The #1 thing that stops us from starting

coaching Sep 21, 2020

This summer, I had the privilege of working with Shauna, a stay-at-home mom whose dreams of going back to work were completely trampled by Covid.

“I left my career in finance eleven years ago to raise my children. When they were old enough, I started to home-school them,” she told me over the phone. “The plan was always for me to go back to work when they reached high school, but my husband’s job isn’t doing well with the pandemic, and I just don’t know if I’ll ever get to go back to work. Or even work on the things I want to work on.”

“What are some of those things?” I asked.

“I’ve always wanted to start a business,” she said. “I’ve had different ideas over the years. Lately I’ve been thinking that I’d really like to write a home-schooling curriculum and sell it. There’d be support to other parents in the form of an online community, and interactive field trips cross-referenced by age group and subject, maybe get sponsorships from local businesses…” She rattled off a long list of brilliant-sounding ideas. And then that one damning word: “But…I just don’t know if it would work.”

“What’s stopping you?” I asked gently.

She gave a heavy sigh. (As a coach, I hear that sigh all the time. When I heard it, I know what’s coming: a whole list of reasons someone can’t have what they want.) “It just feels so big and different and out of reach,” she said. “I have four kids in four different grades, a husband who needs my support and who might be out of work soon. What am I going to do, start a business in the midst of all that?”

“Well, what if you did?” I said. “What would that look like?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know the first thing about starting a business.”

“Could you find out?”

Pause. “I mean, I guess I could ask some friends. I know a couple who’ve started their own.”

“What would you ask?”

“How do I start a business?” she said with a wry laugh. Then her tone changed, and I could almost hear her shrug. “Maybe that’d help. I don’t know.”

A week later, Shauna called. We barely even said hello before she jumped in.

“Well, Sonia, I went to some business-savvy friends like you suggested,” she said. “And I found something pretty cool. It turns out there are tons of ways to start a business, but one really important first step is to create an MVP – a minimum viable product. Basically, you need to create an awesome product first. Which for me is obvious: the parents’ workbook. I thought, I can make that. I practically already have it. And I know that it’s good because I’ve shared it with other homeschooling friends of mine, and they all agree it’s better than anything out there.”

“That’s amazing,” I said. I could hear the difference in her voice – now, instead of sounding like she was dragging, she sounded light, buoyant, excited.

“It’s crazy, because I went in thinking I’d need to, you know, apply for a loan, write a business plan, find an investor – do all these things that sound so big and difficult. But really the first step is something I know I can do. Of course, there’s a lot more to do still – but the more I looked, the more I realized, I already have a lot of what I need. And as for the parts I don’t have, it’s just one step at a time.”

Shauna’s realization isn’t just true about starting a home-schooling business. It’s true about literally any goal you can think of.

No matter how big and out-of-reach your goal may feel, I’ll tell you right now: often, what you need is simply information.

Goals and dreams tend to feel bigger and scarier when we don’t know what they entail. As soon as we start breaking them down into smaller steps – just by figuring out what those steps are – the whole thing often feels more manageable. More possible.

Without even realizing we’re doing it, we hit “pause” on our dreams because it feels so complicated and hard. But the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that not-knowing can lead us to think it’s bigger and harder and more complicated than it is.

When you take that first step of asking one question (maybe that’s googling, or reading a book about your goal, or asking a friend who’s done it) – when you do that, you find that what once felt big and scary now feels doable. Where there was once a dark forest, now there’s a path.

And the starting point is exactly where you are – right now.

So let’s turn to you.

Is there something that you want in life, but it feels out of reach?

Something you’ve pushed aside because it feels so big and overwhelming?

What’s stopping you?

If it’s that you don’t know something, can you look it up?

What’s one question you can ask (or Google) that will help you clarify one piece of this goal? (Maybe that’s How to start a business, or “What was the first thing you did when you decided to change careers?”

Any question that gets you closer is fine. Don’t stress over it – just go with what comes to mind.

Notice that this tiny step doesn’t require any commitment yet. It’s simply exploring. It’s gathering information. There’s no big investment of time or money. It can take less than five minutes, and yet – it can make all the difference. Because not only will it give you clarity and next steps. It can also give you ideas. It can help you make decisions about how (or whether) to pursue this goal. It can reveal opportunities you didn’t even know were possible.

Today, Shauna’s hard at work creating the next module in her home-schooling curriculum. She’s started a website and begun to build her social media platform, and already a community of other parents has formed. She’s getting ready to launch the grade school parents’ workbook in 2021.

On top of that, her whole demeanor has changed. She’s busier now that she was six months ago, but she’s way less stressed – because she’s following her purpose. She just radiates positive energy.

Go out, ask questions, and shine.

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