Enough is Enough: Transforming Overwhelm Into Effortless Action

[singlepic id=189 w=320 h=240 float=center] Recently I've been experiencing a bit of what I've been calling "marketing overwhelm". If you're a solo entrepreneur, maybe you know this feeling. For me, it presents itself as a compulsive need to stop everything I'm doing, and make another To Do List. Or to come up with yet another system tracking what's been done, and what needs to be done. This would all be fine if it ended there.

But with me, it keeps going. Even after I’ve made the most comprehensive To Do List I can come up with, I keep stopping what I'm doing to make yet another one. The result, which may seem obvious to you reading this but is not at all enough to convince my "marketing overwhelmed” self to stop the madness, is that (1) I don't finish the thing I start working on (because I'm too busy stopping to make another list), and (2) the list keeps getting longer (because I keep adding to it).

The result? More marketing overwhelm.

But this last time, I caught myself. I identified the thought “marketing overwhelm” in my morning meditation one day last week, and I found myself dialing into a free coaching call for Martha Beck coaches that I never had the thought of utilizing before. What a great resource it was! As I spoke my dilemma out loud in front of how ever many strangers were on that call, I was greeted by a chorus of, "Oh yeah, been there, know that one!" Working through the pain I found myself in, I discovered that there was a common thread running through my head driving the feeling of marketing overwhelm, and actually through most of my life: "It's never enough."

When I heard that come out of my mouth, and played around with it for awhile in the graceful presence of the coach that morning, it dawned on me that for much of my life, the "motivation" I have provided myself has been something along the lines of "It's never enough". And look at the places it has taken me! I've competed with the "best of the best", gotten jobs with the "elite", provided "high end" services, and sustained myself for many years with the mentality that "it's never enough". So no wonder that thought has stuck around in my brain as a familiar companion.

I was so fascinated with this that I wrote down all the ways in which there had never been enough - in my mind, and in the minds of the people around me whom I chose to listen to and respect. It was quite an impressive list! Importantly, I could find the truth in each of the statements. I could see how at one time, I had been led to believe that it might be true, for instance, that "There were never enough choices," or "There were never enough credentials," or "There was never enough encouragement," or "There was never enough money."

Now you might think that the way to coach someone out of this would be to replace the thought, "It's never enough," with a nice-feeling, soft-and-fuzzy affirmation of abundance and how "There is always enough" in the universe to go around. I, being a dutiful student and thinking I was giving the right answer, did just that. "It's always enough!" I said. Something in my voice must have tipped off the experienced master coach on the other end of the line. Gently, she said, "These are things we would really LIKE to believe, but until we ACTUALLY start looking and find the evidence for them in our lives - until we start seeing with different eyes - they are just lies we tell ourselves, concealing the real truth of our painful thinking."

In order to see with new eyes, I first had to look honestly with the eyes I have right now. I had to be willing to look directly at the painful truths that have previously remained hidden as the habitual responses of my mind.

I cried over many of these. I cried at the thought that these were once the beliefs that governed the way I made decisions in my life, the way I anticipated that people would receive me in the world, and defined the range of possibilities for myself in my life. I cried that for all these years, I have at some level been imprisoned within the walls of these kinds of thoughts.

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And once I felt that pain fully, it passed right through me. The pain didn’t last more than the few minutes I sat patiently with it, not asking it to go anywhere. In the freshly washed landscape that emerged from the storm of tears, there was the undeniable light of clarity. I recognized that my deepest desire and passion has always been transformation. I have wanted it for myself, and I have reveled in the moment of witnessing it in others. And what other way would there be for me to learn how to do this - to really know what I'm talking about - than to go through my own transformation, time and time again, to learn it inside and out? I live and breathe this. It is what I love. I am a fervent student in the "university" of my own transformation throughout life. Transformation is life. Seeing with new eyes is life.

In the moment that I was willing to see myself as I am - painful thoughts and all (and what better way to do this than through yet another list?) - I began my own transformation. It wasn't about telling myself "Everything's going to be all right" or expecting someone else to take care of me. It was about feeling the safety and the courage to look at my own truth, without judgment. Just to notice it, and go into it with genuine curiosity, not expecting to find anything.

So…how's my marketing overwhelm?

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Well, for one thing, the clarity brought a renewed feeling of energy and inspiration. Without making a list, I found myself pursuing new avenues of learning about marketing. Serendipity brought me WordCamp San Francisco, which just happened to have several talks on website SEO. With that knowledge under my belt, I feel much more confident about the changes I can make myself to my website, as well as what to ask a designer/developer in the future when I am ready to hire one. I listened to some audio materials, combing for what tidbits might apply to me right now. I read a free e-book, and took myself through some exercises to help me with the areas I am most stuck on right now. I now feel closer to my current marketing message, which gives me much more energy to move forward with a few key steps. I don’t need to write them on a To Do List, because they are natural outgrowths of who I am, what I am learning, and how I intend to help people.

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In short, with this shift in perspective, I am actually doing the work, instead of constantly wondering if I am doing "enough" right now. I've found that this is a much more pleasant use of my time, leaving me with a feeling of fullness (kind of like the feeling you have when you've eaten enough) after working, rather than feeling constantly hungry and in need of doing more.

It’s so nice to know when enough is enough.

Photo credits (used under a Creative Commons license):
"Overwhelm" by Andres Thor
Flower by Remi Longva
Sky by Sarah Macmillan
Bird by Gurumustuk Singh