeed become that bleak; but as the expression says “you brought it on yourself!”
A deer’s brain tells it to run because things are bad. So it runs. Sometimes, right into on-coming traffic.
Often we know what our problems are. We may even know what to do about them. But we fear that taking action is too risky, or that we don’t have the experience, or that it’s not how we pictured it, or it’s too expensive, or it’s too soon, or we think something better might come along, or simply that it might not work.
And you know what happens as a result? Nothing. We do nothing.
Get started. Get moving! You’ve got to start to go anywhere.
Have A Back-Up Plan
Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish. They ignore the fact that their decks might pack up or something might happen to their speakers.
About the worst thing that can happen is not something going wrong, but something going wrong and catching you by surprise. Why? Because unexpected failure is discouraging and being beaten back hurts.
But the person who has rehearsed in their mind what could go wrong will not be caught by surprise. The person ready to be disappointed won’t be.
Sometimes You Must Accept The Way Things Are.
It doesn’t always feel that way, but constraints in life are a good thing. You know you’re not the only one who has to accept things you don’t necessarily like, right? It’s part of the human condition.
If someone we know took traffic signals personally, we would judge them insane. Yet sometimes life is exactly the same. It tells us to come to a stop here. Or that some intersection is blocked, or that a particular road has been rerouted through an inconvenient detour. We can’t argue or yell this problem away. We must simply accept it. More than that, we need to find ways of making the most of the situation.
It is far easier to talk of the way things should be. It takes toughness, humility, and willpower to accept them for what they actually are.
Bad stuff will happen.
We can turn even this to our advantage. Always.
It is an opportunity. Always.
Fate doesn’t have to be fatalistic.
First, see clearly.
Next, act correctly.
Finally, endure and accept the world as it is.
If you have found this article and ideas of interest, I’d suggest you purchase the book titled: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday (also available as an audiobook). It’s a superb read and goes into far more detail on this topic.