The Shortest Path

When I’m working with a client, eventually we reach the point of laying out the plan for doing whatever it is they’re wanting to do.

Maybe it’s creating a website. Or setting up an online shop where they can sell their wares. Or launching a service business of some kind.

Before we get into prioritizing and scheduling, we start with some initial brainstorming of the tasks that need to happen.

A real-life hypothetical example

Judy (name and details changed, of course) wants to sell her amazing coconut chocolate chip cookies. She has a secret ingredient that makes her cookies unfuckingbelievably delicious. So delicious that people experience a rush of endorphins every time they eat one of her cookies.

In fact, she wants to bring world peace by increasing endorphin levels worldwide.

These are the kinds of tasks I usually hear.

Begin brainstorming (in no particular order):

Find a professional food photographer so the cookies can look their best
Research shopping carts
Set up business bank account
Get a business license
Find an accountant
Buy, download, install and set up Quickbooks
Figure out how to integrate a shopping cart with a website
Set up the website
Choose a domain name
Set up the products in the cart/website along with the pretty pictures
Test the set up
Start telling people about the cookies

The list has the potential to be endless. Can you say instant overwhelm?

Cutting the crap

There are three big concepts* I’ve learned about doing stuff that involves putting ourselves out there and doing things we’ve never done before.

1. It’s easy to get distracted from just getting started when you’re trying to do everything “right.”
2. Focusing on the distractions will drain your creative energy.
3. Resistance will come up sooner or later.

* Of course, there are more than three big concepts, but these are the three we’re discussing today.

The problem with #1 is that it keeps us in perpetual preparation mode.

And being in perpetual preparation mode leads to #2. Doing the Thing is what energizes us. Use up all your energy doing the Other Crap and you’ll never get back to Doing the Thing.

On top of draining our energy, perpetual preparation also keeps us from addressing any real resistance (see #3).

Yes, those perpetual preparation tasks are part of the resistance, but they’re also decoys.

Real resistance

Usually the real resistance that comes up for me and for my clients sounds more like…

…These cookies aren’t that good.
…How will I ever support myself without a corporate job?
…There’s no way people will ever pay me enough to do something I actually love to do.

Real resistance often has to do with how we value ourselves and our skills. And our beliefs about how the universe works and where our support comes from.

The sooner we can identify and address the real resistance (as opposed to just hanging out with the decoys), the sooner we can do the things we want to do.

Remember Hedgehog Girl? She was the real resistance, while the tweaking and re-tweaking of my website was the decoy. As long as I kept trying to deal with the decoy, I wasn’t giving her what she needed to feel safe and allow me to move forward.

It’s the difference between treating the symptom and treating the cause.

Clearing away the decoys

Here’s a question that will clear away the decoys:

What’s the shortest, simplest path to doing what you want to do?

What Judy wants to do is to raise endorphin levels by selling her cookies.

When you look at the list of brainstormed tasks, how many of them are essential to selling those magical cookies?

Hint: Very few.

When I put on my clarity goggles, here’s what I see as the shortest path:

Get a domain, hosting and install WordPress (excellent help is available if she needs it)
Get a Paypal account
Gather testimonials by sending out some “review batches” to her network
Put testimonials, descriptions and Paypal buttons on the site
Tell people on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or her email network that the cookies are available.
Optional: She could spend a few minutes photographing her cookies with her point-and-shoot camera to see if the pictures are good enough. If not, scrap them.

Judy wants to sell her cookies, right?

With the steps above, she can send people to a website where they can read about the cookies, what other people have experienced by eating them, and they can send her money to get the cookies.

(Technically, she could do it even more simply, but what I’ve listed above strikes a balance between the shortest path and also allowing plenty of room for growth.)

The rest of the brainstormed tasks can come much later, and she can have the experience (and pleasure) of getting more of her cookies into more hands sooner.

But it’s not that simple!

Actually, it is that simple, but it probably doesn’t feel that way.

That feeling of wanting to slam on the brakes when presented with a simple solution? That’s most likely the real resistance – the fears and doubts that come up when it’s time to Do the Thing.

And that’s okay. It’s normal for resistance to come up. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

The beauty of it is that now you know what you’re dealing with and you can work on addressing the resistance you actually feel.

Some places to start

What do you do once you’ve cleared the decoys and know there’s some real resistance that you need to work with?

First off, be kind to yourself.

Gathering information can be a great place to start:

What do I need to feel safe while moving forward?
What am I afraid will happen if I’m successful?
What if it could be easy (and safe)?
What evidence do I have that I can Trust?

(And a bonus question: What would make it a No-Brainer to move forward? I’ll bet you didn’t know the No-Brainer Scenario technique could be used that way, but that’s one of the examples in my upcoming ebook. Be sure to join the Shmorian Society to be the first to get it.)

How about you?

What are you working on?
What do you notice about decoys that get in the way?
What’s the real resistance underneath?

And most importantly, how can I help?

6 thoughts on “The Shortest Path

  1. Heidi Fischbach

    This is such good stuff, Victoria! So clear, so spot on. And I am totally using all of it this week as I write the copy abd prepare my big next thing coming out that I’m so excited about. Thank you!

  2. Tzaddi

    The shortest path eludes me sometimes too. Thank you for this great exploration of it.

    When I have overwhelm or I feel like I’ve reached capacity, the decoy that comes up for me is “what if I’m successful”. As in, how can I possibly think about promoting my self / my new thing if success will mean more work.

    Recently I fought that decoy and began offering a startup website service that I hope will help others with some of the web stuckness you mention, because sometimes it is really important just to get started. You can always evolve from where you are.

  3. Mari

    And what if you do the steps and nobody buys your cookies? I know, the real resistance is keeping me from taking any kind of future steps, but since your add it…few tips?
    OK, I get it, I see a pattern here – not willing to work with real resistance means I will keep on getting stuck on the way…

  4. Victoria Post author

    @Heidi – Ooh…I can’t wait to hear about your next exciting thing! So glad this post will be helping you!

    @Tzaddi – That fear that success will lead to too much work is so common. I’ve dealt with it myself. How great that you took that struggle and turned it into a way to help others get started! The other thing I find really helpful when I’m worried about the additional work of something successful is to write out all the ways I can create boundaries and not have the success become overwhelming.

    Usually if I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to say yes to everything, and that I’m in charge of my schedule, then I can keep moving forward.

    @Mari – Oh yes – the fear that nobody will buy the cookies often stops me in my tracks and keeps me from moving forward. Because who wants to do a bunch of work and then have nobody show up? It’s really painful when that happens (and I’ve definitely been there). Here’s how I try to approach this kind of resistance:

    – You don’t know whether people will buy the cookies or not. There are no guarantees either way.
    – If it turns out that people aren’t buying, you can’t solve that problem until you start selling them. Because until you start selling them, you can’t know why they’re not buying them.
    – It could be that not enough people know about the cookies. Or it could be that your descriptions of the cookies aren’t helping people understand why they want the cookies.
    – Both of those situations are fixable – you can work on spreading the word more, and you can work on improving the descriptions.

    The other thing is to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing the thing you’re doing. Why it’s important to you and why you would rather try and (possibly) fail than not try at all.

    Even with the ebook I’m working on right now, I get worried that nobody will buy it. But I know the book really wants to get written. And I know it will help at least one person, and the writing itself will help me. Usually, that quiets the resistance enough for me to keep writing.

    I hope that helps, Mari! Let me know if you have more questions! xoxox

  5. Cindy Morefield

    Great post, Victoria! What a great idea for cutting through all the overwhelm-inducing details. And the idea that real resistance is hiding behind that decoy is brilliant. When I think back, I know that’s been the case. Thanks for a great tool!

  6. Sue Mitchell

    Excellent post, Victoria! Creating overwhelm to avoid scary things is super effective. LOVE your cut-to-the-chase approach and the question, “What do I need to feel safe moving forward?”

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