A couple years ago, I was at a family wedding and was chatting with two of my uncles who I hadn’t seen in a long time. They were asking me about my job and how it was going with personal training. I told them that I don’t train anymore, and that my business is now 100% online, so I work with people over the internet.
Their response was priceless. Two perplexed faces greeted me: “So, what exactly are you selling? How do people even know about you? And people pay actual money for that?”
Lol. To be fair, neither is on Facebook or even have wifi at home, but it was so fun (and instructive!) for me to get that response. Not because they were hating or doing anything wrong, but because it serves as a great example of how different and “strange” and “risky” it can seem to other people when you want to start a blog, or go into online business, or shit, even work for yourself. Most people go, “Why on earth would you ever want to do that??”
And I understand. More traditional careers are easily placed into neat categories: “I’m an accountant.” Or “I’m a physical therapist.” People know what those things are. When someone asks me what I do, it’s almost easier to just say personal trainer, instead of “um, I write stuff online and then create fitness programs for people to do at home, yeah, like videos sometimes and other times, email education and PDFs and stuff.” Okaaaaay.
It’s confusing for most people. But it’s also an amazing field to be in and one that is changing so rapidly because of technology and the kinds of connection we can now make over the internet. It is very much a “real job” and as risky as it might seem to others, I’ve actually reached the point that to me, it’s the least risky of all because at least there’s no threat of getting laid off or fired. If I am not killing it in my business, at least that’s in my hands to change that. Whether I succeed or fail is on me. For some that might feel scary, but to me it’s liberating.
What To Do When You Encounter Resistance
I was going to separate this into 2 blogs (disappointment and then haters), but the more I thought about it, the overarching theme is simply … resistance.
If you’ve read the book, ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield, then you are familiar with this concept. He talks about it terms of anything that keeps us from being productive and creating – some are self-imposed (like procrastination) and othet times it comes from others or life circumstances. I want to focus this post on the latter, and show you that resistance and influence from others doesn’t have to be taken badly, or like they are intentionally being mean or disruptive. It’s simply a clash of value systems and difference in risk-assessment strategies, both of which are easily navigated with a little insight and the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Here are some tactics for you that I’ve used on my own journey:
1) Give people the benefit of the doubt.
To assume malicious intent on the part of skeptics and naysayers is short-sighted. Your family might not get it. They don’t have to. Your friends might think it’s strange. Fine. And while a percentage of our success is impacted by other people’s belief in us (as discussed in Shawn Achor’s ‘Before Happiness’) at some point you have to take it on yourself. People are just people. They do what they do. And it’s not necessarily for us to understand, just like we don’t have to justify what we want to do to them.
The key here is to understand that we are all human, and we are all doing the best that we can. We all have our biases and sensitivities, and we each deserve empathy and kindness. People who seemingly don’t support you are most likely responding from their own insecurities and stress. Don’t take that on. Give them the benefit of the doubt and do what you were going to do anyway.
2) Be the example.
Doing something bigger and different presents a unique opportunity to show people a new way. If you can harness the confidence, going outside of your comfort zone is one of the most inspiring things, isn’t it? One of my Best of You Coaching gals, Elizabeth Benton of Primal Potential, quit her full-time job in the corporate world cold-turkey, passing up a six-figure salary because she was not passionate about and it was running her ragged. And she took a chance on HERSELF – started a blog, wrote a ton of content that could help other women on their fat loss journey and is loving life. YES, THAT IS SCARY. But man, it’s inspiring! Because so few of us do that. No doubt Elizabeth’s perceived “risk” has helped so many who have been touched by her story to take a chance in their own lives.
3) Know that you are going to disappoint somebody.
You don’t reach adulthood without disappointing someone. And moreover, you don’t do something unconventional or questionable without disappointing even more people. Whether it’s a parent or grandparent, a spouse or partner or a close friend or family member – it’s only human to want people to remain in their safe zone. It’s safer for them because nothing has to change, and they perceive that it’s safer for us too. They want to keep us from making mistakes and ending up in pain. Of course they do, they love us and don’t want us to struggle. But that’s also an impossible task, not only because none of us get out of this life without some real struggle (whether we go looking for it or not), but because eventually we’ll get to the point that we need to get out and do for ourselves (mid-life crisis, anyone?). This is the difference between possibility thinking and preventative thinking.
So the outcome is disappointing others. It’s inevitable. And you might never convince them to be on your team, but you can always practice kindness and understanding and then do whatever you were going to do anyway. If you can’t convince them with words, your actions and outcomes will speak volumes.
And the irony of this is that usually what happens is the second you don’t need anyone else’s approval anymore is usually about the same they come around :)
4) Include them in your journey.
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is a concept that has come up in books and podcasts recently for me, and it puts into words exactly how I feel about making your journey inclusive. People can’t help but want to help when you … wait for it … ask them for help!
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is named such because it goes back to a story about when Ben Franklin was coming up in government, and he was running for a second term as clerk. His opponent was very vocally opposed to Franklin and worked hard to tarnish his reputation. Though Franklin won, he wanted to get this fellow politician in his corner, and set out to do so. But not by asking for his favor or paying him compliments. But instead using a bit of reverse psychology. Franklin, a notorious book collector, asked his opponent if he could borrow a rare and interesting book in his possession. The opponent graciously agreed and lent Franklin the book, feeling flattered by the attention and the ask. In other words, Franklin appealed to the opponent’s altruism and the opponent came to regard Franklin as someone he wanted to help, and well, the act of helping someone affirms that we must like and respect them, so that’s exactly what happened as a result.
So, in summary, when you include those people in your journey … when you hear them out and take what they say into consideration — whether or not you actually take their advice is irrelevant — they feel like they’re part of the process. They feel invested and like they are working toward something bigger too. One of the things that has worked for me is affirming what I want someone to be to me BEFORE they actually are that thing. So if I want someone to be supportive and caring, I tell them, “Thanks for always being so supportive, the way you care for me makes all the difference.” I’m essentially planting the seed of the behaviors I want to see from them. And I don’t know what to tell you except that shit works. Think about it. Who doesn’t want to be praised for things like support, caring, empathy and understanding? The more you affirm even the tiniest shows of positivity and possibility, the more it shows up!
5) They go low? You go high. Navigate the negative using your positive example.
I interviewed positive psychologist and New York Times Best-selling author (and one of my mentors!) Shawn Achor earlier this week (look for the podcast next week!) and I asked him specifically how we can handle negative impacts from others. I loved his response, and two tools he mentioned are particularly relevant and useful when it comes to navigating the Negative Nancies in your life.
Inoculate yourself against the negative. Often easier said than done, but the key here is using positive and possibility behaviors like naming 3 things you are grateful for, or reaffirming your goals to yourself right before you interact with that person helps you maintain your optimism even in the face of naysayers and skeptics.
The second tool is something called, The Power Lead, a concept from positive psychologist Michelle Gielan (Shawn’s wife). Michelle explains that Instead of weeding out “toxic” people from your life (i.e. the people who might need your positive example the most), Michelle takes the approach of what she calls, starting with the Power Lead. YOU set the tone of every conversation you enter by being the first one to go positive. Positive doesn’t mean going Pollyanna and pretending that reality doesn’t exist (Shawn even said, “Being happy 100% of the time means you are divorced from reality.”). But instead it means creating an interaction that gives any situation the benefit of the doubt: “The great thing about this is…” or “The cool thing is that we can…” or “I feel so lucky I get to…” etc. In other words, you create the conversation you want to have FIRST. And according to Michelle, positivity “broadcasts” to those around us with no conscious thought to do so. And with practice and consistency, we get to create the exact interactions we want — positive ones.
In other words, YOU set the tone for the conversation you want to have. If people around you tend to go negative, you gotta bring the positive. Talk about how excited you are for something. Talk about how much fun you are having with it. Explain how much you’ve learned and how grateful you are for the experience. You go high!
6) Harness that leeeetle bit of fearlessness and confidence.
This is really the crux of the issue — your confidence in yourself and your journey. Think about it — when you are creating and doing from a place of conviction and fearlessness, you don’t give a shit what other people say or do because it doesn’t matter. It bounces off you. Have you ever had that experience? I certainly have, and it is often hard to hang on to.
Jade and I were talking about this the other day, and he said, “We’re all scared shitless, but being a little less scared than everyone else can make all the difference.” In other words, what might not be just scared of outcomes, but we — more likely — are scared about the fallout from others. We are scared of the potential disappointment we see in our parents’ eyes or the discomfort of having to speak to our boss about more money or less time at the office. We are worried about people’s responses and handling their emotions as a result of what we do. When people get angry or sad or frustrated when we tell them we want to go in a different direction, we feel responsible for their emotions — we want to take them on.
But their response is their responsibility. As much as we love and care for them, it’s not on us to make them feel better. I have worked with women in their 40s and 50s who are still paralyzed in their lives because they are still trying to garner approval from their mothers! This is a real struggle. We don’t like the emotions.
But consider that when you try to comfort and please and placate that you are not only robbing yourself of a chance to follow your passion, but you are also robbing the other person of the experience. You are assuming they can’t handle it. You are not giving them the benefit of the doubt, you are not giving them the opportunity to deal with the fallout, a process that we know can be transformative for them. When you look at it that way, how can you deny other people the opportunity to learn and grow WITH you, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable. Don’t sell them short. Allow them the space to grow and become the support you want them to be for you!
Don’t let a handful of people who don’t get it keep you from creating valuable content for the thousands more who do.
Navigate it, do your best, stay aware and above all — do you, because the alternative is way worse ;) Xo, Jill